BAR HARBOR – Gerald “Jerry” Lee Keene, 62, had a native Maine wit, a magnificent handlebar mustache, a wicked work ethic, the strength of a plow horse and the most generous, noble spirit of anyone you’d ever be lucky enough to meet. He could light up a room like no other and he literally whistled while he worked.
Jerry believed in leaving the world a better place than he found it. When he passed away, peacefully holding the hand of his dear friend Stanley in the early hours of Sunday, Oct. 30, those closest to him felt a wave of incredible warmth and joy spread out into the universe.
Jerry was a true flannel-clad Maine provider, not just for his beloved wife, Barbara, and their eight beautiful, spirited children, but for each and every person and animal he ever came across. In his community of Mount Desert Island and the broader global community that his Baha’i faith encouraged him to explore, Jerry was a radiant, shining light. A highly skilled carpenter and tradesman, Jerry helped his many friends to improve and repair their homes, plow their driveways, fix their plumbing, feed their families and much more. He volunteered for countless area organizations, including Island Connections, the Emmaus Shelter, the Bar Harbor Food Pantry and Habitat for Humanity. Jerry also traveled to Costa Rica on several occasions to volunteer his building skills for those in need. He never stopped giving and doing for others.
His family was by far his greatest joy. Jerry was exceedingly proud of his smart, talented, generous wife and their bright, creative, energetic children, and he loved their husbands, wives, and partners just like they were his own. No matter what else they had going on, which was invariably quite a bit, Jerry and Barbara always welcomed, fed and generously attended to anyone that ever walked into their home or that they knew was in need.
From 1984 to 2004, Jerry was a jovial and welcoming host as the proprietor of the Cove Farm Inn, an old farmhouse that he and Barbara purchased and turned into a bed and breakfast. The inn brought people together from across the globe to experience the majesty of Acadia National Park. He used to sit around the old farmhouse kitchen table in the inn and share the secrets of the park and the beautiful island that he grew up on with his guests.
Jerry also had a hell of a lot of fun. One of his greatest joys was spending time with his family at the rustic camp his father built with his brothers on Donnell Pond in the ’60s, beloved by four generations of Keenes. Jerry reveled in teaching his children, nieces, and nephews the ins and outs of the lake — how to fish, boat, make campfires and enjoy the pristine majesty of Donnell Pond, just as his father had taught him. He would often disappear without telling anyone and return beaming with pounds and pounds of lobsters and clams, which were ravenously scarfed up by his large, loving brood, much to his delight.
He was such a character that even the legend of Jerry couldn’t always live up to the real thing. He loved to roll down the pond in his 1972 Sea Nymph with the wind in his sandy blonde hair and notorious mustache. He got the biggest kick out of taking Barbara to their “secret” beach, which practically everyone on the pond knew about. He bought ridiculous amounts of fireworks for jubilant family fun on the Fourth of July. He was a great storyteller and told outlandish tales, some which his children were sure were yarns only to realize years later that many were true, like the time he said an eagle came down and stole a great big salmon right off of his fishing rod.
Jerry believed that his path was to be walked in the company of others — each giving and receiving love, assistance, and encouragement. Even as he neared the end, Jerry’s jovial nature, deep spirituality and gratitude for all he had was intensified, not dampened. He wanted to share his light and love with everyone around him even more than he had before. His doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute commented that they wished he could be a spiritual advisor to all of their patients. Many of his caregivers wept as he left for his final journey home to Mount Desert Island, they’d grown that attached to Jerry in the few short weeks that they’d come to know him.
He was predeceased by his parents William and Avis, and survived by his wife, Barbara, and his beloved canine pals, Rex and Rusty of Hulls Cove; his brother Dick and his wife, Gail, of Trenton; his brother Bill and his wife, Marge, of Creston, N.C.; his sister Debbie and her husband, Bob, of Brewer; his best friend Dennis Weber; his son Sam and his partner, Oka, of Mount Desert; his son Alex and his wife, Isabel, of Northeast Harbor; his daughter Elizabeth and her partner, Aaron, of Trenton; his daughter Gabrielle and her husband, Sasa, of Bar Harbor; his son Jamin of Lewiston; his son Jalique of Bar Harbor; his son Isaiah of Fort Benning, Ga.; and his daughter Eddaejia of Hulls Cove.
Jerry’s service will be held at the Ledgelawn Cemetery at 90 Cromwell Harbor Road in Bar Harbor at noon on Saturday, Nov. 5. In the spirit of building community and connecting with others, all are invited to the Hulls Cove School House from 1 to 4 p.m. to celebrate Jerry, exchange a few Jerry tales and play some Parcheesi. Please bring a potluck dish to share and if you wish, wear your favorite flannel shirt.
If you would like to pass on some kindness in his honor, donations in Jerry’s memory may be made to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Testicular Cancer Fund, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284-9168.