Austin West

Portland — Austin West passed away peacefully on October 23, 2011 at his home in Portland. He was born in Haverhill, Mass. on June 13, 1913 to Walter and Martha Weschkolofsky. He moved to Maine after high school and lived in and around Bridgton, occasionally leaving for wherever work took him. He fell in love and married his wife, Doris, and they were married for many happy years.

A philosopher and a poet, Austin’s extensive and impressive life journey included work as a chaplain, sailor, fisherman, lumberjack, welder, shipfitter, farmer, florist, teacher, steeplejack, deep sea diver, and a salesman who sold everything from antiques to insurance. His favorite jobs were those that allowed him to work outside. In 1942, at the age of 35, he enlisted and served in the Navy during WWII and served on destroyer escorts looking for submarines. Always the seaman, many years later he worked on the research ship, Robert Conrad, looking for the ill-fated Thresher.

At the age of 44, while working on a ferry, Austin wrote his first poem to entertain children along for the ride. It told of “toadstools around the moon, like little elves glittering.” He read it to the kids, they liked it and he was hooked! This wonderful and accomplished poet wrote poems throughout the latter half of his life, saying that “Poetry controls me, compels me. I am afflicted by it.” Austin was a man of passion and grace who spoke in lyric and rhyme. His endearing, whimsical spirit could be seen in his sparkling, blue eyes which were a window into his kind and gentle soul, felt by all who knew him. Austin said “I hear with my heart, not my ears. I believe in beauty and striving. I don’t believe in perfection. I just want to be a little better today than I was yesterday.”

He was an eccentric optimist. When he found himself homeless in his late 70s, after the passing of his wife Doris and subsequent fire at their antique shop and home, he sold his poetry books in the bars and streets of Portland as a way to support himself and a nonprofit organization he founded to assist other homeless souls. He had dreams of buying the former St. Lawrence Church and turning it into a sanctuary for the homeless.

He believed in life and in love and married two more times. He and Evelyn Furbish were married during his eighth decade on this earth, only to be widowed once again. A man full of love, hope and happiness, Austin and Deirdre were married at his beloved St. Lawrence in 2006 surrounded by friends.

Austin lived life on his own terms right to the very moment he left this worldly plane. He will be missed by his family and friends who dearly loved him and delighted in his spirit, including his wife Deirdre, his dear friends Lydia Hews, Charlie Simpson, Sam and Sue Black, all of the staff at 75 State Street, and so many others who knew Austin throughout his long life.

There will be a celebration of Austin’s life at 10 am, Saturday, Nov. 19th at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress Street, Portland followed by a graveside service at 1 p.m. at The Sawyer Farm graveyard on Sam Ingalls Road in Bridgton, Maine.

Local arrangements were made by Conroy Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 172 State Street, Portland. Please visit www.ctcrawford.com for additional information and to sign Austin’s guestbook.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in memory of Austin West to the Preble Street Resource Center, 5 Portland Street, Portland, ME 04101; Friends of the St. Lawrence Church, 76 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101; and/or 75 STATE STREET, 75 State St., Portland, ME 04102.

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