A Navy veteran and a master electrician, Dwayne Clement joined the Sorrento fire department after helping volunteer firefighters battle a fire in a neighbor’s house in 1987. Now the deputy chief of Sorrento Fire & Rescue, he was also an EMT for 13 years. PHOTO BY BRIAN SWARTZ

Town still reaping benefits from a special night in 1972



Sorrento has benefited ever since that 1972 evening when mutual friends introduced Dwayne Clement to his future wife, Esther, in Ellsworth.

Dwayne’s father, Howard, was a Coast Guard lighthouse keeper on the Maine coast. “When I was born, we were on Great Duck Island. They then moved him over to Baker Island until I was old enough to go to school. Then they brought us ashore,” Dwayne said. His father was the light keeper at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec and later at Whitlocks Mill Lighthouse in Calais.

Dwayne graduated from Ellsworth High School and “went in the Navy for four years, ’68 to ’72.” Trained as an electrician, he was assigned to “all shore duty.” Returning home in 1972, he worked as an electrician for Young & McIntyre.

A Sorrento native, Esther attended grammar school in what became the Sorrento Community Building, located next to the town office on Pomola Avenue. She “went right to work” as a cashier at Doug’s Shop ’n Save in Ellsworth after graduating from Sumner Memorial High School.

In his time off, Dwayne liked to cruise the Ellsworth streets with other young people his age. “Everyone hung out on High Street,” he recalled. “I had just gotten out of the Navy, and I hung out with a bunch of friends.”

“You used to be able to drive the streets and stop and visit with your friends, mostly on High Street, “Esther said. One day she and Dwayne “met on the street in Ellsworth” via mutual friends; after dating a while, Dwayne and Esther were married on June 10, 1973 at the Ellsworth Falls Congregational Church.

Initially they lived on Route 180, “right on the line between Ellsworth and Otis,” Dwayne said.

The Clements moved to Sorrento at Christmastime 1974. “My parents were living here, so we moved to a property beside them” and put in a modular home, Esther recalled.

“I worked out of Ellsworth all those years,” leaving Young & McIntyre in the 1980s to work for Bud Lee, Dwayne said. He retired in 2000.

Esther “was at the Shop ’n Save off and on until my youngest son (Craig) started kindergarten at the Sullivan Grammar School (now the Sullivan Town Office).” A year after she started volunteering at the school, Esther became a full-time ed tech, a position she held through the transition to Mountain View School.

First elected Sorrento tax collector in 1985, Esther won election as town clerk in 1986 and town treasurer in 1995. She has continuously won re-election for all three posts since then; today she is also the deputy registrar of voters and the harbor secretary.

Esther worked out of her home; Dwayne chuckled while describing how town-related filing cabinets overran parts of the house and how people “would come by all hours of the day and night” to conduct their business.

Then came one memorable day. “We had a neighbor’s house, across the road and about two doors down,” Dwayne recalled. During a daytime storm in 1987, “it got hit by lightning. The mailman came running back, shouting ‘There’s a fire in the house.’”

Sorrento volunteer firefighters arrived. Dwayne walked over to watch, and someone politely asked, “‘Would you grab a hose and help us?’” That fire began Dwayne’s 32-year affiliation with the volunteer fire department that became Sorrento Fire & Rescue.

Founded in 1948, the Sorrento department “really began improving” after Walter Guyette “took over as chief in ’87-’88,” Dwayne said. “He started having meetings and getting us trained and getting us equipment to fight fires with.”

“Guys were fighting fires in their street clothes” back then, Dwayne explained. “That’s not good.”

Starting as a firefighter, he became a lieutenant, a captain, and then deputy chief — and also served as an EMT for 13 years. Firefighting became a family affair. Esther has been the fire department’s administrative assistant “for at least 15-20 years,” and the Clements’ two sons, Brian and Craig, live in Sorrento and belong to Sorrento Fire & Rescue. Brian works for the Ellsworth Public Works Department, and Craig works for Barbee Construction in Sullivan.

Thirty-odd years ago, “we had only one fire truck,” Dwayne said. Today, Sorrento Fire & Rescue has, among other modern equipment, a 2,000-gallon HME pumper-tanker, a 2016 Pierce tanker that carries 3,000 gallons of water, an American LaFrance ladder truck, a rescue truck and a rescue boat.

 

Esther continued working for the town out of her home until the town office was built in 1997. Some Sorrento firefighters helped Dwayne move all those filing cabinets; “they put ’em in a truck and brought ’em here,” he said.

With town business increasing, Esther left her position at Mountain View School in 2001. “I put in about 20 hours a week [at the town office], plus the selectmen’s meetings I attend twice a month,” she said.

The Clements enjoy spending time with their great-grandchildren, ages 8, 10, and 12. “I love to fish. I like trout fishing,” Dwayne said, describing how he introduced his great-grandchildren to fishing one day by taking them on what turned out to be a successful fishing trip.

“I like to have the family around,” Esther said. “I like to cook,” and “I want to get into crocheting.”

She plans to retire this September. “I will just relax a little while, probably for a few weeks, and then I will volunteer somewhere,” Esther said.

 

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