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A Day on Chebeague Island

The ferry to Chebeague Island contends with icy waters, due to an unusually cold winter in Maine this year. 

The ferry to Chebeague Island contends with icy waters, due to an unusually cold winter in Maine this year. 

Chebeague Island is a three mile long, 1 mile wide island in Casco Bay with a year-round population of about 350 residents. Visiting the island during a blizzard in January, I expected to find the roads deserted and quiet. But Chebeague's year-round residents are a surprisingly social bunch, especially on a Wednesday when folks gather at the town center for community lunch. On the day I visit Chebeague with former Island Institute Fellow Celia Whitehead, it's the island's monthly "Big Lunch." 

"Big Lunch" in January is a bustling Thanksgiving-style meal.

During the desert course, our table was informed that we'd have to cut our cranberry pie into smaller slices, there just wasn't enough to go around. An announcement is made about a resident's "20th Anniversary of her 60th birthday," met with laughter and claps from the diners. Sharing lunch with over a hundred island residents while the roads outside continued to pile with fresh snow, I can understand why some residents choose to live here for their entire lives. Even in the dead of winter, there's a place to warm up with friends and relatives and it seems that many people take this opportunity to come together. 

I'm on Chebeague with Celia not only to attend "Big Lunch" and visit the Chebeague Island Historical Society, but also to talk with two island residents who made their lives on the island. Bob Dyer and Ernie Burgess have were born and raised on Chebeague and, with the help of Celia, they had agreed to be interviewed for The First Coast project. 

Bob Dyer is known for his stories. 

Sitting in his bed at The Commons, a community assisted living home on Chebeague Island, Bob Dyer is eager to share stories of his life spent on the island. Bob lives at The Commons with his wife, Beverly.

Bob's voice is booming and his stories span over 80 years. In an hour-long interview, Bob shared stories about his ingenuity and grit. He could build anything, fix anything, and work any job asked of him. We'll be sharing more stories from Bob's life on Chebeague, but I wanted to post clips from a couple of my favorites. The first describes a fishing trip Bob took with his father, and the jobs they would give to "Portland bums" who waited on the docks for ground fishermen to return from sea. 

The second story is about Bob and his wife, Beverly. Bob and Beverly have been married for 69 years. This story recounts how Bob had to "prove himself" when he wanted to ask her hand in marriage. 

Galen Koch