Edgar F. Eaton Jr.

Nov 10, 2020
Edgar Eaton

Northport — Ed Eaton loved to pitch a tent under the stars, fry up venison meat on a campfire, paddle the St. Croix and St. John rivers, and hunt with his canoe buddies and fellow Master Maine canoe Guides Mike Patterson and Larry Totten.

Edgar Frederick Eaton Jr., 69, of Northport, passed away of cancer, just before midnight on Nov. 5, having lived just the kind of life he wanted, camping and paddling and hunting in the wilderness of his home state of Maine and many other places as well.

Ed is survived by his wife of 22 years, Deborah Knight Eaton, whose loving care was a great comfort to Ed during the 14 years that he coped with bladder cancer that in the later stages of his life spread to other parts of his body.

He was a good, kind man, says Deb, and he was solid in who he was. During their courtship days, Ed proposed that they go on a canoe trip in the Machias Lakes region, spending three nights on a wilderness island far from any trace of civilization. Ed, who was a great outdoor cook, had whipped up a meal of Lobster Newburg, followed by cheesecake. An hour before sunset, he disappeared into their tent up on the bank of the lake, while Deb lingered below. Later, when Deb looked up, she saw a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a mountain-man full-length leather coat, and lace-up boots going all the way up to his knees. He cut quite a figure, his hands on his hips, looking down at her. This is who I really am, Ed had said. If you like this, you’re going to like me.

Well, that sealed the deal, and Ed and Deb were married in February 1998, with his life-long friend Mike Patterson as best man.

Ed grew up in Belfast, the son of Elizabeth Stephenson Eaton and Edgar “Ted” Eaton. Ted was the maintenance supervisor of the Maplewood Poultry Plant, and from him Ed learned many skills, including those of plumbing, electrical work and carpentry.

In 1969, Ed graduated from Belfast Area High School, where he was a member of the state champion football squad. He received an engineering degree from the University of Maine at Orono, and, after a stint working for the Camden Herald newspaper, spent 28 years in the printing business in Augusta and Farmington.

He made a career change in 2001, taking on a position as assistant manager in the canoe and kayak department at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport. He continued to work there until the advancing cancer necessitated retirement.

For 40 years, whenever he could carve out time from his 9-to-5 jobs, Ed was a Maine Guide, leading canoe trips with fellow Maine Guides Mike and Larry and with other members of the guiding community. He served as president of the Maine Professional Guides Association. Ed led many trips on the St. John and the St. Croix rivers in Maine, and also for 10 years co-guided canoe trips in the beautiful Debsconeag Lakes region near Baxter State Park. Larry had been hired to lead trips there for the Nature Conservancy, and he had brought on his buddy Ed as a co-guide.

In his later years, Ed retired from guiding for money, instead inviting friends and co-workers for treks down Maine’s many whitewater rivers. Ed was an expert paddler, able to glide through the flat water and deftly maneuver through white water, sometimes heading into the churning waters standing up and poling through. Among other things, Ed was known for his campfire desserts, using a Dutch oven to miraculously make rhubarb cobbler or an apple crisp.

Ed also had a well-developed sense of humor. Whenever he was taking a first-timer down the St. Croix River, he never failed to warn the river novice about the upcoming “Spednic Falls.” Make sure all your gear is clipped into your carabiners on the rope lines, Ed would warn. Get down out of the seat and on your knees for a lower center of gravity, he would add, building the tension as the group approached the falls. Multiple sets of eyes strained, awaiting the challenge of going over the imposing drop-off just ahead. Only, there wasn’t one, or at least not now. When a dam was constructed years ago downriver at the Grand Falls Flowage, the back-up of water covered what had once been Spednic Falls. So now, passing over the “falls” meant meandering on water as flat as a pancake. Oh, that Ed.

Along with his wife Deb, Ed is survived by sons Dale Eaton and wife Shayne of Longmont, Colo., and Theo Eaton and his partner Melissa Potter of Knoxville, Tenn.

He is also survived by the twins, brother Steve and his wife Deborah of Sumpter, S.C., and sister Stephanie Clapp and her husband John of Camden.

Along with his family, Ed is also fondly remembered by his many, many friends and co-workers, many of whom volunteered in those later days to bring food, mow the lawn, build a gazebo, and make visits to the house.

Ed is to be buried at the family plot in Belfast.

 

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