BATH — In 2012, when he was running for his seventh term on the City Council, Bernie Wyman described himself as “a councilor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
When he was re-elected to his ninth term three months ago at the age of 80, Wyman’s tenure as the longest-serving councilor and his devotion to the city fueled his enthusiasm for a role he said he would hate to give up.
Wyman died Jan. 29 after a stroke and battle with cancer. His death leaves a hole in city government that will be difficult to fill, those who worked with him said as they mourned the loss of a personal friend and a friend of the City of Ships.
Council Vice Chairman Sean Paulhus, elected 10 years ago at the age of 22, has since then been the panel’s youngest member. He said Wyman, who was chairman at the time, was his mentor.
“He was definitely someone we looked up to for his experience,” Paulhus said Feb. 1. “He was a wealth of knowledge about the city.”
Wyman was always easy to approach for information, he said.
“We got along really well, and I never had any problems with Bernie, even when we were on opposite sides of votes,” Paulhus said. “… He really was a giant in the city, both on the council and everywhere. And the city’s definitely lost a good friend and public servant.”
Paulhus predicted it would be hard on Wednesday to sit in the council chambers, two seats down from Wyman’s vacant desk.
Wyman, who lived on Chestnut Street with Quinda Wyman, his wife of 60 years, started work at Bath Iron Works in 1959 as a probationary shipfitter, according to his obituary. He retired from the shipyard in 1995 as a senior production planner, and spent his retirement as a carpenter.
Wyman and his wife had a large family: four sons, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They also lost a daughter at birth.
His history of community involvement was staggering.
He was a treasurer, grand knight, navigator, district deputy and state family life director with St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus; director, vice chairman and past supervisory chairman at Mid Coast Credit Union; chef and board member at the Bath Area Senior Center, and a member of the Bath Lodge of Elks and Salvation Army.
There was also time on the Merrymeeting Council of Governments, the Bath Water District, Bath Housing Authority, Bath Housing Development Corp. and the Bath Skatepark.
And he was elected to the City Council in 1994, and was its chairman in 2002, 2006-2011, and 2013.
“We’ve just lost a lot of institutional memory, and a champion in the city,” Council Chairwoman Mari Eosco said Feb. 1.
Eosco said she enjoys seeing how each councilor interacts with the community. “We all do that differently, but Bernie certainly had his niches that he was a part of, and could bring experiences from those into discussions and decision-making,” she said.
Without Wyman, “that’s going to be a loss to our conversation,” Eosco said.
A special election could be held April 2 to replace Wyman. It could coincide with an election to replace former state Rep. Jennifer DeChant, D-Bath, who resigned from the Legislature Feb. 1, but that process is only just beginning, Eosco said.
“We want to wait until the dust has settled before making any major decisions,” she said. “… We want to honor the time that Bernie has served, and not try to quickly fill it in.”
The City Council at its March meeting will likely issue a proclamation recognizing Wyman’s service.
“We all had an enormous amount of respect for admiration for Bernie as a councilor,” City Manager Peter Owen said Feb. 1. “… I’d like to think that he was sort of a soft-spoken leader who served by example.”
Mary White, who retired Dec. 31, 2018, after more than two decades as city clerk and started as deputy clerk just eight months after Wyman was first elected to the council, said she and Wyman learned the ropes together.
“He took very good care of me,” White said Feb. 1. “There were a lot of times through my years that I wouldn’t have been there without him.
“He was like a father to me. I might have been his ‘Mother Mary,’ but he was my ‘Council Father.'”
Wyman was as honest as they come, White added: “If you wanted something straight, you got it. … I’ve never seen anybody more honest than him.”
“You’ll never find a man more devoted to his family, his wife – gosh, he loved her to pieces – and the city, the people there,” she said.
Bernie Wyman, a Bath city councilor for 24 years, died Jan. 29. He was 80 years old.