BAR HARBOR — Last week, when news broke that Adam “A.J.” Emmett had died near Ocean Drive in Acadia National Park, friends began flooding social media with memories and photos.
The photos showed Emmett playing guitar or mandolin, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing and skateboarding. He loved to learn, loved to work, and loved to go adventuring, his friend Derrick Sekulich said.
“Whatever he wanted to pursue, he would go out and get after it,” he said. “He had a great sense of adventure and love for life. He was a good friend. He always tried to bring out the best in you.”
Emmett grew up the Pittsburgh area and moved to Mount Desert Island after graduating from high school to live with his older brother.
He learned to rock climb, and formed strong bonds with other climbers.
“Being tethered by a rope to another person and having to trust them with your safely will form lasting bonds very quickly,” said Heather Murray of Bar Harbor. She decided to go climbing Friday in Emmett’s honor, she said, “to remember the simple joy of what brought us all together as young people in our formative years and feel that freedom again.
“While I didn’t see him much in recent years, that time in my life I hold very dearly,” Murray said. “I know the rest of that crew, a few who are still here on MDI and many who are scattered across the country, feel the same.”
Murray and others referenced another friend, Doug Rose, who died in a climbing accident at Great Head in 1993, not far from the spot where Emmett’s body was found.
“The loss of A.J. is heartbreaking, but I will say that there has been a bright spot over this past week in that some of us have been back in touch with each other after many years,” Murray said. “I am sure that would make A.J. very happy.”
Sekulich said he met Emmett years later, after Emmett had traveled and lived elsewhere for several years and then returned to MDI.
They were introduced by David Lavalle and worked together at C. E. Bucklin and Sons. Sekulich remembered arriving at a job site, where he and Emmett were building a garage apartment.
“There were like two feet of snow on it” to be removed before the could get started, he said. “I just looked over and he was smiling.”
Sekulich said he was always impressed at his friend’s determination and ability to learn.
“He picked up skateboarding in his late 30s,” he said. “He was a natural athlete.”
Emmett had a passion for music and had always played guitar, Sekulich said, but his skill and confidence had improved dramatically over time.
“He went from a timid singing voice to really wanting to be out there,” he said.
More recently, Emmett married Rebecca Hunter and bought and renovated a house in Sullivan.
Emmett was caring for Sekulich’s cats last week while he was on vacation. He was also keeping an eye on Lavalle’s house, while Lavalle is visiting his daughter in China.
Lavalle said “being on the other side of the planet” has made it a little easier to swallow the news of Emmett’s death. “I loved that dude and always will,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of Emmett’s former wife. The Islander apologizes for the error.