Austin L. Priest, 92, died peacefully March 5, 2010, at Maine Veterans’ Home in Augusta. Austin was born Jan. 7, 1918, in Liberty, a son of Fred and Frieda (Hannan) Priest.

He attended local schools and worked on the family farm before entering the Army in 1941. During World War II, he served with Company K, 103rd Infantry Regiment, 43rd Division. He participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Northern Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the Philippines. He was the recipient of the Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon with four Battle Stars and the Combat Infantryman Badge. In August 2009, Staff Sgt. Austin L. Priest received his long-overdue Purple Heart for wounds received during the Battle of New Guinea. 

Once out of the service, Austin married his high school sweetheart, Marie Catherine Whitaker. Austin worked for the United States Postal Service all his life and, after his retirement, he and his wife wintered for 23 years in Jupiter, Fla. Austin loved the warm weather and the couple spent summers at their cottage on Cobbossee Lake in Manchester, where he had a great friendship with his neighbor, Ron Fletcher. Austin shared stories about fishing, boating, watching the loons and feeding the chipmunks.

Wearing his straw hat to keep the sun out of his face, Austin enjoyed planting a garden and raising blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and fresh vegetables. Austin had a passion for cars and always had several in his yard. He and his wife shared a love for ballroom dancing and spent many Saturday evenings in Lincolnville, Cumberland or Union with his cousin Gloria Wood and her husband. They also danced weekly when they were in Florida. Austin loved hunting, as did his father, and as his grandson, Aaron D. Cowan, does today. Shooting a deer was great, but Austin truly enjoyed just being outside to hear the birds singing.

Austin was a member of Green Street United Methodist Church in Augusta. 

He was predeceased by his parents; his wife of nearly 65 years, Marie; brother, Kenneth Priest; and sister, Emma Collins.  

Austin is survived by son, Donald W. Priest, of Waterville; daughter, Janice P. Cowan, and her husband, David J. Cowan, of Litchfield; granddaughter, Kelly M. Cowan, of Westbrook; grandson, Aaron D. Cowan, of Litchfield; special sister-in-law, Mildred Priest; and many nieces and nephews. 

The family is truly grateful for the excellent care, love and kindness Austin received while at the Maine Veterans’ Home. 

A graveside service will be held in the spring at Hannan Cemetery, Liberty.

Arrangements are with Staples Funeral Home, Gardiner.