Gary P. Somers, 86
NORWAY — Gary Paul Somers, 86, of Norway, passed away of sudden cardiac arrest on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. He loved life, but would be grateful for such a merciful ending.
He was born in Ipswich, Mass., on Oct. 26, 1929, at the dawn of the Great Depression, to Henry and Winifred Somers. He often remarked how the W.P.A. promoted by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved his father’s livelihood and the family. As an enterprising 14-year-old, Gary bagged groceries when labor laws were relaxed owing to the fact that so many young men had gone off to World War II. He fetched hot dogs and Cokes for GIs on Crane’s Beach, who were deployed to look out for German submarines. Gary was an altar boy at his local Catholic Church, whose priest, Father Burns, imbued in him a strong sense of responsibility to look after those less fortunate. Perhaps because of these life lessons, right up until the time of his death, Gary donated to causes that provided warm clothing and food to those without. He excelled as a student, graduating with honors from Ipswich High School in 1947. Gary was offered an athletic scholarship to Temple University in Philadelphia where he played college football. Later, he played a summer in the semi-pro league for Newburyport, Mass. He graduated with a bachelor’s of arts degree in French from Bates College in 1952, where he met and married Norma Chaffee Somers, his wife of 26 years and the mother of his four children. Gary later married Brenda Roberts of Norway with whom he raised her two children. They were married for 31 years, until Brenda’s untimely death of cancer in 2011.
Gary was a fervent advocate of the Oxford Hills community, inspired by the natural beauty of Maine and the strong and honest work ethic of the people. He opened an electronics manufacturing plant in Norway, Maine, in 1967, locating the company temporarily upstairs in the Norway Opera House before implementing a modern assembly facility. He eventually merged his company with the Bridgton-based Howell Laboratories from where he retired as its vice president in 2000. He served on the Oxford Hills School Board for two terms while School Administrative District 17 was in formation. Gary was a stalwart supporter of high school sports, cultural and musical activities, and, most importantly, quality education for all. In his later years, he devotedly served on the board of directors of the Oxford Hills Vocational Technical School, alongside his friend and colleague, Don Gouin. His desire was to help Oxford Hills’ students prepare to enter the workforce of the 21st century.
Gary was the beneficiary of an enlightened liberal arts education. He started his career after Bates as a teacher at Admiral Billard Academy in Connecticut, which he found to be an unsatisfying profession. Next, he joined a division of the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS-Hytron, where he developed a passion for electronics manufacturing.
He then spent several years at Raytheon in Massachusetts during the height of the Cold War developing solid-state electronic components for missiles, but he preferred more freedom and less bureaucracy, which was offered by his eventual employer, National Radio Company. It was National Radio, which gave Gary the opportunity to open a subsidiary in western Maine, which pioneered and perfected the development of a powerful, all-transistor HRO 500 HAM radio. He eventually acquired this business from National Radio, forming Oxford Electronics Industries, before merging with Howell Laboratories.
Gary enjoyed being with family and friends — and mostly outdoors — whether outfitting and teaching the kids how to ski, setting the pace with his wife Norma canoeing across South Branch Pond or climbing the Abol Trail on Mt. Katahdin or exploring Prince Edward Island and Quebec City with his wife Brenda and the children. He loved camping, teaching all the kids how to use an axe, sharpen a knife, and start a safe fire, and he delighted in the opportunity to practice his college French in the small towns of New Brunswick, on the Gaspe Peninsula, or in Lewiston, where, he fondly recalled, he was treated with such kindness as a struggling student. He told of a great sailing adventure he shared with dear friends Bill Detert and Roland Sutton, when he signed on as a crewmember with them to sail a yacht from Florida to Boothbay. But most special in the last half of his life was his time with Brenda, whether exploring faraway places or weeding in the backyard garden. He often repeated a story about a trip he and Brenda had taken to Yorkshire, where their hosts at a family-owned B&B made every effort to show the American couple the generosity and beauty of England. This had touched them. His last desire was to visit Provence in France, but, alas, this never happened. Carpe Diem, he would say! Enjoying the family, gardening, and travel for Gary were the happy illuminations, which enriched his life, as did books. He was an avid reader.
Gary was predeceased by his siblings, brothers Chick and Pete, and sister Connie.
He leaves behind an extended family: his stepbrother Barry Ewing; his sons David Ron and Phil, and daughter Anne; stepdaughter Lisa and stepson Scott; beloved seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Gary loved this family. He will be deeply missed.
A graveside interment is planned for members of the family and an open house for friends will be announced as the weather chills and the fall colors blaze orange and gold.
Condolences can be sent to: www.chandlerfunerals.com