Bob Dunning (right) explaining his work to a visitor at the Woodworkers and Artisans Show a few years ago
When I first heard of Bob Dunning’s sudden passing over the Thanksgiving holiday my reaction, like most everyone else’s, was one of shock and disbelief. It is impossible to imagine the community without him. Bob’s talents and contributions were so great and varied that I don’t know where to start, and I have had a very hard time sitting down to write this. No one label even begins to describe him, although many apply: fine craftsman, restoration carpenter, historian, teacher, involved citizen, community activist, volunteer, and just plain good guy.
He gave generously of his valuable time and considerable talents. His most recent contribution to the Bridgton Historical Society came this past summer, when he participated in a small ad hoc advisory committee charged with helping the board formulate a new strategic plan. He brought to the discussion decades of involvement with the society, the community, and historic and preservation organizations throughout the state and beyond, and his thoughtful insights were key to many of the committee’s findings and the plan we adopted at October’s annual meeting.
But his participation in the Bridgton Historical Society stretches much further back than that. This past summer we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the society’s stewardship of Narramissic, and that anniversary might not have even been possible without Bob, who performed much of the actual restoration work to the highest standards of craftsmanship. Beyond that, he took an active part in making sure that Narramissic lived up to its promise to be a “demonstration center for early American life and crafts,” the vision that Mrs. Margaret Monroe had for the property when she bequeathed it to us.
He was an integral part of the annual Woodworkers Show since its inception 18 years ago. This show was founded on the idea of learning through demonstration and active engagement with visitors, and his presence was always strongly felt. Most recently, he devoted much of his time and talent to the Rufus Porter Museum, to make sure that that part of Bridgton’s past is not forgotten.
He worked hard to advance the causes he believed in so strongly, but he did so with a thoughtful civility that sought to persuade and educate rather than confront and anger. We have all lost a great friend and involved citizen who was such an important part of the community, but his wife Sally and his children Jessie and Dan have lost a loving husband and father, and our hearts go out to them as we share their grief. We are all the poorer for Bob’s absence, but we have all been enriched immeasurably by the life that he led.
President, Bridgton Historical Society