- Peter L. Gaetani, OD, passed away peacefully at his camp at Cold Stream Pond in Enfield on the morning of August 22, 2016, surrounded by his loving wife and family. Peter was born in East Millinocket on April 14, 1929, and grew up there , went to college, got married and then moved to Old Town to open his optometry practice. He was the son of Peter and Maria (Tortora) Gaetani who were immigrants from Italy, entering through Ellis Island in the early 1900's. Peter will be remembered as a kind, generous, humble, witty, and brilliant man and as a loving husband, brother, father, father-in-law, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, and friend.
In 1946, Peter graduated as the Valedictorian of his class at Schenck High School. Immediately following high school, he was accepted into the Massachusetts College of Optometry in Boston where he graduated with a Doctor of Optometry degree in 1950 with the highest honors, Magna Cum Laude, a position he shared with only two others that year.
Following graduation, he opened his optometry practice in Old Town, at 119 Center Street. Within months, he was called to active duty in the Korean War and spent two years at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as a lieutenant in the U. S. Army Medical Service Corps. It was with the help of then-Senator Margaret Chase Smith that he was given permission to set up his practice before leaving for active duty. He was provided military training via an orientation course at the Medical Field Service School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, before being assigned to duty as the Optometry Officer at the U. S. Army Hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey. In 1954 he resumed his optometry practice in Old Town, retiring in 1989 leaving the practice to continue in the family.
In 1957, Peter and his brother Mig bought property at Cold Stream Pond in Enfield and built their camps there. Peter wanted his children to have special memories growing up and camp quickly became the center of Gaetani family gatherings, becoming known to them as The Italian Riviera. His family treasures their times at the lake, including rides in his Higgins boat, 4th of July parades, and summer barbecues. His family chose to bring Peter to camp one last summer, utilizing hospice care and family care. Fighting each day for "One More Day," he gave them one last summer together.
Peter is survived by his wife of 65 years Jean M. Hackett also of E. Millinocket. They met in first grade and quickly became friends and later became high school sweethearts. They married on September 11, 1951, and remained inseparable for 65 years as they raised and enjoyed their seven children.
Peter and Jean have treasured their longtime Maine friends as well as the friends they made over the years at Peck Plaza in Daytona Beach, Florida, where they wintered for many years. Over the years, Peter enjoyed golfing, playing the trumpet in community bands, and playing cards and competing in the "Monday night pool tournament" with friends.
Peter will be sadly missed by his wife Jean and their children: three daughters Patti LeBlanc and her husband Gus of Auburn, Janice Anderson and her husband Don of Mechanicsville, VA, Judy Wiberg and her husband Erik of Falmouth; four sons Peter Gaetani and his wife Cathy of Veazie, David and his wife Karen of Auburn, John Gaetani and his wife Anne Hall of Old Town, Brian Gaetani and his wife Amy of Brewer; twelve grandchildren Christina LeBlanc, Nicholas LeBlanc, Nichole Anderson, Kate Anderson, Cali Wiberg, Jenni Parker, Erin Ford, Garrett Gaetani, Gina Finn, Mark Gaetani, Claire Gaetani. He will also be missed by his nine great grandchildren, by his older brother Americo (Mig) of E. Millinocket, and by many nieces and nephews.
Peter was predeceased by his parents; his older brothers Alfred and Sal; sisters-in law Kitty and Mary; and grandson Justin, son of Peter and Cathy.
Friends may call 5-8 pm Thursday at the Birmingham Funeral Home, 438 Main St., Old Town. A graveside service will be conducted at 11am Friday at Lawndale Cemetery, Old Town. Immediately following services at the cemetery, all are invited to the Black Bear Inn and Conference Center for a light luncheon and continued fellowship. Those who wish to remember Peter in a special way may make gifts in his memory to Hospice of Community Health and Counseling Services, 42 Cedar Street, P.O. Box 425, Bangor, Maine 04401 or to the Old Town/Orono YMCA Foundation 472 Stillwater Ave Old Town, ME.