Image by Sincerely Media

Celebrating the Life of 

Rupert Neily

November 15, 1945 - April 27, 2020

The Memorial Service for

Rupert Neily

Crossing the Bar
 
 
Image by Fabrizio Conti

Remembering Rupert Neily

Rupert Neily III died in a cabin overlooking Knickerbocker Lake, Boothbay, Maine, on April 27, 2020, lovingly cared for by son Aaron, partner Leslie, and sister Sandy.

 

Rupert was born on Nov. 15, 1945 in Portland and grew up on Lincoln Street in East Boothbay. He graduated from Boothbay Region High School, where he played basketball and football and was president of his class all four years. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, and had a passion for history. During the Vietnam War he served in the Coast Guard, from which he received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. He worked for several environmental and conservation organizations in Maine, of which serving as director of the Maine Land Trust Network was closest to his heart.

 

Rupert’s first and enduring love was the Maine woods, lakes, streams, hills and coast. They were his botanical garden. He avidly explored them on foot, bike and rowing and sailing his beloved Whitehall, his eye ever roaming to an alluring ridgeline. He learned how to find his way in the woods as a boy hunting with his father. He learned how to find spiritual nourishment from the mystery of nature all on his own, most especially during his recovery from a bone marrow transplant from his sister Sandy for leukemia in 1998.

 

The person Rupert most cherished was his son Aaron, his favorite companion on his favorite row from East Boothbay to South Bristol. Their connection ran deep, as they explored books, films and ideas with meaning for them both.

 

The Sisterhood — Liz, Sandy, Kathy and Joy — were a major force in Rupert’s life, and they dearly loved their only brother. Rupert saw them individually and collectively as forces of nature. They circled the wagons whenever he needed them, and he was in awe of and devoted to them.

 

In 2000, he found his “Pownal family,” the Hydes, through Dave and Steve’s Two Roads Maine, which partnered with Chewonki to offer guided wilderness trips as journeys of healing exploration. Steve Hyde became Rupert’s treasured and closest friend.

 

He met his partner Leslie Bird in 2005 on a ‘’Rupert’s Rambles” hike from Murray Hill Road to Farnham Cove. Leslie had to go on several more rambles before winning him over, but as her grandmother said, “he’s worth pursuing.’’

 

Rupert was mischievous, loved to trespass, was perplexed by rules and so generally avoided them. He found signs everywhere, layers of meaning unseen by the rest of us. He collected “icons,” things he found in his path, put there for some reason that was his work to figure out. A favorite was a fork flattened by a car tire, which became “the fork in the road.”

 

Rupert was predeceased by his parents, Elizabeth (Betty “Biz” Bisbee) and Rupert Neily Sr.

 

He is survived by son Aaron, partner Leslie, sisters Liz, Sandy, Kathy and Joy, their spouses and children, his former wife Ellen, and much to his delight last summer, a newly discovered sister, Anne. He was grateful to his doctor and friend of 22 years, Dr. Scott Schiff-Slater of Hallowell.

 

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

 
Image by Dave Hoefler

Photo Gallery

The gallery below is a tribute to Rupert Neily

from his family and friends.

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Tribute To Rupert

From Sandy NeiIy: 

I want to close with a thank you but I am going to back into it.

I think most of us know about Rupe’s Questing Self. I want to share some debates he and I had these past few, often tough years. 

We both wanted to be heard. That’s tough to do without jobs, job titles, and some kind of official influence. We were both sharing the same challenge: How to Get Heard with Ideas We Think are Great Solutions things That Seem Urgent. My solution has been to stop talking out loud and write mystery books about the murder of Maine’s woods.

 I also urged some laundering strategies on Rupert. Maybe to change up how he shared voice … sliding it in sideways; avoiding a frontal assault, so to speak. He was struggling with his huge self and looking for welcoming places to take it.

I suggested he change it up a bit: create a website with more pics than paragraphs. I offered to help him publish his letters and comments as essays as a publication. I urged him to launder himself through shorter or more visual ways. 

He came from a time when just walking in with a great idea or writing a long letter was enough. Often it wasn’t working for him anymore.

I stopped trying to “launder Rupert” one day when he pounded the armrest of his chair and said, “I am going to be Rupert.” He punctuated each word with a thump on the chair.  “I don’t want to compromise. I am going to be Rupert,” he said.  And he was.

So, to everyone here and all of Rupert’s family and the larger community, I want to thank you for cherishing him as Rupert….listening to him, hearing him, encouraging him to be Rupert. Giving him that large space to inhabit, savoring his jokes with him, walking trails, or just smelling the salt air with him. 

Today we give him back to the large spaces he loved where he can truly be at home. Large as he was. 

What Was Behind Rupe’s

“Good Mischief”

from Chip Griffin:

Rupert would often quip, it’s time for us to do some “good mischief.” That could mean all sorts of things, such as trespassing to view tree-lines, thinking, and acting outside the box to create a better environment for all or at least most of us, and most of all communing with and learning from nature.

 

Rupe’s sisterhood, comprised of Liz, Sandy, Kathy, and Joy, and his partner, Leslie, wrote an exquisite testament to Rupe: “Rupert was mischievous, loved to trespass, was perplexed by rules and so generally avoided them. He found signs everywhere, layers of meaning unseen by the rest of us. He collected ‘icons,’ things he found in his path, put there for some reason that was his work to figure out. A favorite was a fork flattened by a car tire, which became ‘the fork in the road.’”

 

Rupert, in 2013, wrote to me, 

 

“I have acted as a ‘default project manager’ dealing with these stairs on behalf of the Boothbay Region Community Trails Partnership.  The Partnership consists of a broad coalition that includes the YMCA, the schools, the Chamber of Commerce, and both the towns of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. As you might expect, our goals are to preserve and enhance the region’s trail opportunities. I think the resulting favorable publicity would be considerable - with . . . guests for sure, but also in the wider community. These . . . are part of the system of pedestrian access between East Boothbay and the footbridge - known as The Indian Trail.” 

 

Rupe succeeded overall in this endeavor, the old Indian trail from East Boothbay to Boothbay Harbor, the one many of us have hiked since we were kids, and the same trail that for generations folks from here in East Boothbay walked, including to the movies at the Strand Theater, now the Opera House parking lot after some arson in the 1980s.

 

Rupe often led “Rupert’s Rambles” through “The Walking Trails from Linekin Bay Resort.” He promised and delivered “nature, history, tales and local knowledge,” “you can get there from here on foot,” “solo walks or guided tours,” and “discover this enchanted shoreline at your pace.” He pointed to “two scenic ponds & a series of walking trails” within a twenty-minute walk of Linekin Bay Resort. Rupert listed the Indian Trail to Bayville and East Boothbay, Appalachee Association Road to access the Indian Trail, Abenaki Trail leading to Eastern Avenue and the upper town part of Boothbay Harbor, and Bayville’s summer colony at the head of Linekin Bay with its mini post office and library, as well as the East Boothbay General Store. Of course, Rupe openly invited his pied pipers to take advantage of the East Boothbay fire station bathrooms!

 

Always entrepreneurial, Rupert handed out a postcard that decried an increasingly ugly Wiscasset. He distributed a snapshot card taken from the southern gateway to “Maine’s Prettiest Village” of Wiscasset. His card depicted an old, weathered white farmhouse with a huge “FOR SALE” sign high up on the farmhouse side facing Route 1.

 

I grew up on Boothbay Harbor’s East Side but never really noticed the lengthy and colorful West Side tree-line, until Rupert pointed the obvious to me on one of our walk and talks, at the Fishermen’s Memorial Park.  Take an extra minute today or soon and just admire the incredible and almost uninterrupted tree-lines from either the east or west side of Boothbay Harbor. This recognition and then grasping the significance of our extensive and brilliant tree-lines is one of Rupert’s ongoing and multiple gifts to us all.

 

I leave you with Rupert’s wisdom gleaned from a June 3, 2009 interview with a Portland Press Herald reporter, when he expressed his lifelong mission to 

 

“help preserve the tradition of access to the Maine landscape. . . . Exploring landscapes intrigues me. Part of it is a practice to get in touch with one’s intuition. You see a ridgeline in the distance and you follow it. The only destination is to put yourself in a certain area and begin wandering about it. You leave the external things like a map behind and go by what you see. Part of the fun of it is to go where you are unfamiliar. Never do I come away without finding an adventure. There is always something new to discover and always something magical going on outdoors. . . . The most important part of my work is meeting landowners and thanking them for keeping their land as is. . . . I go out in search of the beauty and majesty of nature. The landscape and scenery and mystery of how things got there – that’s the adventure.”

 

May we all savor and share Rupert Neily’s meaning of good mischief, which includes touching, tasting, and testing, as well as sensing, learning, and glimpsing the majesty, mystery, and adventure in nature, all around us and in us, and reviving and reconnecting us.

 

Amen.  

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Tribute To Rupert

From Alix Hopkins: 

From Rupert and I met in the early 1990s through land conservation. Each of our nascent positions called for innovation—he at the Maine Land Trust Network, and me at Portland Trails. We soon discovered mutual tendencies toward whimsy, irreverence, serendipity, and a deep love for the natural world. 

 

We hung out for just a few years (and I especially loved spending time with Aaron), but as often is the case, afterward we became dear friends for life. Rupert understood me in ways that few people ever have. All the more remarkable because he is A GUY!

 

To be friends with Rupert meant one needed to be on the lookout for his tendency to joke practically as often as possible. One of my favorites, aside from his leaving a blackened banana in my toilet (toilets seem to be a theme here), was when the annual land trust conference organizers invited ebullient, big-haired and blonde Ann Lusk to give the keynote. Never one to skimp on marketing, she sent a bunch of 8x10 black-and-white glossy head shots ahead of time. Rupert, ever the devil, took several and taped them to the inside of the toilet seats at the office. If someone needed to go, they were greeted by Ann’s smiling face when they lifted the seat… Or the time he left a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream in my mailbox in February as a thank you for something I did. I don’t remember what I did, but I sure do remember my delight at finding it there.  

 

Over the years, each communication from him was a treasured work of art: thoughtful, creative, impactful, often cut out from old cards and photos. 

 

I live in Pownal. He actually arrived here through me, meeting members of our good community, especially the Hyde brothers, which led to Two Roads Maine. Likewise, I got to meet all his sisters, Leslie, and both his parents. 

 

I think about him almost every day. Especially in the woods. Or when I see the classic lines of a Whitehall rowing boat.

 

Rupert was one in a million, and we are all the richer for his whacky, wonderful presence in our lives. If I catch myself laughing at a memory evoked, I can still feel his delight at providing such entertainment for my amusement.

 

Thoughts on Rupert from Alix ~ October 9, 2020

Remarks from Rupert’s Memorial 

from Jeff Pidot:

I never knew anyone like Rupert Neily.  He was a quiet hero of mine. 

Years ago, when I lived in Hallowell with my family, he would regularly stop by, often (it just so happened) at mealtimes. (He knew he was always invited). Rupert became a member of the Pidot family.  

From my many hours of being with him, I came to realize I could do no better than to emulate Rupert’s values and personal qualities, although honestly I never much succeeded in doing so. 

Rupert was one of the most thoughtful (thought-full) persons I have ever known, which I mean in both senses of the word.  His generosity of spirit was second to none. 

Unlike me, Rupert almost never lectured, but he did ask provocative questions that led me to new realizations.  He cared deeply about the natural world, of which to him humanity is only a small part, not the other way around as most of us want to believe. 

He was full of grace and decency, finding something valuable and good in almost every person and experience. As his son Aaron has said, he made things meaningful.

Sometimes his quiet presence could be a little, well, disquieting. Rupert was an incorrigible rulebreaker.  Though respectful of people, he was a notorious trespasser of property, taking great liberties in traipsing across people’s land to take in a view or experience nature. 

His philosophy was simply that no one really owns the land, that landowners are merely caretakers for the rest of us and for the future. 

 

In a phrase, Rupert was spiritually alive. 

Yes, alive.  Still.  Right here and now.  In me.  In all of us.

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Perceval

poet Stephen Hyde: 

In honor of Rupert and his fierce spirit, written by his dear friend and “brother.”

 

he was a bushwhacker from the get-go 

he never followed the established trail 

 

he had no interest in living 

someone else’s journey 

 

one day out walking virgin ground 

in the green mountains 

 

as he stopped to pee 

and peruse his surroundings 

 

he discovered the grail 

stashed under some timeworn junipers 

 

humble and holy fool that he was 

he recognized it immediately 

 

for he lived close to his destiny 

and knew a sign when he saw one 

 

somewhere further down the path 

he left the chalice 

 

in the hollow trunk of a grand old maple 

for someone else to find and be changed 

 

as he himself had been changed 

because he knew the grail was not the grail 

 

but a thing pointing beyond itself  

he was blissfully free to wander on 

 

in search of the next adventure 

tracking something more unknown 

 

to him the creative possibility 

was the only cure for the cure 

 

and this is how he lived 

by making his own meaning 

 

wherever he went

by not dying until he was dead  

Tribute To Rupert

From Steve Hyde:

“Stories,” wrote Jean Shinoda Bolen, “can change beliefs.  And beliefs affect us at the cellular level.”  

 

So the stories we have come to share today and the stories we have come to hear today are meant to change us and change us at the most basic, most fundamental, most profound levels.  Another way to say this is that, when, as an individual, or a collective, we live the story we are here to live, we heal. And when and as we heal, the world heals.  

 

Nothing would please Rupe more than to know that this is the case, that the effort of his living would lead to this great outpouring today of story, of love, and of healing.  

 

Okay, let’s be clear from the start:  this is a big-spirited man we are talking about.  He could, and frequently did, make big-spirited mistakes.  It comes with the territory of walking with the gods.  He could be impulsive, impudent, irreverent, inappropriate, unfiltered, and maddeningly irritating.  Yet I am not sure I have ever known someone who could be so exuberant, so joyful, so open to the possibilities of the present, so passionate, so enthusiastic (which is to say, so in touch with the inner gods), and so humble.  

 

Much could be made of his coyote nature.  He is an edge-walker, a threshold-crosser, a boundary-crasher, the arch-druid of the trespasser’s cult.  But a coyote’s work is to carry the energy of the otherworld into this one.  And as a coyote, he is meant to both undo the world order and create the world anew.  As William Stafford wrote, “It is people at the edge who say things at the edge,” who risk using transformative words and saying transformative things. And Rupe, as I am sure many of you Vernal Pool fans know, loved to play with words, to draw out their overstory and their underbelly, to extend their meanings into new and little suspected territories.  He has a very well-developed sense of play, an artist’s consummate skill for having fun.  As well as the artist’s eye for and appreciation of the image!  Who here has not been the recipient of one of Rupe’s tantalizing images, or found treasures?  Rupe’s focus has always been, not on pathology, not on what is wrong with the world, but on beauty, on the discovery of, the celebration of, the preservation of, and the sharing of the beautiful.  Life as a masterpiece.  Each life is a work of art.  Many years ago Rupe discovered this sense of the artistry of living that could incorporate the random, the inarticulate, and the unpredictable.  Like John Tarrant, he intuited that “inside unpredictability you will not find chaos, but beauty.”   

 

One of the things that brought Rupe and me together was a shared love of adventure: we are journey companions, and over the past 20 years have shared many extraordinary adventures in the wild, in the north country, around the kitchen table.  Our last big journey together was on a ship in the Canadian arctic.  He was already experiencing the physical challenges from his damaged lungs but stoically adjusted his pace and expectations.  Our trip was supposed to begin in the Arctic community of Resolute, but because of shifting ice conditions, the itinerary had to be abandoned at the last moment.  The voyage became instead an unprecedented arctic ramble, a kind of following of the call and of conditions that was so native to his soul.  He could not have been more delighted to be off of the expected trail and wide open to the unexpected encounter, to serendipity and synchronicity.  

 

Leukemia, the illness that stopped him in his tracks and so radically altered his life, was the wake-up call he had long been waiting for.  And he woke up:  to a new world, to a new life, to a new clarity about what mattered, to a new sense of authenticity (what Joseph Campbell called “bliss”), and he began to revise his journey, to reexamine and reshape his being.  It was hard work, this becoming Rupe, this taking responsibility for being Rupe.  Facing the mirror.  Remembering to love himself.  Remembering why it was so important to do the work of transformation that he was doing.  

 

In one of our last conversations, speaking through open windows while sitting in separate vehicles on the shores of Boothbay Harbor, he said:  “This is the question I ask myself every day:  can I do this?”  Death was not a problem for him.  It was this final unraveling of life.  Any of you privileged enough to accompany him during these days know that he did it with patience, grace, humor, and love.  Knowing in turn that he was well-loved and so very well-supported.  

 

His last three words to me, spoken through another open window on a chilly late April day, I carry as a kind of talisman in these dark times and as a reminder of what is possible if we turn our hearts towards what we are called to be and to do in this lifetime.  

 

Back at you, Rupe.  Looking forward to our next adventure together.  With great love.  swh

Image by Mark Olsen
 
Image by Jessica Delp

Tribute To Rupert

from Giff Stevens:

In 1956 I was in East Boothbay with my grandfather, Alden Stevens, for the summer. One day at the local post office a contralto voice called from Lincoln Street“Yoo Hoo. Alden and Giffy...come up” So began my days and years with the Neily clan. Rupert was younger by two years, but even as a "greaser" from Hartford Ct., we were friends and so we remain ever. 

In 1970 Rupert sent me a Christmas card with a Biblical verse:” Enlarge thee place of your tent." So I remember Rupe, a friend, and collector of friends whose tent rivaled that of Omar. Lately, I've been awake at night remembering our friendship. 1957—days at Walter Buzzell's...swimming in the tidal pool wondering why shrinkage is a male phenomenon...peeking through the knotholes of the solarium viewing mostly old, fat naked adults beached belugas trolling for melanomas.

 

1958–Trips to the Merry Barn in Russel Smith's milk truck, listening to Chubby Checker and Buddy Holly tunes spun on 45's by Howie Davison...hoping we'd get lucky. We didn't. Biz Neily mistakenly taking us to watch Peyton Place. “Boys, cover your eyes!” she yelled s a graphic sex scene appeared.” He's booching her” Rupe responded, a moniker I now associate with fornication. Rupe gave me an official Turtle's Club card after I solved some carnal riddles. If you ask me if I am a Turtle, expect “You bet your sweet ass I am.” 1959-1962—Rupe working for his dad at the boat sales...lunches at the Foc'sle with Liz, my heartthrob waitressing. Rupe and I sailing; he forgot to tell me to duck when he said,"Ready to come about...hard a lee!” I have a divot in my head that still aches. Rupe and I marooned on Outer Heron—searching for Captain Kidd's treasure. The lesson: don't anchor on the high water line. 

In the intervening years, we saw each other infrequently, but we were always close, always brothers. I marched in the streets against the war; Rupe declared his conscience at sea. Rupe was no loser, no sucker. Rupe was the best man at my wedding in 1965. He lived with us in Monticello, serving as Admissions Director at Ricker College (Rupe called it “emissions director”) When Ricker closed, Rupe was instrumental in getting me the job at Bowdoin College in the Upward Bound program. Somewhere, always, Rupert was there, together or apart. Our canoe trip from Dole Pond to Ripogenus was special...low water, being sprayed for spruce budworm (did this cause our cancers?) and our “Thank God you're not a whiner.” Rupe was not a whiner. 

In retrospect I see Rupe as a spiritualist. He told m a deer was his totemic spirit. A pantheist (“ God's first churches were the groves” Emerson) at heart, a satyr by nature, Rupe lived fully and well. 

The first music I heard Rupe play in the late 50' was Kingston Trio and Black Watch Fife and Wa Drum bag pipe. If I could sing for Rupe I'd caterwaul “He Was A Friend Of Mine,” “River,” (Bill Staines), “Ripple,” “Parting Glass,” “Satisfied Mind,” songs that remind me of Rupe. 

My hopes and prayers are with you, Rupe, as you pass with no “moaning of the bar” on your last, great trip. Bon voyage. Mon frere, mon ami. 

Love and tight lines!

Tribute To Rupert

from Fred Johnson:

I imagine all present had adventures that involved Rupe. I don’t think mine are redundant with others present…even if they the same or similar, no apologies. 

Many Septembers we, that is, Rupe and I would embark on an annual adventure on the water aboard a 24ft O’Day cruising sailboat. Rupe would commission every summer, use it sparingly, but it remained ready for use every September. It wasn’t a sleek vessel..it was built for daily cruising with room enough for sleeping both of us and a miniature galley…no cookstove, but a small sink next to closed in the head, or urinal. It had an Evinrude outboard motor for maneuvering and docking. All-in-all, it wasn’t glamorous, but adequate and quite functional. 

Our adventures officially began when I would arrive by car at Boothbay Center and Rupert from wherever he was staying...West Harbor, etc.

 

There was a café’ on the east end of the Center. We each had Blueberry muffins, coffee, and eggs…more or less. We gave each other a big hug and got down to eating and catching up. More catching up happened while sitting in the boat’s cockpit sipping bourbon or drinking a beer and getting sleepy. 

A few vignettes of various adventures with Rupee: 

Rupert had brought our boat around to the town dock next to Fisherman’s Wharf. We gathered up a weeks’ worth of provisions at the Boothbay Fruit and made a visit to the State of Maine liquor store. All our provisions were carefully loaded on our boat…we cast-off and we were on our way to Allen Island. We found out later it was owned by Jamie Wyeth…a great painter. No, we didn’t have permission to come ashore on Allen. 

On one such trip we left late afternoon and a few hours later our vision was limited. On the water at night with no moon and no light pollution from the shore…guidance came from red or green buoy lights and millions of stars. Of course, we have a flashlight to shine on our compass. 

Without warning, we are cutting through the water and happen on a large bed of algae. Not just algae, but bioluminescent algae! As we cut through the water light from algae shined up into our sails…it was both memorizing and magnificent…a once in a lifetime event. All we both could utter, over and over was “wow”. 

After another hour and we dropped anchor on the leeward side of Allen Island and prepared for bed and listened to the weather report. 

On another September trip, we pushed off from the dock a Hodgdon Brother’s Boat Yard, it was then located in East Boothbay…behind the Neily residence on Lincoln Street. We sailed up to the mouth of Damariscotta River and northeast to Allen Island again. We dropped anchor and settled in for the night. Two days earlier a hurricane had swiped coastal Maine. 

The next morning we were up early. For some reason, un-remembered, we decided to explore the next island over. Burnt Island. Little did we know the storm had landed lobster traps on the eastern facing part of the island. We gathered ten + lobsters up into a plastic bucket filled with seawater and covered with seaweed. Rupert had unexpectedly brought a clam rake. We dug up plenty of clams to accompany our meal with the lobsters. We cut the top off a few beer cans to melt butter…we had brought plenty of butter in our cooler for both our lobsters and clams. We also had a package of Prince linguine. So our menu included linguini and white clam sauce, and steamed lobsters covered in seaweed. Yes, I had brought a camp stove and propane cylinders of gas for cooking and melting our beer cans of butter. Wow, what a clam bake! 

On yet another September outing, we headed, of course, to Allen Island! In case you’re wondering Allen Island was inhabited…no Jamie Wyeth. We decided to finally explore the island. A few islands over was an island used for outward bound workshops. Part of the outward bound participants’ experience was a solo time…theoretically alone with a roll of toilet paper, a coffee can, rain poncho, and some flint for starting a fire. 

Rupe and I ran into such a participant. He introduced himself as being from New York City. If I remember correctly, there is at least one member of the “sisterhood” that is familiar with city life. That aside, this city dweller proceeded to beg, negotiate his firstborn and cajole for sustenance. No, we didn’t cave…but we did offer ideas: periwinkles, mussels, blueberries, and other possibilities after all that banter. 

I hope this memorial is not a sad time, but filled with happy remembrances of Rupert and his impact on all of us…whether it be his walk-a-bouts around Linekin Bay to East Boothbay…sailing a sleek 20 foot one design in 20-knot winds right after a summer thunderstorm…or bottom painting a 36-foot Pacemaker…all were part of our adventures with Rupe. Fun! 

 

Image by James Fitzgerald
Lighthouse by the Ocean

Remembering a friend of Maine – Rupert Neily

from Chris Hamilton:​

Last week my family and I were hiking in the woods and we began talking about our friend, Rupert Neily of Boothbay. He was a life-long friend whom we had not seen recently. We shared many fond memories of our dear and wonderfully quirky friend. We decided we must reconnect with him.  It turned out to be the day he died. 

I met Rupert in 1996. We worked together at Maine Coast Heritage Trust for nearly a decade. We were a mischievous duo – always pushing the limits and exploring uncharted territory - looking for ways to create public access along the coast. If you ever sail by Whaleboat Island in Harpswell or enjoy a picnic on Cow Island in Portland Harbor, think of Rupert.

Rupert was the founder of the Maine Land Trust Conference – an annual gathering of land trust enthusiasts from all over New England. One year, he opened the conference dressed in a yellow raincoat and So-wester hat. He started by saying “Hello, I am Vernal Pool” – in his deep Maine accent. For the next ten minutes, we learned about the value of vernal pools and how our land conservation work was essential to the character of Maine. It was hilarious – and classic Rupert. 

When my son was old enough to learn to hunt, Rupert invited us to visit him. With fanfare only Rupert could muster, he handed Abe his beloved Savage 30-30 hunting rifle and offered it to the next generation. We spent the afternoon hearing about how he loved to hunt whitetail with his grandfather and father. He felt honored to pass this tradition to our family. 

One year Rupert joined us a family paddle down the Allagash River. My son, Abraham, was perhaps 10 years old. When we got to the infamous fire tower at Round Pond, we decided we had to go up. Unfortunately, the rungs were too far apart for small legs. But Abe just had to go up with the older kids. So up we went, me straddling him so he would not fall. It was entirely unnerving. When we returned to the ground, Rupert gave me a big hug and said “Oh, what we do for our children! That was wonderful!” 

When my children were teenagers, we spent the day with Rupert walking through the woods talking about all the exciting times that lay ahead for them. He brought a book of poems. We sat in an old farm field, in the late afternoon sun, while Rupert recited his favorites. A line from a poem he wrote stated: “In my tribe, we seem to have no reservation… about finding our own path, the sometimes quite lonely road not taken.” 

Without question, this world is a better place because of Rupert Neily. If you hike in the Kennebec Highlands or on Boothbay Regional Land Trust trails, think of Rupert. He championed the conservation of so many beautiful places.

Perhaps the best way to remember Rupert is to sit on a stump in the woods and look around – really look carefully and closely – for all those small wonders. 

He will be deeply missed. 

 
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