Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 18, 2023
A community remembers
Rob McCall lives on through his words, his writing and the memories of many
by Maggie White
When Brooklin resident Rob McCall passed away on April 21 at the age of 79, the community responded with an outpouring of tributes.
WERU, where McCall authored and produced the weekly Awanadjo Almanack (also a column in this paper and other publications), immediately posted the news to their site, saying that McCall’s “voice was, to countless people, a warm embrace full of wisdom, wit, and compassion.”
Blue Hill Heritage Trust sent an email to all constituents on April 24 acknowledging how McCall “encouraged us to slow down and inspired a sense of wonder about the small changes in nature that often go overlooked in our daily hustle and bustle.”
Penobscot Bay Press editor and publisher Nat Barrows wrote in his editorial on April 27 that McCall “radiated positive energy and personal connectivity.”
Blue Hill Public Library Director Rich Boulet recalled in the library’s May 3 newsletter an outing McCall led up Blue Hill Mountain in 2010 as a means of providing a special spring story time for the younger set.
These are just a sampling of what has been said in eulogistic praise regarding the impact McCall had on those on the Peninsula and surrounding communities. Whether it be on paper, in conversation, through a public platform, on Blue Hill Mountain—where he hiked more than 1,000 times—or in the Congregational Church, where he served as pastor from 1986-2014, people are reflecting on the ways this man touched the lives of so many. That said, here are some additional thoughts on Rob McCall from those in the community.
“There was just this really, really nice partnership that Rob had with Penobscot Bay Press (PBP) and Blue Hill Heritage Trust (BHHT) and the mountain—through PBP, he had been receiving compensation and he gave that money directly back to BHHT for our conservation efforts. We work with the community to preserve sacred places like the mountain, and he used platforms like his column in PBP and WERU to get the word out…Rob was just a real champion to that mountain. He was such a humble man, very quiet and thoughtful in his generosity. Everybody saw it, but he didn’t want the recognition, didn’t need his name on any buildings.” —Chrissy Allen, Director of Development and Operations, Blue Hill Heritage Trust
“I thought he was a genius and one of the great men of the centuries. He was a very kind, loving, brilliant man. We’ve lost him physically—and I expected this to happen as he was very sick—but he’s still with us through his books and through his columns. When I started building my cabin up here 20 years ago, I walked into his church one day and was incredibly impressed by him. He was a preacher, but a plain-spoken preacher. He wasn’t bombastic; he respected your intelligence. Rob didn’t really preach, he just talked. It was a marvelous revelation on what a minister could do and be.
“You can find Rob today by reading his books: Small Misty Mountain, Great Speckled Bird and Some Glad Morning. We just reprinted some to make sure they are going to be in stock for the next 5,000 years. I am not kidding. Rob will live on at the Blue Hill Bookstore and at the Pushcart Press bookstore in the summertime.” —Bill Henderson, Founder and Editor, Pushcart Press
“Rob was one of those people in a life that makes a difference. He was a nice person, he had a great family and I think all of us that were around him saw in him a chance for change. He was good at it. He worshipped that mountain. He loved it up there. I don’t know how many times a week he went up, but enough to wear it down a bit. Rob had good ideas. I’d see him walking down the street and we’d just talk. I enjoyed all of his articles and his books, but really meeting that person firsthand was pretty special. He didn’t see himself as anything but another being, but I think he was far beyond it. He’s going to be missed.”
—Dennis Robertson, Former Blue Hill Fire Chief and Harbormaster
“He is very much here in spirit. His spirit truly lives on through everything that goes on here at Tree of Life. We’re feeding a lot of families in need—those who are insecure as far as food needs go. We are a very welcoming place and the most important thing people receive here are the hugs and the smiles. It’s a bit of a safe harbor that he created…we all hold him in our hearts with love”
—Deb Case, volunteer, Tree of Life Food Pantry (McCall was one of the founders)
“I am grateful to know something of him through his active spirit still present in the congregation. He was a strong and loving leader…I was privileged to have shared in the love of this congregation and this community. His impact was not only as spiritual leader to the church, but through his Awanadjo Almanack also to people around the country with whom his deep love and respect for nature voiced with a scholar’s diction resonated in spiritual ways.” —Rev. Lisa Durkee, pastor, Blue Hill Congregational Church
“I wrote a novel, Mehitabel of Bluehill, historical fiction about the early settlers of Blue Hill. The story takes place in 1772. I gave Rob a draft copy of the manuscript asking him to check it for historical accuracy. In one chapter I had Mehitabel and her husband lying in bed listening to the coyotes howl. ‘No,’ said Rob. ‘That’s wrong. There were no coyotes in Blue Hill in 1772. Wolves, yes. Coyotes, no. The coyotes came in much later when the wolves disappeared.’ Rob McCall was a top-drawer naturalist.” —Phil Norris, boat builder, piano tuner, farmer and former Blue Hill arborist
“I was listening to The Awanadjo Almanack on the radio one time and his piece so moved me and captured my feelings so perfectly that I emailed him and thanked him for his wisdom and the work he does in the world. He wrote right back but instead of acknowledging his own skill, he insisted that I was the one who should be thanked for my work in the world. —Deborah Wiggs, farmer and bouquet artist, Clayfield Farms
“I was never an attendee of the church; I live next to Merrill & Hinckley and Rob would walk by all the time and that is how I got to know him. He was the friendliest guy in the world and he would always stop and talk. He was an interesting, engaged citizen of the world who would walk by my front door often, and I always looked forward to seeing him. He was a special guy. What a great model to be a pastor in a town and to just cruise around and get to know everyone and everything, to let us know his thought process and how he lived his love. The world could use more people like Rob walking around the towns of the world.” —Mark Hurvitt, former school superintendent of Union 93
“I think he’s one of those people that you are happy that you had him in your life. When we moved up here back in 2004, he was one of the first people we met because we do attend the church. He made it very easy for us to move in to the church family. But he did that with everybody—he welcomed people. Everybody knew him…church member or non-church member, it didn’t matter. I think we should all take lessons from him. He loved nature. He used to hike up the mountain and my husband went with him a few times and they had nice talks. He got us all to appreciate the nature around us. People would come into the church and say ‘I read him in the newspaper’ or ‘I heard him on the radio’ and they wanted to come here and meet him. That happened more often than not.” —Marilyn Whittlesey, Blue Hill Congregational Church Historian
Editor’s note: Time and space constraints meant that we could not possibly publish all that we wished to about Rob McCall’s impact on the community in this publication. If we did not hear from you in time for this article, or if we did not have the chance to speak with you, we hope you will share your Rob McCall stories with others so that his legacy will continue to live on through your memories.