William E. Bodwell, 87: Longtime Brunswick businessman

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BRUNSWICK — William E. “Brother Bill” Bodwell, 87, died June 7 in Brunswick.

He was born April 23, 1926, in Dorchester, Mass., son of Vernor and Mildred Gowen Bodwell. He was a 1944 graduate of Deering High School and graduated from the University of Maine in 1950, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the student conductor and drum major of the UMaine marching band.

Enlisting while a senior at Deering High, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1944-1946. He married Janet Marston, of Waterford, on Dec. 18, 1954.

Bodwell was an automobile dealer for over 50 years in Maine and the founder of Bodwell Chrysler-Dodge Inc., in Brunswick. At one time he owned four dealerships along U.S. Route 1 from Brunswick to Waldoboro.

His business career began with ownership of a Mobil gas station on Forest Ave., in Portland. He sold Yellow Page ads throughout Maine for New England Telephone until he opened his first automobile dealership on Front Street in Bath in 1955. He also operated two service stations and a full-scale wrecker service from his Ford dealership on Route 1 in Bath, and a power-equipment dealership in Brunswick.

Bodwell was on call 24 hours a day for any emergencies needing the big wrecker. A suit and tie were not for him; instead he enjoyed going on wrecker calls and was known for his ever-present Bodwell Motors uniform and UMaine hockey hat.

He was a member of the Dodge Advisory Council and served as treasurer of the New England Dodge Advertising Association. He was a trustee for the Bath Savings institution for 27 years and recognized for 50 years of dedicated service to Bath Rotary Club, for whom he played the piano at all Rotary functions. He was a co-founder and 50-year member of the Bath Municipal Band, playing the bass drum with cymbal atop and towed the band trailer to area concert events with his wrecker. He also played the clarinet in high school and college and was a member of Chandler’s Band, which lead the Bowdoin graduation parade for decades.

Bodwell was an enthusiastic alumnus and supporter of the University of Maine, serving as class president and later as class agent. He enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm about the university with high school students and had three grandsons at UMaine this year. The hockey team and its successes were a passion for him and he donated the use of many cars to the Alumni Office, The University Foundation and the athletic department. He received the Block M Award, the Black Bear Award, The Pine Tree Award and The Family Legacy Award for his endeavors.

He is survived by brothers Russell, of Orono, and Vernor, of Dexter; sister Viola Chapman and husband Rodman Chapman, of Rockville, Conn.; daughter Karen and husband William, of Westfield, Mass.; sons James and wife Kimberly, of Brunswick, Scott and wife Sheila, of Brunswick, and William II and fiancée Roberta Green, of Topsham; and grandchildren Jenna, Jonathan, Erik, Sierra, Jeffrey, Blake and William III, as well as many nieces and nephews.

He cherished spending time with the entire family especially at Harpswell’s Card Cove and Damariscotta Lake, and attending sporting events of his children and grandchildren. He also enjoyed piloting The Brother, a wooden lobster boat, with family and friends aboard.

A funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, June 14, at First Parish Church, in Brunswick. 

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