Reflection on the Life of Richard D. Waterman
Born on North Haven ME, on September 19, 1923
Died in Rockport, ME, on October 20, 2016


Read by Thomas J Sienkewicz at the Memorial Service on Saturday, August 5, 2017 at the Waldoboro United Methodist Church.

My father-in-law Richard Waterman was one of the most humble, self-effacing and hard-
working people I have ever known. He grew up on North Haven where the Watermans have
been scratching out a living since before the Revolutionary War. On the Rock, as he called it
with affection, he learned the virtues of hard physical labor, by working with farm animals and
even cutting grass with a hand scythe as a youth, a skill he maintained into old age. Living on the
Rock also made him aware of the social divide between the wealthy summer people and the
natives, like his parents, who worked for them. I am sure that caddying for Mrs Morrow, Charles
Lindberg’s mother-in-law, and polishing her spectator pumps as a young boy taught him his
proper place in the world. The insular world of North Haven also taught him a great love and
appreciation for the natural world, for the smell of the salty sea and of the warm sun on balsam
fir needles. As a young boy he eagerly studied the flora and fauna of his island home as he and
his buddies scoured the island to collect shells, fossils and other curiosities. He was also an avid
reader from a young age. My wife Anne remembers the thrill she felt when she opened a book
from the shelves of the North Haven Library and saw that her father had read it before her.
Above all, on North Haven he learned about the powerful and complex bonds of human
relationships, growing up surrounded by an extended family which included not only his loving
parents and two brothers, but also his doting grandmother Sylvia who lived next door, as well as
aunts, uncles and cousins on both North Haven and Vinalhaven, where his mother’s family lived.
Affectionate nicknames were an important aspect of this life on North Haven where he was
known as Jeep, his brother John was Nip and his brother Stanley became Toots. He always
referred to his schoolmate Lewis Haskell as “Haskell the Rascal.” His cousin Al Staples was
Alfalfa.

As a young high school graduate Richard’s plan was an agricultural degree from the
University of Maine, the Cow College as he called it, and then, probably, a hard life as a Maine
farmer. But World War II intervened. Along with many other young men of his generation he
was drafted into the army. He was fortunate never to see action. Instead the army sent him
around the country to train or work in a variety of jobs from tank destroyer corpsman in Texas to
engineering training in California, to a job as an orderly in a tuberculosis sanatarium in
Colorado. While at Camp Hood, he was baptized by immersion at a “hard shell” Baptist Church,
in near-by Waco Texas. While he was stationed in Colorado, a buddy in the assignment office
told him that he was being sent back “east”, this time to medical school at the University of
Kansas in Lawrence.
He was a medical student in Kansas when the war ended and he was discharged back to
North Haven, where he dug clams and worked as a mason while he decided what to do with his
life. He probably would have resumed his modest plans for an agricultural career, were it not for
the help of the GI bill and the attraction of young “hen medic” Dorothy Dean Stump, a fellow
medical student at the University of Kansas. So he was lured back from his beloved Maine,
traveling through a blizzard to the plains of Kansas to be married on January 3, 1947, and resume
his medical studies. When he left North Haven for Kansas he didn’t even tell his parents he was
going to get married. Years later, whenever his mother would frequently refer to his silence, his
explanation was that he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t change his mind. He never did. He and Dorothy
were married for sixty-two years.
After graduating from medical school, Richard brought his Kansas City War Bride back
to Maine, first for a medical internship in Bangor and then to Friendship, where they were
invited to set up practice in 1950 by Dr. William Hahn, who was eager to retire. For more than

thirty years, except for an unwanted two-year stint in the Air Farce, as Richard irreverently
called it, Richard and Dorothy practiced in Friendship and then in Waldoboro, where they
moved in 1952. She saw all the chicken pox cases, since he never caught it himself. For many
years he charged $4 for an office visit and $5 for a house call. (Times certainly have changed.)
Sometimes he accepted payment in kind—a sack of potatoes, a catch of shrimp or lobster or even
half a hog. His office phone was the same as his home phone—imagine that today! He spent
countless hours driving to patients’ homes at any time of the day or night and knew all the roads
of Lincoln and Knox counties like the back of his hand. He also spent many hours in the delivery
room at the “horse pistol”, his word for Knox County Hospital (now PenBay), where he played
solitaire and coached countless mothers through labor. Assisting in deliveries was one of his
great satisfactions as a physician. He particularly enjoyed delivering the children of parents he
had also delivered. By the time he retired in 1985 he had a patient file of more than 10,000
people but he really didn’t need those files. He knew by heart the multi-generational medical
histories of his patient’s families and could often diagnose a problem as soon as a patient walked
into his office. He was the proverbial country doctor—a lost breed, indeed.
He worked hard, six days a week (including Sunday office hours) but Saturday was his
sacred day off. If you called the doctor on Saturday, you heard a recording which said, “This is
an automatic phone answering machine. This is an automatic phone answering machine.
Saturday is Dr. Waterman’s day off. If you wish to leave a message, wait until the phone makes
two beeps and it will record whatever you say.” What his family heard on the other end was
Richard mumbling “dagnabit infernal machine!” He spent those precious Saturdays visiting used
car lots or restoring wrecked cars in his garage. I think what he liked about cars was that their
ailments could wait, unlike his patients’.

For a while he also kept a horse in the old barn behind the house on Main St. but he
eventually gave up the horse which needed the kind of daily attention he could not give it. And
the old barn was eventually replaced by a four stall garage, complete with oil pit.
No more horses, but there were a variety of other animals, always at least one cat and a
dog. There were a succession of beloved and well-remembered black labradors—Minnie (who
watched baby Anne along with her own litter), Daisy, Rosie (the lifeguard dog who counted
heads while everyone was swimming in the lake), Biscuit (who often went next door to the Post
Office for a dog biscuit), Lucy and Belle. There were also rabbits, guinea pigs, a parakeet,
tropical fish and even a pair of geese named, in typical Waterman humor, Lucy and Juicy,
because of their droppings. It was Lucy who used to run out into Main St. to chase cars and once
stopped the Greyhound bus trying to go down the hill, as she flapped her wings and honked
triumphantly.
Even more important than his cars and animals, however, was his family, which began to
grow in Friendship with the birth of Anne in 1950, Jack in 1952 and Carl in 1954. He had
affectionate names for them as well. Anne was Miss Annethropy or Annie-Y-Bird (because she
was always asking the question why as a child.) That was shortened eventually to just Birdie.
Jack was Jack the Tack or Jack L. Waterspout. Carl was Boris Carloff or just Boris for short. He
was a devoted father and always found time in his busy life to read bedtime stories to them as
children and to talk to them about their days, career plans and troubles and successes as adults.
He was similarly engaged in the lives of his grandchildren and even his great grandchildren.
Curiously, he only had knicknames for his grandsons and not his granddaughters or
greatgranddaughters. Richard was Richard the Worst (because his grandfather was Richard the
First). Tim was Mr. Fwog and Nick was Mr. Nickelpuss.

In retirement he enjoyed gardening, working in Carl’s woodlot, reading, doing crossword
puzzles and spending time with his family, especially at the family camp on Lake Damariscotta.
As his wife Dorothy’s health began to decline he began to take on more responsibilities in their
home. He became chief cook and bottle washer. He even learned selflessly to bake pies for his
family, even though diabetes kept him from enjoying them himself. He eventually also became
Dorothy’s primary health care worker until her death in 2009. I wouldn’t say that he never
complained in his last years as eyesight and stamina waned. He often commented sarcastically
on those supposedly golden years of retirement. But he kept his excellent memory until the very
end. In his conversations he always recalled more details about people, places, and events than
the younger folk with whom he was talking and reminiscing.
If he were with us today he would squirm and sputter if we praised his life of selfless
duty to family and to community. But I would like to think that the Lord is now saying to him
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee
ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”