by Jason Paige Smith on March 6, 2019
I live in Maine. Demographically speaking, Maine is the oldest state in the nation, but home to some incredible individuals who have amazing stories to tell. For the past year I’ve been working on a personal project called The Oldest State, which seeks to highlight people from around the state who are older, but still actively out doing what they love to do, despite their age. My goal when I started this project was to connect with people and tell their stories, but also to show the tenacity and character of people in Maine. The coolest part of this project has been the way it’s evolved. With each person I feature, I will get an email or message from someone in the state I don’t know, asking me to consider telling the story of someone they know. I’ve really enjoyed the connections I’ve made with individuals and the connections I’ve watched take place, simply because people are following the project.
Everard Hall, 72 of Milbridge, Maine
Hall has been digging graves by hand for more than 50 years, and has buried more than 2,400 souls during his work as a gravedigger, including many family members and friends.
Third Generation Miner Frank C. Perham, 84 of West Paris, Maine
The family tradition all started when his grandfather’s cows, moving from one area of a field to another, helped unearth a large feldspar deposit. From there, his grandfather helped get the feldspar mill going in 1926 and his father, Stanley, started a mineral store in 1919. Frank worked with his father when he was growing up and, like his father, earned a geology degree from Bates College.
In the 1950s Frank also served a tour in Korea and became very skilled with explosives. Being good at placing explosives gave him work with the state of Maine for road construction projects, but also gave him the opportunity to mine on weekends. The pockets he’s found over the years and discoveries he has made now sit on display at both The Smithsonian and as close as the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel, Maine. Frank has given many lectures over the years and also has created a display of many of his finds in the basement of his home, where people stop in to hear his many stories and learn about Maine’s minerals from someone with an unbridled passion for minerals and lifetime of experiences.
Andy Gove, 88 of Stonington, Maine
Gove still actively out setting traps, he got his first lobster license in 1937. He has been working in the same harbor since he was a boy and his vast knowledge of the water and the region has earned him accolades in search and rescue operations when the Coast Guard asks for his help.
Detective Steven Edmondson, 63 of Topsham, Maine
At a time when Maine is struggling to find young people who want to become police officers, Edmondson continues to work as a full time law enforcement officer, something he’s done in Maine now for 42 years. Starting out at the Topsham Police Department, where he worked for 26 years, and has spent the last 16 years of his career serving as the Domestic Violence Investigator for the Sagadahoc County District Attorney’s Office. “I have remained in law enforcement for so long because I truly believe it has been a calling for me,” he said. “Although the subject matter of my current position is highly objectionable, I do take pleasure in assisting victims of abuse and seeing offenders held accountable.” Edmondson has been in Maine since he was 8, and has ancestral roots that go back 300 years in the Midcoast area of Maine.
George Dunn, 85 of Otis, Maine
George Dunn has had a lifelong passion for flying. He first got his license in 1952 and now shares that passion with seven other members of his family who fly and own planes, including his son who now flies KC-135s for the Air National Guard in Bangor. He and his family, known as “The Flying Dunn’s,” have been part of the Beech Hill Pond community for several years — Dunn has lived on the pond, year round, for more than 45 years and hosts an annual Fourth of July event at his hanger that draws more than 1,000 people each year.
All images above ©2019 Jason Paige Smith. All rights reserved.
I love what I do. The challenge of making new and compelling images for my clients or for my personal work keeps me moving forward. And meeting new and interesting people is a great perk to any job. I'm always inspired by travel to new locations and new ideas. Starting out in Florida with an English degree, I then moved out to Boulder, Colorado, where I earned my MA in Journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I might have also spent some time hiking and snowboarding while I was out there.