By Emmet Meara
Kenny Bailey did more with his life than the rest of us.
A mere 500 folding chairs were not enough to hold his family and far-flung friends at the celebration of his life on Wednesday at the Camden Snow Bowl. Bailey died on July 10 after a prolonged bout with cancer.
As the cars flowed into the dusty parking lot, most of us expected Kenny to be directing traffic. He was always everywhere, doing everything possible for the Camden area.
You want a list? He was a shoe salesman, Vietnam vet, master guide, director of the parks department, manager of the Snow Bowl ski area, where he organized the World Championship Toboggan Races. He served for decades as a volunteer fire fighter. He served as selectman and police officer. Oh, he also emceed the annual Maine Sea Goddess at the Maine Lobster Festival. He served as editor of the Camden Herald.
For 28 years, he served as warden for Lake Megunticook and in 2008, to no one’s surprise he was named Townsperson of the year, by the area Chamber of Commerce. They should have retired the award after that.
On Wednesday, after the bagpipe serenade, it fell to his nephew, Rev. Eric Huntley to eulogize his uncle. Looking out at the hundreds who came to say goodbye, Huntley said it was “amazing how many lives Kenny touched.”
He admitted that he used Google.com to seek a definition of what a “man” is. The internet definition said a man is one who demonstrates service to the community (check) a great love of family (check) an intellectual curiosity (check) and service to the town, county and state (check.)
“No matter what measuring stick you use, my uncle was a man. Kenny was a good person to look at” when seeking that definition, he said.
Bailey was always good for a laugh, often at other’s expense said son K. Aaron Bailey. As a gesture of solidarity the son shaved his head when the father fell ill with cancer. The assumption was that Kenny would lose his hair. But Kenny never did. Still, Aaron shaves his head every week in honor of his father.
Daughter Michelle Ridlon will always remember hunting and fishing with her father and his endless supply of Tic Tacs, even though most were served with pocket lint.
“Along with his wife, Sandy, Megunticook Lake was the love of his life,” said Brother Robert Bailey. “The lake will never be the same without him.” Kenny Bailey spent “countless hours” checking on the lakes eagle and loon population, he said.
Heroes don’t seek praise and recognition, said a parade of friends. “He was the most selfless man I ever met,’ said one. “A true hero,” said another.
Of all his good works, one woman said she would remember his giggle the most. I loved the guy because he let me go when he stopped me for speeding, then later chided me for operating an unregistered canoe on the lake with a motor, but wrote me no ticket. He also instructed me that you can’t start an outboard motor when it is in gear. Good information.
In the conclusion of the hour-long ceremony, a police dispatcher on the radio called “Knox dispatch to 311.” When there was no answer to Bailey’s call number, they rang the fire bell and announced that “311 has been retired.” If there was a dry eye in that tent, it wasn’t mine.
Lake Megunticook and the rest of Camden will never be the same without Kenny Bailey.