BANGOR -- Vaughn Harris Holyoke, 83, died February 7, 2018, at a Bangor healthcare facility after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The son of John Harris Holyoke and Elsie Morrill Holyoke, the lifelong Brewer resident was born on Aug. 16, 1934. He succumbed after a life well-lived, and after having had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of people he mentored, taught or coached.
Among the accomplishments he was most proud of: His marriage of 57 years to Marjorie (McCleary) Holyoke, and their raising of three children.
Vaughn graduated from Brewer High in 1952. A farm kid who grew up expecting to become a farmer himself, he followed his father’s advice and pursued higher education instead, graduating from the University of Maine, earning a masters from Rutgers University, and then a Ph.D from Pennsylvania State University.
He began his career with the University of Maine on April 4, 1958, as a County Agent at Large. For the next 38 years, he remained employed by UMaine, as assistant crops specialist, extension crops specialist, environmental specialist, and as a program administrator. He retired from the university in 1996 as director of the Cooperative Extension Service. He also was the first Extension faculty member to have served as chairman of the university’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
Deeply loyal to his home state, he often asked job applicants at UMaine why they wanted to work here. There were a series of “right” answers, none of which had to do with professional advancement. Instead, Vaughn believed that successful candidates had to show a curiosity about Maine and its people, and a desire to learn to love the outdoor recreational opportunities that the state provides. Those who did, he felt, would have successful careers here. And they did.
On July 5, 1960, he went on a blind date with Marjorie McCleary, heading out for a cup of coffee at the Pine Cone Diner in North Brewer. It was love at first sight for both: They were married three months later, on Oct. 15 -- “the middle of October,” as he always said, determined to not get the date wrong -- and remained married for more than 57 years until his passing.
The farm kid from Eastern Avenue never lost his desire to play in the dirt, and along with his brother, “Pete,” the Holyoke boys got back into farming in middle age, raising a few cows that constantly got loose and terrorized their Burr’s Brook neighborhood, along with a flock of turkeys, a few chickens, and at least two pigs, which were named “Orange Crush” and “Spot.”
Years after that effort at gentleman farming ended, Vaughn’s phone would still often ring at night, with neighbors on the other end of the line. “Your cows are out,” the caller would say. “I don’t even have cows any more!” Vaughn would exclaim before going back to sleep.
Vaughn also served in the Maine Air National Guard from 1956 to 1966.
Vaughn volunteered his time generously when his children were growing up, serving as an officer with Brewer Pop Warner Football, coaching boys and girls basketball at the Bangor YMCA and at the Brewer Recreation Department, and also coaching Brewer Little League Baseball. During those times, he had the opportunity to teach countless local kids how to play games the right way, how to respect their teammates and fellow competitors, and how to compete as hard as possible, but to keep a healthy sense-of-humor intact.
Losing hurts, and it’s supposed to hurt, he’d say. But it’s possible -- and imperative -- to lose with as much poise and class as you show when you win.
And after his retirement, Vaughn returned to youth athletics, volunteering to start and coach a cross country team at Holbrook School in Holden. He continued that passion for several years, “bribing” athletes to compete for him by offering benefits he knew that coaches of other sports at the school weren’t providing: post-race orange slices and cans of soda. Many of his athletes went on to have successful high school running careers. More importantly, each of his runners learned one of his most important lessons: Hard work pays off, and is worth the effort.
Vaughn took up long distance running during his middle age and began focusing on running farther and faster during the running boom that swept the nation in the 1970s. He was a fixture at local road races, racing hard nearly every weekend during the spring and summer months. One of his race highlights: During the Camden 10K one year, he drew the ire of a race spectator when he mistakenly referred to her extremely obese pet dog as a “pig on a leash.” The woman was not happy, but luckily, Vaughn was fast, and she wasn’t able to catch him to exact her revenge. And as many serious runners do, he set his sights on the people’s marathon championship, eventually qualifying for the Boston Athletic Association Marathon in 1980 and again in 1982. For years he had refused to consider running the race as a “bandit,” without an actual qualifying time, and felt that truly earning his spot in the race was an honor not to be taken lightly. He was a role model for his children, and for many of the runners he trained with and competed against each week.
He was an intense competitor, a playful dad and grandfather who delighted in stealing the point off pieces of pie so that “they won’t get stuck in your throat,” and a man for whom being early was essential, and being generous was second nature.
“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Vaughn sometimes told his children, teaching a lesson that each of them would eventually come to understand more fully. “There are givers, and there are takers. You want to make sure, in the end, that you’re a giver. That’s important.”
Vaughn was predeceased by his parents, John Harris Holyoke and Elsie Morrill Holyoke, and his brother, Donald Holyoke.
He is survived by his wife, Marjorie, of Brewer, son Glen Holyoke and his wife, Teresa of Brewer; son John Holyoke and his wife Karen of Bangor; daughter Lori Urquhart and her husband Carl, of Alna, grandchildren Paul Holyoke and his fiancee Erin Lyons of Salem, New Hampshire, Kyle Holyoke and his wife, Emelynn of Brewer, Ryan Urquhart of Alna and Alyssa Urquhart of Orono, Mackie, Gordon and Georgia Doore of Bangor, and great-granddaughter Celia Holyoke of Brewer. Also surviving are Vaughn’s siblings John “Pete” Holyoke and wife Marilyn of Dedham, sister Cynthia “Tinnie” Knowles of Brewer, and sister Barbara Adams of Oregon.
Relatives and friends are invited to call from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 at the Brewer Chapel of Brookings-Smith, 55 South Main Street, Brewer, where a celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 with the Rev. Grace Bartlett, officiating. There will be a family-only interment in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Brewer Scholarship Fund, 261 Center Street, Brewer 04412, for a future scholarship to be named in his honor.
Condolences to the family may be expressed at BrookingsSmith.com