Thursday, December 16, 2021

Master craftsman and storyteller Ralph Stanley dies at 92

 Ralph Warren Stanley, 92, died unexpectedly December 7, 2021, at Mount Desert Island Hospital. He was born February 9, 1929, in Bar Harbor, the son of Chester W. and Bertha E. (Robinson) Stanley.

Ralph graduated from Pemetic High School, class of 1948. After graduation, he attended Ricker Jr. College where he obtained an associate degree in business. After college, he worked as Ships hand for Captain Neil Peterson on the Niliraga owned by Gano Sillick Dunn and after Mr. Dunn's Death, he became Captain of the Niliraga for Mrs. Florence Montgomery. In the winters, he was often found building fishing boats for area fishermen. Some of these are still in use. He built his first Friendship Sloop, the Hieronymus for Albert Nielsen in 1961-62. He started his own boat building business, Ralph W Stanley, Inc., in 1973, on the Clark Point Rd. in Southwest Harbor. Over the years, he has over 70 vessels to his credit, some complete builds and some rebuilds.
On September 22, 1956, he married Marion L. Linscott, they took their honeymoon on the Niliraga and settled in Southwest Harbor. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year.
After his retirement he kept busy researching and tracing genealogy, not just his own but for others as well. He spoke at many historical societies, public libraries, as well as at many Marine Museums, as far as Mystic Seaport Museum, in CT. One of his favorite pass times in his middle years was playing in a country band, the Country Strummers, he founded with Fred Black, Floyd Farley and later Ruth Grierson and several others over the years, joined the group. He attended and played his fiddle at the Maine Bluegrass, of which he was a member, and country music 'Jams' in Brewer. He played at many fundraiser functions in the Hancock County area. He crafted fiddles and half models for others and for himself. He repaired stringed instruments for people as well as for Pemetic Elementary School. He found time to write his own books, one being his biography, co-authored with Craig Milner, "Ralph Stanley: Tales of a Maine Boatbuilder" and his latest, "The Stanleys of Cranberry Isles...and other Colorful Characters," and working on another at the time of his passing. He was an active member of the MDI Historical Society and other Island historical societies, The Maine Maritime Museum, The Mystic Seaport Museum, and Penobscot Marine Museum, where he served on the board of directors until his passing. He was an active member of the Friendship Sloop Society for over 55 years, attending many of the yearly sloop races here in Southwest Harbor, Friendship and Rockland, ME. He was on the Board of Trustees for the Southwest Harbor Library where he was honored with Trustee Emeritus.
Ralph spent many an hour sailing the waters off the coast of Maine. When the children were little, taking a family 'cruise' on the Hieronymus Labor Day weekends, to end the summer. Later he would take people for boat rides in the 'Seven Girls', a fishing boat he had built for his father, to the Cranberry Isles or Bakers Island or just up the Sound.
He had a strong attachment to family, past and present, he always wanted to know what was going on in the family, whether it was immediate family members or distant relatives, always asking what he could do to help. At family gatherings, he was often telling stories about local history, some kind of colorful.
Over the years, Ralph has been recognized for his continued Lifelong works. In 1990, he was presented the Friendship Sloop Society Bancroft Award for his continued service to the society and its traditions. In 1999, He was named a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, receiving a National Heritage Fellowship, Master of Artist, for his contribution to the shaping of our artistic traditions and to preserving the cultural diversity of The United States. In 2002, Governor King made a State of Maine proclamation, "bestowing upon this honorable son of Maine, the honorary title of Shipwright Laureate of Maine, a National Treasure." Governor Baldacci proclaimed June 25, 2004, as Ralph Stanley Day, for his "lifelong work upholding finest traditions of boatbuilding, Maine coastal culture and economy, a National Heritage Fellowship." 2011, he received the Sunbeam Award from the Seacoast Mission for his many contributions to the well-being of area communities. He received Don Turner Award from the USS Constitution Museum, in 2013, "recognizing a person or team of people, professional or amateur, who have contributed significantly to efforts to preserve important vessels or who have made a significant contribution to our knowledge and understanding of ship design and construction." The Southwest Harbor Library presented him, in 2013, the first Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees. In 2014, he was awarded a ships clock from the Penobscot Marine Museum in recognition of his dedicated service and exemplary leadership. He was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Husson - The Boat School in Eastport, Maine. These are just a few of many.
Ralph is survived by his loving wife, Marion (Linscott) Stanley; daughters, Nadine Goodwin and husband, Tim of Tremont, Marjorie Rankin and husband, Robert, of Southwest Harbor; sons, Richard Stanley and wife, Lorraine, of Ellsworth, and Edward Stanley and wife, Connie, of Southwest Harbor. He is also survived by 8 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. He is survived by 3 sisters, Nancy Stone of New Hartford, New York, Myrna Ritterskamp of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Mary Abbott and husband, Roy, of Ellsworth, Maine; and many nieces and nephews; and Betsy Holtzman, who is considered a part of the family. He was predeceased by both parents; sisters, Ruth Holmes, Irene Murphy, Esther Willis and Phoebe Collins; and his first born grandson, Cory C. Long; and his lifelong friend, Albie Nielson.
A service of remembrance will be held at 1 p.m. January 6, 2022, at United Church of Christ (Congregational Church), on the High Road, Southwest Harbor. Reception will follow the service in the church basement. Interment will be in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ralph's honor to Southwest Harbor Public Library, Friendship Sloop Society, or Penobscot Marine Museum. Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald 1139 Main St. Mt. Desert. Condolences may be expressed at

Article courtesy of Bangor Daily News, December 15, 2021