Robert G. Bent, 86: Diplomat, history lover served country, community

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FALMOUTH — Robert Galen Bent, 86, died Aug. 9.

He was born May 27, 1929, in South Portland, the son of Frank Noel Mace Bent and Harriett Josephine Deguio. Robert attended local schools, and was a 1950 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy.

After serving in the U.S. merchant marine for two years, Bent continued his education, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tufts University in 1953. He served another two years on active duty with the U.S. Navy, and then returned to Tufts, earning an M.A. in international relations from its Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

It was at Fletcher that Bent met his future wife, Marta, a fellow student, and they were married on Oct. 6, 1956.

Bent accepted a position with the federal government and served many years as a foreign service officer with assignments at U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. Later in his career, while based in Washington, D.C., his duties took him to Baghdad, Prague, Berlin, Rome, Panama and Seoul.

Bent retired in 1986, and he and his wife moved back to Maine, settling first in Scarborough and then moving to OceanView Retirement Community in Falmouth.

Bent loved U.S. history, especially of the Civil War, and he spent many happy hours touring the battlefields around Washington, D.C., with Smithsonian Institute docents. Maine history also interested him, and he participated in several local archaeological digs. The Middle East also fascinated him, particularly the impact of World War I on the region and the struggles of Palestinians and Kurds.

He loved to tour ancient historical sites, and fondly recalled moonlight strolls through the ruins of Palmyra, as well as trips to Persepolis, Petra, Jerash, the temples of Malta, the pyramids of Egypt, the Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan, the Greek ruins in Turkey, and many other destinations. He frequently shared these experiences as part of travel programs at the Scarborough Public Library.

Volunteering played an important role in Bent’s life in Maine. He served as president of the Portland Marine Society and of the Maine Maritime Academy Alumni Association. He also served the Portland Harbor Museum as a member of its board of directors for over a decade, and he led presentations on history at many local schools. Most recently, he was a docent at the South Portland Historical Society Museum at Spring Point. He also served on the board of directors of Spring Point Ledge Light, devoting many weekends to assisting with tours of the lighthouse.

Bent is survived by his wife, Marta; his daughter, Galen Hillers, of New Market, Maryland; his son, Geoffrey, of Arlington, Virginia; and five grandchildren, Kristin, Shelby and Joshua Hillers, and Maxwell and Nicholas Bent.

A celebration of Bent’s life will be held Thursday, Aug. 27, at 2 p.m., at Blueberry Commons, OceanView Retirement Community, 5 Blueberry Lane, Falmouth.

For those who wish, donations may be made in Bent’s memory to Maine Maritime Academy Development Office, Pleasant Street, Castine, ME 04420.

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