Erving H. Bickford, 79: Dedicated volunteer embodied Yarmouth

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YARMOUTH — Erving H. “Erv” Bickford, 79, died at his home on May 12 after a long illness.

Friends and family describe him as a gentle man, who was devoted to his wife of 54 years, Marilyn, his children and grandchildren. He was passionate about business and the ethos of volunteerism and community spirit.

In 2012, he was awarded the Town of Yarmouth’s prestigious “Latchstring Award.” Town Manager Nat Tupper said, “The purpose of this award is to recognize people who embody a spirit of community, and no one does that better than Erv Bickford. Erv has lead this community in all of his leadership endeavors on the town council, town committees, and through his personal and business affairs. He embodies the spirit of this community in the way he approaches people and how he makes people feel welcome and included.”

He was born in Lisbon falls on Aug. 17, 1932, one of three children born to Hilda Pohle and Henry Bickford. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1955 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Throughout his school years, he played baseball and football and was a member of the Yankee Conference champions UMO Black Bears 1951 football team.

In 1957, Bickford married Marilyn Pearson in Needham, Mass. Together they had three children, Tamson, Susan and Catherine. In 1969, he designed and built a home in Yarmouth on land that he and his family cleared themselves. To him, watching the sun come up over the water and the ducks skirting along the shore was paradise.

In 1978, he retired from the engineering business to go into family trucking. He purchased Bickford Transportation from his father, and built the business on relationships and established a reputation of delivering on difficult tasks such as maneuvering tractor-trailer deliveries to the top of Mount Washington to fuel the weather station.

He was passionate about the town of Yarmouth, and was known for his pragmatic approach after being elected to the Town Council in 1978, the start of eight terms. He also served on the Water District Board of Trustees for 23 years, represented Yarmouth on the Regional Waste Committee and was a volunteer for the fire department for many years. He also worked quietly behind the scenes as chairman of the Building Committee on the Merrill Memorial Library addition and as an advisor for the Water District Building.

One of his fondest town government memories was spending time with the “mayors” of the “Four Yarmouths” in Maine, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and England. The group came together annually to share town management issues and ideas, moving the meeting from one Yarmouth to another very year.

In 1996, Bickford received the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow award for members of the community who best put “service above self.”

When he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he started walking all around town. While walking he picked up trash, a fad that caught on with several walkers in town.

Bickford was a founder of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and was a part of the group who moved the railway from Cape Cod, Mass., to Portland. He served as chairman of the Narrow Gauge Railroad until 2011.

He loved old trucks and when it came to antique trucks, he was an encyclopedia. During retirement, he liked nothing more than working in his restoration ship with the guys, Jim and Wayne, and going to truck shows around the country. This summer, his family will break ground on an open station platform at Railroad Square that will house some of Bickford’s restored trucks.

Bickford is survived by his wife, Lyn; sister, Arlene, of Miami, Fla.; brother, Calvin, of The Villages, Fla.; children Tamson Bickford Hamrock and her husband, Henry, of Yarmouth and Singapore, Susan Bickford and Rich Simon of Newcastle, and Catherine Bickford and Edward Rowe of South Portland; and his three grandchildren, Gabriella, Maximillian and Christian.

A celebration of Bickford’s life will be held on from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the home of his daughter, Tamson, 50 Hamilton Way, Cousins Island, Yarmouth.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Southern Maine, 180 U.S. Route 1, Scarborough, ME 04074.

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