Obituary for Mark Libby
Mark Libby passed away peacefully on May 9, 2011 at the age of 86. He was born October 15, 1924 in Waterville Maine to Professor Herbert C. Libby and Mabel E. Dunn. He was the youngest of three sons. He was educated in the Waterville Public Schools, Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., and Amherst College.
He initially spent summers down on Pemaquid Point when his father first bought a cottage, eventually settling full time there.
He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in World War II and served first on a command ship in the South Pacific. He returned to the States and served during the commissioning of the Alfred A. Cunningham a destroyer which eventually was stationed on the picket line of ships between Okinawa and the Japanese Islands. Mark reached the Grade of rank of Quartermaster First Class at the time of his honorable discharge from the U. S. Navy.
After the war, he became a commercial fisherman operating his dragger out of New Harbor, Maine. He was known as being able to drag anywhere with a net where others couldn't or didn't dare. One in particular is off Pemaquid that he was partial to that today is referred to as "The Libby Crack." He was one of the last fishermen on the coast of Maine to operate a dragger with no crew. There were times he would go out for 2 to 3 days on his own which would leave a long time watcher of the harbor, Lola Brackett, looking out for him to steam back into the harbor. His days on the water eventually ended when at 70 years old he sold his boat and hung up his nets for the last time.
Together with his former wife Hilda Margaret Findlay, he has four children: Mark Findlay Libby of Pemaquid Point, Matthew Mackay Libby of Unity, Jonathan Maxwell Libby of Bowdoin, and Helen Margaret Libby of Pemaquid Point.
The state of Maine lost a great birder and naturalist as well. Mark didn’t post his sightings or own a computer but he did keep careful notes of the birds he saw. As Don Reimer noted, Mark always carried a notebook in a shirt pocket. This life habit came from Bill Drury when Mark did field work for Bill on Maine seabird nesting islands. Mark often quipped, "Bill Drury always said the dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind." His notebooks go back to 1939. In 1960 he found an adult Yellow-nosed Albatross south of Monhegan Island, a great rarity for Maine and North America. Remarkably, Mark saw another Yellow-nosed Albatross in 1964.
Mark moved to Pemaquid and for 50 years fished along the central Maine coast, especially the waters off Monhegan, counting and reporting seabirds. Don Mairs once asked Mark how come he'd chosen to return to fishing after the war, and he replied, "it was the only way I could think of to make a living and watch birds at the same time." At that time, knowledge of seabirds and their movements was very rudimentary. He carefully observed everything that was on or over the water. He was the only consistent seabird observer in Maine and New England for over 50 years. Other fishermen knew some of the birds but Mark knew them all well through all the seasons and he took the time to record them in his notebooks. His life at sea made Mark physically strong and unfretted by foul weather. Peter Vickery remembered chancing upon Mark in South Thomaston, where a Great Gray Owl had taken up winter residence. It was a bitterly cold day, in the teens with biting snow squalls. Mark was in his usual cut off sweatshirt, bare armed and certainly with no gloves, “Finest kind of day,’ he said. The sea must have blunted his surficial nerves but not his acute attention to the natural world. Mark especially loved Pemaquid Point and Weskeag Marsh. After he retired from fishing, he spent a great deal of time with his telescope scanning the waters off Pemaquid and the marsh. Given his friendship with other fishermen in the region, it’s not surprising that Mark took frequent forays to Cape Sable Island and other parts of Nova Scotia. Mark was remarkably humble and shied away from being the center of attention and didn’t want to be photographed and rarely looked at the camera. That was Mark. He was a wonderful person and a great naturalist who lived a great life. Those of us fortunate enough to know him will miss him dearly. And we regret that many of you didn’t get to share his delightful company.
He is survived by his brother Willard Dunn Libby of Falmouth, his four children, his long time companion Maia Hart of Damariscotta. His 11 grandchildren: Mahlana Libby of New Hampshire, Mackay Libby of Saco, Andrew Ray of Portland, Mark Ray of Searsport, Ryan Libby of Spokane Washington, Kara Ray of Old Town, Adam Libby of Bowdoin, Sam Ray of Liberty, Brooke Libby of Unity, Ashley Libby of Bowdoin, Emma Olson of Readfield. Three great grandchildren, nieces, a nephew, and many dear friends. He is predeceased by his parents and brother, Carlyle.
With his head thrown back in laughter, his words of wisdom helping people understand life, his cookies and his willingness to lend a hand; he will be missed by us all. But we will always remember him on those "finest kind of days."