ROCKWOOD - Roger Philibert AuClair, 97, died peacefully of natural causes March 14. He was born in Oakland, Sept. 13, 1918, the fourth of seven children to Charles and Claudia (Morin) AuClair. He was raised in Westbrook, hunting, trapping and fishing along the Presumpscot River. Those happy early years along the river influenced the rest of his life. He graduated St. Hyacinth parochial school and Westbrook High School in 1936, then apprenticed as a machinist with Knowlton Company in Westbrook until WWII.
He joined the 1st Marine Division in 1940 and served as a communications platoon leader in the Fourth Joint Assault Signal Company at Pelelieu, where he was wounded in action, and at Okinawa. After the war he settled in Philadelphia with first wife, Josie (Remez) AuClair, studied engineering and taught at Drexel Institute of Technology.
He transferred to the University of Maine and, through the GI bill, received a Bachelor of Science in wildlife management in 1954 and a Master of Science in zoology in 1956. He was a first surveyor of many of the lakes, ponds and streams of northern and eastern Maine and helped form the State of Maine's Fisheries Division under Dr. W. Harry Everhart. He wrote two foundation works: The White Perch of Sebasticook Lake and Moosehead Lake Fishery Management. He was appointed to open the Moosehead Lake Region's fisheries headquarters, then spent his career managing those waters and field training new fishery biologists. Bilingual in French and English, he formed progressive business relations with private timberland companies, dam companies, and loggers from Maine and Canada. He said he was never bored a day in his life and enjoyed all aspects of his work. Colleagues called him an early innovator and a visionary. He was a meticulous scientist who introduced some of the first restorative fishery projects to the state, especially for wild brook trout. He is remembered as a quiet man who was good at finding fresh answers to old problems. He was widely known for his understated strength, sharp intellect, and steady nature, which served the state, public, and profession well at a pivotal time in Maine history. His early work provided exemplary contributions that extend to today's management. He retired in 1985 to care for Josie during ill health.
Over the next quarter century he continued attending fisheries and sportsmen's meetings and remained current on the wildlife management issues of the day. He loved the outdoors and believed in the conservation of natural resources. He received Trout Unlimited's Silver Trout Award for his outstanding contribution to the conservation of coldwater fisheries. The Roach River Wildlife Management Area was co-dedicated in his name. In 2010 he received the Award of Professional Excellence from the University of Maine's Dept. of Wildlife Ecology in recognition of a distinguished career that brought honor to the university. In 2013 Roger was honored by the Forest Society of Maine for his contributions to conserving Maine's brook trout. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, building canoes, and life with second wife, Suzanne (Smith) AuClair. In his 90s, he initiated the state's first reference anthology, "The Origin, Formation and History of Maine's Inland Fisheries Division."
Roger was a member of the American Fisheries Society and the Cecil R. Cole Post 94 of the American Legion. He was a regular contributor to most local organizations, and a long-time supporter of The Nature Conservancy, among conservation groups. He was a devoted husband and friend.
He is survived and will be sadly missed by Suzanne; sisters Margaret Gildart, Sylvia and husband Emery Girouard of Westbrook; brother Armand and wife Mavis of Columbus, Ohio; many nieces, nephews. He had no children.
Roger was blessed with the exceptional care he received from Dr. Doyle at Jackman Health Center; the superb care received from PA-C Groft and Dr. Babbitt, the compassionate, professional staff at C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital, Greenville; and the Greenville and Rockwood emergency crews this winter.
A celebration of his life will be held later this spring. Online condolences may be shared at www.laryfuneralhome.com.