Former Whitefield Select Board member and climate change activist Anthony “Tony” Marple, is remembered by friends, family members, and colleagues as an environmentally conscious individual whose character was defined by his actions more so than his words.
Marple, 75, passed away peacefully at his home on Tuesday, Jan. 24, after a short battle with ALS.
“He walked the walk,” said Susan McKeen, a former select board member who served with Marple.
Born in Norwalk, Conn. in 1947, Marple moved to Whitefield in 1984 where he would eventually serve on the planning and select boards, and the school committee. During Marple’s two terms on the Whitefield Select Board between 2013 and 2019, the board approved installing solar panels on the Whitefield Central Fire Station to reduce the town’s usage of fossil fuel.
McKeen said Marple’s position on climate change was seen through his personal actions as well as his community service.
“He owned an electric car, and had solar panels on his farm,” McKeen said.
Marple’s wife, Marianne Marple, said combating climate change was a life goal Tony had taken up well before they met.
“It was his most driving force in his life, the fear of climate change,” Marianne Marple said.
According to Marianne Marple, Toney Marple believed individuals should feel responsible for their impact on the planet’s environment as much as large corporations.
“He believed everyone should get involved and that personal responsibility was just as important,” Marianne Marple said.
Moving to Whitefield, the Marples purchased 15 acres of farm land that would grow into 205 acres of commercially grown blueberries, a small apple orchard, and a vegetable garden. Tony and Marianne Marple called the farm Bluefield.
Bluefield’s design reflected Tony Marple’s philosophy in action. While expanding the farm he designed it to be environmentally friendly, installing solar panels, and creating a welcoming habitat to allow wild honey bees to thrive.
“Tony would drill holes in boxes, dead trees, and tree stumps for bees to nest in,” Marianne Marple said. “He would have diverse plants that would bloom throughout the growing season so bees had food.”
In November 2019, the Knox-Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District recognized Marple’s conservation efforts, designating Bluefield as the Conservation Farm of the Year.
Marple’s son Keith Marple said his father’s drive to fight climate change is partially born out of his love for nature and the outdoors. When not otherwise engaged, Tony Marple could be found with his camera hiking in the woods.
“We would hike miles just in silence,” Keith Marple said.
Tony Marple’s determination to get outdoors led him to hike all 48 peaks in New Hampshire with an elevation of 4,000 feet or higher, along with his son Keith. Together they have taken hiking trips throughout Maine, Mexico, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains.
“I think there is a stillness in nature he enjoyed that was hard to find in people,” Keith Marple said. “He felt most at home there.”
According to his wife and son, Tony Marple’s favorite time of the year to be outdoors was during the winter season, much to his family’s displeasure. Marianne Marple took two winter hiking trips with her husband before deciding it wasn’t for her.
“I thought this was nuts,” Marianne Marple recalled. “He and his friends thought it was great and I was thinking are we going to survive this?”
“I think that is why global warming was so important to him because it was ruining his favorite season,” Keith Marple said with a laugh.
Photography was another passion of Marple’s. He would bring his camera along on hiking trips to capture the landscape. His photos won prizes at the Kodak International Newspaper Snapshot Awards, the AMC photo contest, and in 2014 the Maine Photography Awards, according to Marianne Marple.
“I would give him a hard time on how long he took to take a picture,” Keith Marple said of their hiking expeditions.
It is not often an individual is able to continue their life’s work after passing away, but Marple, with the assistance from his wife, was able to accomplish one last objective in his mission for a greener planet.
Buried in private ceremony with family and friends at the Baldwin Hill Conservation Cemetery in Winthrop, Marple was laid to rest in a shroud that will allow his body to break down into the earth.
“He originally talked about wanting to be buried in a burial pod,” Marianne Marple said. “They didn’t have those here in Maine, but we found the green burial and put it in our will a few years ago.”
A burial pod allows an individual to be buried in a pod full of tree seeds that would grow, using the remains as nutrients. Since these were unavailable in Maine, Tony and Marianne Marple decided a green burial was the next best thing.
Marple originally moved to Whitefield to take a position as vice president of finance for the Kennebec Valley Medical Center in Augusta. In 1997 KVMC merged with Mid-Maine Health System resulting in Marple becoming executive vice president, and treasurer of Maine General Health.
Marple retired in 2006 and spent his time serving various roles in the community, maintaining his farm, and embracing the outdoors through hiking and photography.
The family asks in lieu of flowers donations be sent to Mid-Coast Conservancy, or Environmental Defense Fund.