ROCKLAND — Rockland’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, Kendall Arthur Merriam, died peacefully January 28, 2023 in hospice care at The Sussman House in Rockport, Maine in the embrace of his loving wife, Phyllis Merriam.
In April 29, 2010 the City of Rockland proclaimed Kendall Poet Laureate: Poetry is an art form that provides pleasure and expression for many citizens in the City of Rockland and surrounding communities, and the Arts have been a major contributing factor in the renaissance of the City of Rockland over the past several years, and a Poet Laureate is a symbol of the important role that the Arts, in general, and poetry in particular, play in the lives of the members of our community; and the position of Poet Laureate honors an outstanding poet whose work has enriched the entire community.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Deborah E. McNeil, Mayor of the City of Rockland, Maine, do hereby proclaim: KENDALL A. MERRIAM, ROCKLAND POET LAUREATE for a term of two years, and urge all citizens to join in the enjoyment of the works of this native son who has chronicled the neighborhood stories and local history that have shaped the City of Rockland over the past 60+ years.
In his responsibilities as Poet Laureate, for eight years, Kendall hosted Veterans Day Poetry Readings at the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland through the generosity of Jake Dowling and Vince Gabriel’s (“Blind Albert”) music. Kendall also had a Poetry Route he created on Main Street in Rockland where he distributed copies of his latest poems to local businesses. Through the sponsorship of the photographer, Joyce Tenneson, several students at Maine Media Workshops documented Kendall’s Poetry Route in videos and photographs.
Kendall was a National Honor Society graduate of Rockland High School’s Class of 1960. He went on to be educated at Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts, MA and graduate studies in military and maritime history at the University of Maine at Orono. He also received grants to study historical research at Colonial Williamsburg and Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Conn. and archival management at The National Archives in Washington, D.C. He worked at the Maine Maritime Museum, the Maine State Archives, and did book reviews for the Portland Press Herald – Maine Sunday Telegram.
Kendall’s longest career was as a published writer, poet and playwright. His plays were produced at the off-Broadway Theatre Tweed and various venues in Portland, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Rockland and Damariscotta, Maine. He wrote more than twenty books and plays and was widely published, including abroad, in Katyn W Literaturze (Katyn in Literature), a Polish anthology of literary works about the WWII Katyn Forest Massacre by 120 international authors, including Czeslaw Milosz and The Holocaust in History and Memory: The Arts and the Holocaust Vol. 6 (2013), an anthology published by the University of Essex, England. Kendall’s writings had a definite muse – his wife, family, friends, strangers, politics and social justice issues – with life’s larger themes of work, joy, love, loss and death. He enjoyed and was honored to read his poems around the state of Maine. He was also a cousin of the poet, Edna Saint Vincent Millay, through his paternal grandmother.
In 2013, Kendall was invited to the Lusow Museum in Poland where he was honored for his poems and play about the Polish female pilot, Lt. Janina Lewandowska, who was the only female prisoner among Polish officers and Polish elites at the POW camp in Kozelsk, Russia, and murdered, in 1940, along with her comrades, at the Katyn Forest Massacre site by the Soviet Union’s NKVD.
Kendall Arthur Merriam was born January 24, 1942 in Rockland, Maine to Paul Dunbar Merriam, former Rockland’s Assistant Postmaster and Doris Louise (nee Blackman) Merriam, former Assistant Librarian, Rockland Public Library.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Phyllis (nee Betzold) Merriam, LCSW; his brothers, Paul Gilman Merriam; Robert Douglas Merriam; Marshall Glenn Merriam; his sister, Joy Merriam Peters; sisters-in-law Barbara Merriam; Paula Merriam; Joan Merriam; Stephanie Van Sant Betzold and her son Nicholas John Betzold and many, many cousins, nieces and nephews in his large, extended family.
Kendall was pre-deceased by his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles; and his sister-in-law Barbara Merriam; brother Fred Blackman Merriam, Fred’s and Joan’s daughter, Traci Lee Merriam; his youngest brother, Parker Small Merriam; and his brother-in-law John Wistar Betzold, Jr.
Kendall’s wife, her family and Kendall’s family express their profound gratitude to the Veterans Administration; Marcia Van Buskirk of Maple Marsh Home Care and that agency’s two in-home aides, Ronald Coulombe and Ethylen Philbrook, and the tender, compassionate hospice care Kendall received at The Sussman House in Rockport, Maine.
Cremation arrangements are with Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home in Rockland. To share a memory or story with Kendall’s family, please visit their online Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.
A memorial gathering to honor Kendall’s remarkable life will be held Sunday, February 5, at 1 p.m., at the Owls Head Community Building’s lower-level event venue.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Kendall’s memory may be made to the Rockland Public Library, 80 Union Street, Rockland, Maine 04841.
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