Robert Wayne Bothen

OBIT-BothenBAR HARBOR and PORTLAND — Robert Wayne Bothen, or “Robbie,” as he is known in these parts, was born Feb. 25, 1951, in Newton, Mass., and died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Sunday, July 19, 2015, at the young age of 64. Robbie lived in Waltham, Mass., Bar Harbor and Portland, and Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia — but he mostly liked to say he was from Eden, Maine!

Robbie was a gifted student at the Bar Harbor High School, where he made his first political statement as a non-conformist by refusing to cut his hair, appearing before the school board in 1969 with an agenda of personal and human rights. He was promptly expelled (much to his mother’s chagrin!) and went to The Village School in New Gloucester, and later to Franconia College in New Hampshire in 1971 as an art, and later a political science, major.

He was predeceased by his mother, Thelma H. Bothen (Rourke); father, James Bothen; nephew, Jamie Myers; and half-brother Ronnie Bothen. He leaves behind a loving family: his sister Gayle Elizabeth Myers of Cape Elizabeth; brother Richard Bothen of Winthrop and Florida; children, Chelsea Rae Bothen of Mount Desert; Ariel Lee Bothen of Mount Desert; and Julian Andersen of Wisconsin; grandsons Jo’Van Smith of Minneapolis, Minn., Jordan Huber of Mandan, N.D., and Donovan Scott of Milwaukee, Wis.; nieces and nephews Shon, Genevieve, Heather (and husband Jeff Murad), Craig and Rebecca; and his dog Marley who will now be with Robbie’s dear friend Jerome Goff, who was by Robbie’s side, always, since 1972! Robbie also leaves behind many faithful friends and a church family who loved him and will miss his fun-loving and fervent ways!

The most important thing in Robbie’s life was always his children. Even though he accomplished much and traveled far, his greatest love was for them.

This free-spirited man considered himself to be a citizen of the world. Starting with his experiences as a young Sea Scout (a part of the venturing program of the Boy Scouts of America) Robbie’s love for the ocean, sailing and fishing were constants in his life. He scared and intrigued many friends and family by traveling solo through South and Central America, making friends and playing music along the way. He always wanted to go to Cuba and rejoiced when it was opened to travelers.

For those who didn’t know Robbie too well, he spent his life advocating for many of the least among us. He was a man of courage and conviction, willing to stand up and speak out, something most people are afraid to do. He did so in the Maine Legislature (winning the passage of at least one bill); at universities; in the streets as a demonstrator; as a gifted writer; by forming ‘Maine Dads’ — an organization to encourage and support the involvement of dads in their children’s lives; and in civil rights marches. He often gave of his meager savings to help young people in trouble and developed The Bail Project in Portland to raise funds and awareness for inmate needs and families needing transportation to visit loved ones in prison. He also worked as a trained therapist for the mentally disabled. In early 1973, Robbie helped to form the Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform (SCAR) in Portland, actively working for prison reform in Maine through legislation, litigation, community organizing, as well as promoting public discussion on the function of prisons in Maine and American society.

Robbie was one of the founders and the first co-coordinator of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition (MPAC) as well as the editor/publisher of The Call — MPAC’s first newsletter to Maine prisoners. He was the primary organizer of solitary confinement legislation, and worked hard on many other urgent issues. Before MPAC, Robbie was involved in prisoner activism for several decades, always organizing, writing, protesting and communicating through music.

As a man who witnessed the suffering of the disenfranchised, Robbie had a deep sensitivity for injustice and human rights. He felt that statewide organization was necessary to fight for prisoners’ rights, prison reform, and to address the underlying socioeconomic conditions that precipitate crime.

Robbie had a long history with Church of Our Father in Hulls Cove, beginning when he first brought his two little daughters to attend church there in the early 1990’s. He loved his church family and contributed and participated in many youth, missions and community outreach programs, meetings and events over the past two decades, including a mission trip to Gulfport, Miss., to help rebuild homes for those who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. Always an advocate for prisoners’ needs and being himself an ardent musician, Robbie recognized the need for entertainment to show inmates that they are not forgotten. To do this, Robbie took his band, The Breakneck Boys, to the Warren State Prison with support from Church of Our Father.

An avid reader and eloquent speaker, Robbie had a beautiful mind that could recall incredible details of history and philosophy — a gift that made him a formidable “Jeopardy” opponent! As an environmentalist, Robbie admonished friends not to let their cars idle or buy water in plastic bottles. He believed that a citizen’s greatest power was to cast their vote and at each new voting time he would eagerly vote early using the absentee ballot.

Music was always a big part of Robbie’s life. He often had a tune in his head, and drummed it out on any nearby surface. He was a proud veteran of Woodstock, August 1969. Robbie often gave his musical talents to charity and fundraising events. Robbie’s musical talent carried him through many tragic and joyful events in his life. He was the drummer for the popular band The Breakneck Boys and for other bands and musical events as well. He is known to have organized all the music for the very popular Downeast Fair at Church of Our Father for a number of years. He recited poetry, read aloud, sang and played drums and guitar at many local open mic venues including the First Friday Coffee House at the Northeast Harbor Library and Little Anthony’s. His classic rock ‘n’ roll and jazz tunes delighted many friends at private parties.

Robbie did his best for the world and people cared deeply about him. He was often seen wearing his beret and neckerchief and toting his leather knapsack, followed by his dog Marley around this his longtime island home and in Portland town. He touched the lives of many different people in many facets of life through his political activism, music, his writings and many selfless acts of kindness and love towards others. He was a fun loving, youthful person. He was an excellent pool player well known in Portland and Bar Harbor pool halls and bars, where he taught his sister, daughters, and friends to play. The youth at Church of Our Father — Aedan, Breaux, Liam, Valeria, Sam, Katie and Max — will miss Robbie’s tough love, encouragement, humor and lessons in musical and life skills.

Rockin’ Robbie will not fade soon from the hearts of many family and friends who learned from him and loved him.

To leave condolences and remembrances, please go to the Robert Wayne Bothen Facebook page. A celebration of Robbie’s life will be at 7 p.m., the evening of Friday, July 31, 2015, at Church of Our Father, 91 State Highway 3, Hulls Cove, ME, (207) 288-4849. Donations in memory of Robbie can be made to the Prison Ministry Fund, Church of Our Father, P.O. Box 186, Hulls Cove, ME 04644.


Know when to pay your respects.