One respectful final goodbye to Mr. OutdoorsKen Bailey brought so much humor, kindness to life
The outpouring of love and respect demonstrated July 18 at the Camden Snow Bowl, was, at times, emotionally difficult and overwhelmingly heartwarming, and certainly warranted for a man who might have been a bit embarrassed by all the fuss over him, but thankful everyone who attended to celebrate his wonderful life enjoyed one of his favorite places — namely, the great outdoors.
You see, Ken Bailey, who died July 10 after a courageous four-year battle with cancer, loved the outdoors. He was, in many respects, Mr. Outdoors.
Thus, holding Ken's farewell gathering outdoors at the Snow Bowl, an idyllic place in which he had a strong connection, seemed the perfect venue to allow one final community-wide goodbye to a man who touched the hearts and souls of so many during his all-to-brief 62 years of life.
Frankly, the only way a celebration of Ken's life could have been better would have been if they had transported the more than 700 people in attendance to an island in the middle of Bailey's beloved Megunticook Lake. Now that would have been fitting.
There are so many fond memories of Ken, with each person holding onto their experiences with the man who always seemed to have his fingers on the pulse of the community and its people.
During his life, Ken gave so much more than he received. And he always seemed OK with that.
No matter what he was going through, Ken always asked the person he was speaking to how they and their family were doing. As was so eloquently stated at his celebration of life, Ken was the definition of a man. A man who served his country, his community, his colleagues and, most importantly, his wonderful family.
He was everywhere, on his boat patrolling his lake, on the radio talking about opening or closing a dam for the Megunticook Watershed Association, on the stage as the master of ceremonies during the Maine Lobster Festival Sea Goddess pageant, timing the racers on the chute during the U.S. Toboggan National Championships at his beloved Snow Bowl, at a board meeting or simply serving the local police or fire departments.
Perhaps my wife, Sarah, summed up Ken best with one word: "genuine." That is how she and so many saw him.
Ironically, Ken was on duty as a Camden police officer the day I got married 25 years ago. I still laugh when I look at the photos of him handcuffing me as Sarah and I were leaving the Whitehall Inn after our reception. What fond memories of Ken being, well, Ken.
We had so much fun giving one another a hard time about the fortunes of our beloved New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. I once lost a bet to Ken and had to wear a Yankees' shirt and have the photo published in the newspaper. Oh how Ken delighted in that turn of events.
Ken and I were colleagues on and off for decades. My respect for Ken was as high as it has been for any person I've known. I admired how he had the ability to cherish the little things in life, like the growing of trees in the forest, the fish jumping in the lake, the eagle soaring above or the birth of young in the wild each spring.
Ken's passion for the outdoors came through in each word he wrote in his popular column, "In The Field," that appeared in local publications over the years. He even wrote a few columns here and there for me when he felt up to it during his illness. And I always looked forward to hearing from him and receiving his stories — because I loved them and I knew that meant he felt well enough to sit at the keyboard and pound out his words from his place of peace — the outdoors.
Ken, a Master Maine Guide, had the innate ability to take his experiences in the woods, on the water or simply sitting on the porch watching nature's breathtaking beauty unfold before his eyes, and communicate that so each reader wanted a piece of Bailey's world. His outdoor world.
Not only did his words speak volumes about the outdoors, but his wildlife photos were among the best I have seen, from his eagles to his loons carrying their young on their backs, from his deer to the big tom turkeys. The animals he loved literally jumped off the page due to his keen eye and patience in waiting to snap just the right shot.
Ken obviously knew something so many of us did not, namely that each second of life should be celebrated, enjoyed and held onto. And that life includes so much more than our daily routines, a wonderful place filled with nature.
All Ken's virtues, from his kindness to his fairness, from his wit to professionalism, have been written or said by so many, but what always struck me was his unwavering attraction to Mother Nature. He loved to hunt. And boy, could that man fish. Especially for bass. There was nothing fishy about Ken's innate fishing sense.
He could find fish. He knew where they lived, slept and went out for breakfast. I often wondered if he put tracking devices on them or caught them previously and made a deal with them to throw them back if they would promise to be available for catching when he brought friends and clients to the lake.
However, Ken did not just know how to fish. He knew how to do something better. He knew how to catch. And not just any fish, but the largest and most fiesty fish. Some of my family's most memorable moments were fishing with Ken and reeling in four-, five- and six-pound bass. I even had "the one that got away" break my line as I got it near Ken's boat. Although we never really saw the fish, I am sure it was at least a 10-pounder. When ever I stated that, Ken would laugh and respond, "It is your fish tale, Waltz, tell it how ever you want."
Ken turned me, and so many others, onto the outdoors and all it offers — both in a tangible and spiritual way. For that I will be forever grateful.
In fact, I will never hook another fish, walk down a trail, splash my face in a mountain waterfall or watch a chipmunk cross my path without pausing, for a brief moment, to reflect on the passing of my friend, who taught us all that our world is filled beauty beyond what is obvious to our eyes.
So, in Ken's memory, get out and enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
Courier Publications Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.