Elliot Donald Blodgett
Mar 21, 1929 - Jan 30, 2017
- Elliott Donald Blodgett, 87, died at St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Jan. 30, 2017. He died after suffering a stroke in the hospital, while recovering from a fall sustained a month earlier. Don was born at home in Bucksport, Maine, on March 21, 1929, son to Frederic Swazey Blodgett and Jessie Nye Blodgett, youngest brother to Sara Blodgett and Frederic Maurice Blodgett.
Don grew up in the multi-generational Blodgett family home on School Street, and at Sunnyside, the family's summer camp on Lake Alamoosook in Orland. Don's youth was filled with pond hockey, junior and high school baseball, band, orchestra and debate. Don had fond memories of working alongside the old timers in his father's tannery. Don graduated from Bucksport High School in 1947 and from Bowdoin College in 1951 with a degree in psychology. He enlisted in the Army and served with the 25th Infantry Division Band playing for USO shows and MASH units. Don took pride in his service and last year participated with his son, Dana, in an Honor Flight with other Korean War vets to Washington, D.C. Don married Patricia Simmons, also of Bucksport, in 1951. After raising a family they were later divorced but remained life-long friends. Don earned M.S. and Ed.D. degrees at Syracuse University while working in the Syracuse (N.Y.) public schools as a Speech and Hearing Specialist. In 1959 he moved his family to Fairfax, Virginia, and became the Supervisor of Special Education Programs. In 1963 he was hired as the Executive Director of Special Education programs for the Milwaukee ,Wisconsin, public school system and earned a reputation as an innovative advocate for children with special needs. While in Milwaukee he was a member of the cultural exchange delegation to the Soviet Union under the Nixon-Brezhnev Agreement. In 1978 he moved to Arlington, Virginia, and concluded his professional life as an Education Specialist and Program Officer for the U.S. Department of Education. In his middle years, Don rekindled his passion for music and worked tirelessly to regain his "embouchure," eventually restoring the skills he needed to play professional "gigs." Don also revisited his love of hockey and played for several years in a Washington, D.C., area community league. When time allowed he walked the newly- plowed cornfields in Wisconsin or browsed and excavated sites in Maine searching for Native American artifacts. He also developed an impressive collection of Eskimo carvings. Don shared his passion for music and his love of nature with his children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Family memories are of early Wisconsin camping trips in a bedraggled canvas tent; campfires and fishing and hunting on the Brule River in northern Wisconsin; fishing and digging for Indian artifacts on the shores of Lake Alamoosook, and improvised recitals on the family piano or the old pump organ at camp. He encouraged and took great pride in the musical achievements of his granddaughter, Jessie, who died 4 year ago. He enjoyed the wrestling, football and baseball accomplishments of his grandson, Max. In his retirement years, Don lived at Shady Knoll, his camp on Lake Alamoosook, from June through October, and then returned to Milwaukee for the winter. While in Maine, he referred to himself as "a native from away." He was a venerable figure on the lake, known for making the evening rounds of the shoreline in his boat, ringing his bell or performing his signature Tarzan yodel as he stopped at each camp. Many of those voyages included his partner of the last nine years, Pam Lidington, also of Milwaukee. Don dedicated the last decades of his life to his music. In Arlington, Milwaukee and Maine his days were devoted to planning, practicing and playing in jazz bands, big bands, circus bands and symphonic bands. It was a rare night that he was not out performing. At the time of his death, Don was playing trombone in more than nine different musical groups. Of special note were the Shrine Circus Band in Milwaukee, and his annual benefit events in Bucksport: the trombone concert at the Congregational Church and the Circus Band Concert at the middle school.
Don is survived by his four children, Fred, Dana, Becky and Buck and his wife ,Joy; his grandson, Max; his former wife, Pat; his life partner, Pam; and his many nieces and nephews.
His wish was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered along Lake Alamoosook. There will be several public celebrations of his life this coming summer, all of course involving music and perhaps "Grampa Don's famous down east clam dip."Public announcements will be made when dates are determined. Donations may be made in his name to the Elm Street Congregational Church, 31 Elm Street, P.O. Box 878, Bucksport, ME 04416 to help preserve its historic Hooke organ, and to The Down East Center Ring Circus Band Scholarship Fund, c/o Martha Pedrick, 135 Shadow Springs Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30022.
Don, dad, you will be missed.