Robert Catell, 88: Veteran, loving husband, father and grandfather

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YARMOUTH — Robert L. Catell, 88, of Yarmouth, died Jan. 19 in Falmouth.

Catell was born Feb. 9, 1924, in Bangor to Charles V. and Francis Blake Catell and attended Bangor High School and the University of Maine at Orono.

When World War II broke out, he attempted to enlist but was declared unfit for combat, due to a heart arrhythmia. Instead he moved to New York City, where his father lived, getting a job as an electrical contractor. 

It was in New York that a freak accident changed his life. While working, an electrical shock threw him 25 feet across the room. Not only did Catell survive the accident, he found out the electrical current had cured his heart arrhythmia, allowing him to join the military.

With his heart beating properly, he returned to Maine, enrolled at the Maine Maritime Academy, and joined the Merchant Marine, where he served for the rest of the war. Catell credited his experiences at the academy and in the Merchant Marine for laying the groundwork for his successes later in life.

After returning from war, Catell maried Cynthia Rich, his junior high sweetheart, on June 18, 1945. The couple enjoyed 63 years of loving marriage and a shared life filled with lasting friendships, job satisfaction and community involvement.

Catell began a career at New England Telephone by climbing telephone poles and splicing cables. He was promoted regularly, thanks to a dedication to exemplary work. He eventually becoming a lobbyist for AT&T, working primarily at the State House in Augusta.

Professionally, Catell was a man ahead of his times. In the 1950s, the era of the housewife in full swing, he promoted 15 women to management positions.

Catell was deeply involved in his community. He was president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and a director of the New England Council for Economic Development. He was also a Freemason, a Lion, and a Rotarian. He enjoyed regularly serving chowder at the South Freeport Congregational Church.

He enjoyed playing golf, hunting, fishing, doing fine woodworking and boating. His
daughter and grandchildren have very fond memories of weekend breakfasts where, always cheerful, he would serve up eggs, bacon, sausage and just about any variety of pancakes.

As Alzheimer’s began to take its toll, Catell was able to hang on to his great
smile to the end — the kind of smile that spoke of loving acceptance and was a reflection of his soul. As conventional words began to escape him – he took on the words and gestures of the poets in describing life around him.

He will be so greatly missed.

Catell is survived by his daughter, Anne Catell, and her husband, George Samuels, of Portsmouth, N.H.; his grandchildren, Benjamin Pecora, Ki Pecora, Robert Pecora and Adrienne Catell; and his brother, Stanley Catell, and his wife, Elsie, and their children, Brian, Jimmy, Scott and Mark Catell. He was predeceased by his wife, Cynthia, who died Jan. 17, 2010.

A celebration of Catell’s life will be held March 21 at noon at the Portland Country Club in Falmouth.

For those who wish, donations may be made in Catell’s name to Alzheimer’s Association, Maine Chapter, 383 US Route 1, Suite 2C, Scarborough, ME 04074.

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