Alan B. Rich ’44
Alan Rich slipped his mooring and left us on Feb. 25, 2019, marking the end of a remarkable life. Born in Portland on Nov. 21, 1924, he was the youngest of the three children of Ralph and Myra Rich. He attended local schools and left Deering High School in his junior year to join the second class to graduate from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1944.
He served on Liberty ships in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean in World War II, a charter member of the greatest generation. Although he never went back to sea, he remained a mariner at heart for the rest of his life. When one of the last operational Liberty ships visited Portland some years ago, he took a group of us aboard for a tour throughout the ship. The poignancy of his descriptions of the peculiarities of how things worked in the engine room and above deck clearly sprang from a profoundly deep well of life defining personal experience. He remained a loyal member of the Portland Marine Society for nearly 60 years.
He came ashore for good in 1948 to marry his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Katrina Kern. They were a couple for nearly 80 years. If, as it has been said, there is great nobility in a man’s labor, Alan was clearly among the peerage. His life was defined by work. The selfless generosity with which he toiled on behalf family, friends, and community was legendary. The plumbing and heating company he started in the same year of his marriage developed a well-earned reputation for professional and competent workmanship, scrupulous honesty, fair dealing, and the dependability of one of those rare men could actually do what they say they would do. He could always be depended upon to be there when you needed him, and perhaps sometimes when you didn’t think you did.
With the birth of his son, Jim, Alan embarked upon a dedicated and distinguished advocacy for the developmentally disabled. With a personal loan for $5,000 and a lot of recruited volunteer assistance he founded the Woodfords School for Trainable Children in the Sunday school rooms of the Woodfords Congregational Church. From the original five students in the early ’60s, by 1980, after several moves to larger facilities, The Woodfords School served nearly 200 students from Cumberland County. When services for the disabled were decentralized in the mid-80s, the school evolved into Woodfords Family Services which continues to this day serving hundreds of our community members. Alan served as a board chair and trustee of the school until his retirement. He may not have been the most confident of public speakers, but in the inarticulate speech of the heart he possessed a fluency displayed by few. Somehow, he also found the time to serve as a trustee of the Portland Water District. For his tireless service he received a Jefferson Award. The persistence of his memory will be nourished by the myriad of folks whose lives were made that much richer for having known him. The work devoted to his spare time went to his beloved mill. Purchased in the ’60s, this mid-1800s mill on the Piscataqua River in Cumberland was converted into a residence for Alan and Katrina. They resided there for over 40 years. The mill was the touchstone for countless family events, weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. They were dedicated members of the Cumberland Historical Society, and Alan belonged to the Cumberland Lions. The mill was also a monument to the accomplishment of one man’s labor. Truly remarkable. It holds many cherished memories.
Alan was an exemplar to us all. A truly good man in the most humble and righteous sense. A man of integrity and honor, his kindness, compassion and generosity were boundless. As a final gesture he donated his body for the advancement of healthcare education. He is survived by his wife; sons, Alan and wife, Mary Rich, James, and daughters, Meredith and husband, Donald Barton, Julie, Cynthia and husband, Stephen Johnson; 10 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. At Alan’s request, there will be no memorial service.This is not farewell, fare forward voyager.