He Never Stopped Giving...and Fishing

Clinton "Bill" Townsend was everything to everyone. A remarkable man who will forever be missed. He lived 89 years until December 8, 2016 but his impact on our local communities and the state of Maine will be legendary. To name just a few... Bill served on the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the board of the Trustees of Somerset Wood Trustees, the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission and the Land for Maine's Future Board. A celebration of  his life will be held at his beloved Canaan Farmers Hall January 6th at 3PM.

Somerset Woods has many reasons to thank Bill; his dedication to conservation has bequeathed us with Townsend Preserve, the Land for Maine's Future, free-flowing rivers and surely the best fishing stories in the county.

As his service will be held in his hometown of Canaan it seems particularly appropriate to provide a personal testament about another one of his favorite hometown projects, the Canaan Public Library. We Thank Jennifer Kierstead, Canaan resident and Consulting Grant Writer in Waterville for "A few words about Bill Townsend" and Karen Fournier, Canaan Library Director for the intro.

 

Bill Townsend’s impact stretched across the state of Maine, yet in Canaan, Maine, the small town where he lived, he had a particular impact, perhaps inspired by his wife Louise, who served as local selectman for many years. According to Canaan Public Library Trustee Candi Soll, “One day Louise came up to our shop while I was sitting outside and said, what do you think about a new library? I said, yes, I would help!  I know we had been talking about renovation of the old one. From there things snowballed into the fundraising phase for our beautiful new library!”

This is when Bill Townsend became involved……

 A few words about Bill Townsend

             My perspective of Bill Townsend as a fellow resident of Canaan, Maine is limited to a single project, the building of a new library.

             By the time I met him, Bill’s reputation as a Maine conservationist was legendary. This story is how he brought his extraordinary commitment to the outdoors and civic involvement home to Canaan.

             When I first moved to Canaan in 1999, I was struck by how much its small town center was struggling—Route 2 runs right through it. It’s a place that most people speed through on their way to and from Sugarloaf-Skowhegan-Newport-Bangor, but to those of us who live in Canaan, of course, it’s home, it’s where our small town is centered.

 Just a few feet from Rte. 2 sat the Canaan Public Library, located in a one-room schoolhouse from the 1850s. Despite its tough location and lack of a restroom, it was a popular place. Schoolchildren walked down in groups from the Canaan Elementary School for special occasions, people in need of a computer or wireless service logged in to connect to the internet, a knitting group met there, and books, DVDs, and a variety of items were loaned.

             The Library’s trustees had long wanted to build a new Library, but it seemed like a bridge just too, too far for our small town. But then Bill Townsend did something extraordinary. He donated 14 acres of land across the street, behind the town hall and fire station, and made it available to the Library for a new location.  As a new trustee, I worked with other members of the Board—Candi Soll, Amy Reichenbach, Rebecca Ross, Ginny Smith, Paul Natale, Jeff Clarke, Pearline Walker, Patricia Bragg, Jackie Stedman, and Karen Fournier, the Library Director, and Dixie Ring, Assistant Librarian, and many other members of the community, to seize the opportunity Bill presented.

             His generous donation was catalytic. The townspeople, loath to take on debt, contributed up to $25,000 per year to a building fund; private foundations such as the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, Skowhegan Savings Bank, Davis Family Foundation, Morton-Kelly Foundation, The Betterment Fund, and Plum Creek granted about a third of the cost of new construction; a local engineer Steve Ruell patiently designed the building with endless citizen input; and the Friends of the Library baked pies, sold used books, held events, and wrote checks.

             Together, over the course of years, we all made it happen. Back-to-the-lander hippies and conservative farmers and selectmen worked together to reach the goal of paying cash for a new library on the land Bill donated. In 2014, we opened our doors to a lovely library that sits quietly in a field with old apple trees, ample parking, and a trail to the Carrabasset Stream. Bill attended the Library opening, joyfully. I recall that he particularly enjoyed multiple pieces of cake that day as well as the heartfelt tributes of those who attended.

             He envisioned a trail by the stream for children to fish from and it was built with the help of volunteers. A veterans’ memorial now graces the grounds. Flowers have been planted by the entryway and the little library that could” now sits on the brow of the hill that Bill Townsend donated.

             Bill Townsend will be remembered with fondness and gratitude for many, many generations, for without his generous gift to the Town of Canaan, as well as his vision, this Library would never have been built.                              - Jennifer W. Kierstead