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Penobscot Island Air founder recalled fondly

By Stephen Betts | Jul 06, 2020
Photo by: File photo Kevin Waters

Condolences and tributes are pouring in following the announcement of the death Sunday of Penobscot Island Air founder and owner Kevin Waters.

On Penobscot Island Air's Facebook page, there is a post that reported he died unexpectedly July 5 at his home.

"Some say there are angels among us, that they were put here to make our lives better…to show us what love and compassion are truly about. If this is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not, heaven took one home last night," the post stated.

At the Monday meeting of the Owls Head Selectmen, board member Gordon Page said Waters' death was quite a loss to the community. He said the air service is an important business not just to Owls Head but the region.

Ken Wexler of Owls Head and a member of the Airport Advisory Committee agreed.

"This is a terrible loss," Wexler said.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, also expressed her shock over Waters' death with a post on her Facebook page.

"The passing of Kevin Waters, the beloved owner of Penobscot Island Air (PIA), has hit everyone on the islands and in places far beyond like a gut punch. Kevin is as close to a saint as people living on earth can approach and we all will feel his loss deeply," Pingree said.

She said Waters had been managing a complex transportation service – often on a shoestring and with plenty of personal sacrifice.

"He rarely said no to anything anyone needed – from getting a critical part for a fishing boat engine to the island quickly, to making an emergency trip to the hospital in the middle of the night. He hired a staff of dedicated pilots, kept all the planes running, managed the bureaucratic rules and regulations of the FAA, and navigated sometimes difficult local politics to the great benefit of our communities," the Congresswoman said.

"I have flown more times with Kevin and PIA pilots than I could possibly count – and always knew passenger safety was his number one concern," she said. "He would never hesitate to tell you if the ride was going to be bumpy, or if it would be pushing it too much to travel with the wind picking up or the fog coming in. We had a lot of conversations, too. He always started with a sweet and friendly word, often coupled with real concern about how 'you were holding up.' We talked a lot about the successes and challenges of his unique business. It wasn’t unusual to be speaking with Kevin about a sticky issue and see his eyes well up and hear his voice crack – his passion and love for his business and the customers he served was so deep."

"Now I am the one who feels choked up with tears in my eyes and I know I will be joined by many, many others. Thank you Kevin. We’ll miss you and we’re so grateful for everything you have done for all of us. My deepest sympathy to the Waters family and the PIA family," Pingree concluded.

Waters, a South Thomaston resident, was a pilot with Maine Aviation that had provided service to the Penobscot Bay islands until it closed in 2004.

In a 2013 interview with The Courier-Gazette, Waters said he recognized how essential the air service was to life on the islands for getting food, mail, medical supplies, and equipment. On Matinicus, there was no mail boat, most residents did not have their own boats, and the state ferry came by 32 times a year, mainly in the summer.

When Matinicus islanders found out that Waters was trying to revive the air service by leasing one plane, they passed the hat among themselves and raised $17,000.

Since 2004, when Waters started Penobscot Island Air on borrowed money, he built a company that provides daily transportation to the islands.

"Running Penobscot Island Air for so many years and being such a big part of coastal Maine, he’s had plenty of opportunity to create lasting friendships. However, what is truly remarkable is that we are hearing these wonderful words from afar and near; rich and poor; believers and non-believers; aviators and nonaviators; the young and the old — Kevin befriended anyone and everyone, he did this because he was an exceptionally big-hearted man that believed in taking care of others with little regard for his own needs. Time and time again we’ve all witnessed the love and compassion he was so quick to extend to a lifelong friend or a practical stranger. He will be missed no doubt… but he will be a part of everything we do at PIA. He will be on every flight, overseeing every boat operation, mingling amongst all of you as you board your next flight and in every one of our deliveries — watching over us. I know this as strongly as I know the sun will rise tomorrow.

Rest easy Boatswain, we have the watch… you are relieved of your earthly duties; there are bigger plans for you now," Penobscot Island Air's post concluded.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Jonathan D Ward | Jul 07, 2020 01:45

High Flight


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor ever eagle flew —
And while, with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

			~ John Gillespie Magee, 1922 - 1941

 Kevin, you will be missed. Wind to your wings, brother...

Jonathan Ward

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