Pillar of island community dies

CRANBERRY ISLES — Courtney Chaplin, an accomplished and much-relied-upon builder, craftsman and property caretaker, died unexpectedly on Islesford the night of Oct. 9-10. He was 50.

Chaplin lived with his wife and three children in Mount Desert. They previously lived for many years on Islesford, and he served as chief of the Islesford Volunteer Fire Department. (See obituary, page 4.)

Chaplin was reported missing the night of Oct. 9 after failing to return home from Islesford. The Mount Desert Police Department requested assistance from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department in finding him. The Maine Warden Service and Maine Marine Patrol also responded.

“A search of the island area was conducted with the assistance of several residents and Islesford Fire Department personnel,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement Oct. 10. “As a result of the search efforts [Chaplin] was located deceased in a wooded area on the island.”

Several people who knew Chaplin well described him in interviews with the Islander as a friendly, outgoing man of multiple talents and wide-ranging interests — a carpenter and caretaker with the soul of an artist.

“I counted Courtney as my very best friend on the island,” said artist Henry Isaacs who, with his wife Donna, lived on Islesford for decades. They now divide their time between Portland and Sharon, Vt.

“We enjoyed the same kinds of things in art and art history and architecture,” Isaacs said of Chaplin. “His knowledge of the history of architecture was incredible. And his ability to make connections [between seemingly very different architectural styles] was extraordinary.”

Isaacs said that, in the past year or so, the two talked by phone three or four times a week, and many of those talks involved religious faith. Chaplin was Christian and Isaacs is Jewish, but that difference was no barrier.

“We always marveled at the fact that we both were unable to talk about such things with anybody else,” Isaacs said.

Another close friend of Chaplin’s, Islesford artist Ashley Bryan, said, “If there was anything anyone needed, he was there to help, always [exhibiting] strength and youthfulness.

“And he was a wonderful father. When I would spend holidays with his family, it was wonderful to see him playing with the children. He was always a joy to see.”

Emily Damon said she and Chaplin had known each other since high school and they worked closely together, starting two summers ago when she was named chef at the Islesford Dock Restaurant.

“He basically kept the restaurant afloat, maintaining the building and the property,” she said. “He could fix anything. He built four new floats for us this year almost single-handed.

“Courtney was one of the hardest working people I’ve known,” Damon continued. “He was very charismatic, very dedicated to his family. Just an all-around stupendous person who we’re all going to miss so much.”

Damon was among those who joined the search for Chaplin after he was reported missing.

“It was really amazing to see the community on Islesford and Great Cranberry … everybody showed up,” she said.

Chaplin’s family has said that donations in his memory may be made to the Town of Cranberry Isles Fire & Rescue Auxiliary.

Friends of the Chaplins have established a Chaplin Family Support donation account at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. Checks may be mailed or taken to any BHB&T office or to The Knowles Company on Summit Road in Northeast Harbor. Checks must include the account number: 8330131064.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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