Sunday, 19 October 2014

Weldon B Astle

The Germans have a word for everything, don't they?   

My personal favorite would be Kummerspeck: literally "grief bacon".  It is the food you eat when you are stressed out and grieving.  Your body has a bit of a freak out when you get bad news and goes into survival mode: things are bad, you better eat something.  A lot of something.  

So, while I've been experimenting with vegetarianism lately (re-experimenting?  Don't worry, I won't force you to grill those vile tofu dogs for me) and I haven't really felt the need for rampant bacon consumption, my heart has been heavy with the news of the passing of my grandfather.

Yes, he was 88 years old.  He lived as good a life as any- the world has never seen a more ethical hard working man.  His mind was sharp right to the end.  I was always intimated by his intelligence and power of recall- we would talk about a trip to Arizona or California, and he'd start rattling off route numbers and names of towns where he had stayed 60 years ago.  The same with New York.  "Have you ever heard of Floyd Bennet Field?" he asked me once.  Why yes, we would take the motorcycle out there and ride around the abandoned runways and explore the swamps where the mob dumps the bodies.  How could a person have room in their brains to remember that was where you flew into while hitching a ride on a military convoy plane in 1944?  I stood by the baggage claim at Heathrow for the JFK flight for a half hour once before I remembered I had flew from Logan.  

We liked the same music.  Well, for the most part.  Lawrence Welk was a bit too white bread for me, but he was down with the jazz music and that's just groovy as far as I was concerned.

He was opinionated and funny and really just held it together when everyone else couldn't.   He always just knew what the right thing to do was- stopping to assist people broken down on the side of a lonely northern Maine stretch of road, giving Appalachian Trail hikers a lift into town, giving some poor souls on an Outward Bound mission the fish he had just caught.  Ah, and thrifty!  Growing up in the depression really molds you.  Every report on anything I did in grade school was based on information gleaned from an encyclopedia set that the local library was just throwing away and he rescued from some horrible fate.  No matter that I couldn't write a report about anything that started with G, N or W as those were mysteriously missing, and no one seemed to ever fact check that I was using figures from the 1968 editions, but those outdated dinosaurs kept me in A's all through grade school.  

We got the news of his cancer in the Spring.  Sadly and cruelly, a slow agonizing end was in store as the disease robbed him of all his senses- his hearing, his taste- and any joy.  He put on a brave face until he couldn't any longer.  

We got to work on an obituary a few days after he passed.  I submitted it to the local newspaper and found it would cost $450 and would run for a day.  Picture would be extra.  Screw you, Bangor Daily.  You can start a blog for free, post as many lines as you would like and the obituary will run for-EVER.  Also, ampersands are not slang, I can put as many of them as I want &&&&&  so screw you.  
Aside from the death-profiteering local newspaper grating my nerves, I've been holding up.  I hope the rest of the family can say the same, if not right this moment, perhaps very soon.  

So here it is, the new and improved illustrated obituary, which will live on somewhere in the vast expanses of the internet for eternity.  Grandma, it's not costing you a dime.  

Weldon Bryant Astle passed away on October 11th, 2014. He was surrounded by his family at home in Millinocket, the same house where he was born on July 31st ,1926.  Weldon was the son of Tyler and Amy (Surrette) Astle and was predeceased by his two older brothers Peter and Warren and younger sister Charlene.  He was an avid outdoorsman and spent a great deal of his life in the woods surrounding Millinocket.

Weldon left high school at 16 to join the US Marines, serving in the Pacific during World War II and again when he reenlisted to serve in Korea.  Upon returning to civilian life, he worked as a painter and steeplejack in Rochester, NY.  This is where he met the love of his life , Donna Haigh Astle.  This union was blessed with five daughters.

Weldon returned to Millinocket where he continued to work as a painter, paper hanger and for the Millinocket School system.  He served on the Millinocket Fire Department’s Pioneer Hose Company from 1960 to 1989 and assisted the Baxter State Park search and rescue team that went out in any weather to rescue lost and injured hikers.  He loved the North Woods and had many adventures hiking and camping with his family and friends.  His exploits were legendary, such as the time he skied down Mt. Katahdin.  He was filled with stories of long treks, paddles and portages on his way to find just the right fishing spot or spring with good sweet water.  Weldon was a lifelong learner, and his curiosity and natural inquisitiveness made for fascinating conversations in a wide range of subjects.  His accomplishments were honored by his family and friends when he was given a high school diploma, complete with School of Life graduation ceremony at his beloved camp on North Twin Lake. Although set in his ways, he would surprise  us with his openness of mind.  His loved ones miss his dignity, humor, and humility.   His example will live on and continue to inspire.  

He is survived by his wife Donna, his daughters Amy Astle Pease of Millinocket, Lori MacKenzie and partner Steve Onacki of Biddeford, Patricia and husband Roy Evans of New Bern, North Carolina, son in law William Radon of Glen Ellyn, Illinois; grandchildren Sara MacKenzie and Bryan B; Tyler, wife Chelsea, and Hannah Pease; Kyle, Andrew and Paige Radon, and Natalie Evans.  He was predeceased by daughters Elizabeth Astle and Susan Radon, and grandson Ryan MacKenzie.

A service to celebrate Weldon’s life will be held on Saturday October 25th, 2014 at the Millinocket Cemetery at 11 am. In lieu of flowers donations should be made to Baxter State Park at 64  Balsam Drive, Millinocket, ME 04462 or the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor, ME.


  1. So sorry to hear of you and your family's loss. What a great tribute to him, far better than the newspaper alternative. My mum passed away this year at the age of 95 also of cancer though fortunately she didn't suffer too long, it still seems so cruel to reach your eighties/nineties and then get it. Take care x

  2. Pat, sorry to hear of the loss of your father. But the memories must be pouring out the walls of his home, and will continue as long as your family exists. Reading this tribute to him reminded me there still are people around that are worth knowing, people that matter, men that raise families that are blessed to have them. Your family is blessed to have such a man at its helm. I know he will be missed, but ah, what memories you have.

  3. Hi Sara, All my thoughts to you and your family on your loss. The description of your grandfather reminds me so much of my dad! Also child of the Depression, the experience molded him for life (and it passes on to the kids, too!). As difficult as his illness and passing was, there is joy in knowing his spirit continues in all those he touched during his long and wonderful life.
    All my best,