Rupert Neily III died in a cabin overlooking Knickerbocker Lake, Boothbay, on April 27, 2020, lovingly cared for by son, Aaron, partner, Leslie, and sister, Sandy.
Rupert was born on Nov. 15, 1945 in Portland and grew up on Lincoln Street in East Boothbay. He graduated from Boothbay Region High School, where he played basketball and football and was president of his class all four years. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, and had a passion for history.
During the Vietnam War he served in the Coast Guard, from which he received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. He worked for several environmental and conservation organizations in Maine, of which serving as director of the Maine Land Trust Network was closest to his heart.
Rupert’s first and enduring love was the Maine woods, lakes, streams, hills, and coast. They were his botanical garden. He avidly explored them on foot, bike, and rowing and sailing his beloved Whitehall, his eye ever roaming to an alluring ridgeline. He learned how to find his way in the woods as a boy hunting with his father. He learned how to find spiritual nourishment from the mystery of nature all on his own, most especially during his recovery from a bone marrow transplant, from his sister Sandy, for leukemia in 1998. The person Rupert most cherished was his son, Aaron, his favorite companion on his favorite row from East Boothbay to South Bristol. Their connection ran deep, as they explored books, films, and ideas with meaning for them both.
The Sisterhood – Liz, Sandy, Kathy, and Joy – was a major force in Rupert’s life, and they dearly loved their only brother. Rupert saw them individually and collectively as forces of nature. They circled the wagons whenever he needed them, and he was in awe of and devoted to them.
In 2000 he found his “Pownal family,” the Hydes, through Dave and Steve’s Two Roads Maine, which partnered with Chewonki to offer guided wilderness trips as journeys of healing exploration. Steve Hyde became Rupert’s treasured and closest friend.
He met his partner Leslie Bird in 2005 on a “Rupert’s Rambles” hike from Murray Hill Road to Farnham Cove. Leslie had to go on several more rambles before winning him over, but as her grandmother said, “he’s worth pursuing.”
Rupert was mischievous, loved to trespass, was perplexed by rules and so generally avoided them. He found signs everywhere, layers of meaning unseen by the rest of us. He collected “icons,” things he found in his path, put there for some reason that was his work to figure out. A favorite was a fork flattened by a car tire, which became “the fork in the road.”
Rupert was predeceased by his parents, Elizabeth (Betty “Biz” Bisbee) and Rupert Neily Sr. He is survived by son, Aaron; partner, Leslie; sisters, Liz, Sandy, Kathy, and Joy; their spouses and children; his former wife, Ellen; and much to his delight last summer, a newly discovered sister, Anne.
Contributions in Rupert’s memory may be made to the Kennebec Land Trust (tklt.org) or the Boothbay Region Land Trust (bbrlt.org).
A time for remembrance will be found in the future.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.