Jeffrey Dow

Dec 19, 2017

Jeffrey Laurance Dow, Ph.D., of Belfast and Gainesville, Fla., died of cancer Dec. 3, 2017, in Gainesville at age 69, with his wife, sister, brother and nephew by his bedside as he peacefully sailed off into the horizon.

Jeff was a Maine boy who found a second home in Florida. He had a large heart, a contagious laugh, a strong curiosity and he loved people. He was an educator, musician, sailor athlete, sports fan and dog lover.

Jeff was part of a family that arrived in New England in 1637 and to the Belfast area in 1792. He was a true son of Belfast. Jeff was born in the old Belfast hospital on upper High Street Nov. 3, 1948, the first child of Laurance E. Dow and Ernestine M. Dow, who had both graduated from Crosby High School in 1930 and had returned to Belfast after World War II to marry and start a family.

Jeff grew up in Belfast when it was an industrial town and Broiler Capital of the World. He learned to swim at the salt water pool at Belfast City Park, played Little League baseball on the Yankees with Guy Webber as his coach, was a Boy Scout in Troop 37 led by Sam Cassida, took private drum lessons with various teachers, was active in the youth group at the Methodist Church, and was a paperboy for Bangor Daily News. He attended Peirce School, Robertson School and Crosby High School and was a member of the first class to graduate from Belfast Area High School in 1966. In high school Jeff played varsity football on teams coached by Tank Violette and varsity basketball on teams coached by Harry Musk and Charlie Hotham, was honored as an All-State drummer, and graduated with honors as well as with many life-long friends.

Thanks to parents who valued education highly and were willing to make great sacrifices to ensure their children’s higher education, Jeff continued his education at Dartmouth College, where he majored in government, played drums in a band called The Dartmouth Five, and collected more good friends. Jeff loved his Dartmouth experience. He graduated in 1970 with a B.A. degree and teaching credentials, and with a spouse, his high school sweetheart Jeanne McMahan. He then began a productive and enjoyable 47-year career as an educator.

His early career included teaching jobs at private schools in Texas, Michigan and Miami, Fla., as well as a master’s degree earned during summers at the University of Maine. In 1980, while in Miami, where he grew accustomed to warm weather year-round, Jeff shifted from teaching at schools to working with individual elementary, secondary and college students through an educational service that he created. In 1994, after moving to Gainesville, the focus of his work as an educator shifted again. He undertook consulting projects with the University of South Florida and the University of Florida that delivered professional training for middle school and high school teachers and principals. At age 50, while still working, Jeff continued his own education at the University of Florida’s Graduate School of Education and was awarded a Ph.D. in 2002. He then began a long and productive association with the University’s Lastinger Center working to develop and implement professional development and leadership programs in schools throughout Florida. Jeff loved this work, which capped his career and ended with his retirement in 2016.

In 1979, a few years after his first marriage had ended, Jeff remarried. His marriage to Marty Varnadoe, whom he met in Miami, was a loving partnership that he cherished for the remaining 38 years of his life.

Jeff’s love of music, especially jazz, continued throughout his life. He gigged out with various musicians wherever he lived, and was still drumming at home just weeks before his death. The ocean also held his love. He loved to sail and owned several sailboats during his life. His last sailboat, called the Good News, a 38-foot ketch, was his favorite. He and Marty lived aboard it in Miami, and he later sailed it home to Belfast, where he returned each summer to sail on Penobscot Bay.

Most precious of all to Jeff was his family. He is survived by his wife Marty; his dogs Doc and Cody; his sister Juliane of Belfast; his brother James of Blue Hill; his adoring family of nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws and his many dear friends.

Though Jeff spent most of his adult life elsewhere, his connection to his home in Belfast never wavered. He was from it and of it. A celebration of his life will be held in Belfast next summer, when a memorial stone will be placed to mark his place in his family’s and town’s history. Condolences to Jeff’s wife Marty Dow may be sent to Milam Funeral Home, 311 So. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601.

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