Drowned man ID’d as poet, professor

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RANGELEY – A Trinity College professor and poet – a nominee to become Connecticut’s poet laureate – was identified Monday as the man who drowned Sunday when he fell through thin ice on Rangeley Lake.

Hugh Ogden of Glastonbury, Conn., was crossing Rangeley Lake on cross-country skis to get to the mainland from his camp on Naramantic Island when he fell through the thin ice, Maine Warden Service Sgt. John Blagdon said.

Ogden’s death was among several incidents over the weekend on Maine lakes, where officials warned Monday that unusually warm weather made the ice very thin and treacherous.

Odgen, who would have turned 70 in March, had been retreating to the island for years. He visited in all seasons.

“I think skiing was his way of getting around,” said Lucy Ferriss, a longtime friend and a writer-in-residence at the Hartford school where Ogden taught.

“I was surprised to hear what happened,” she said. “It made me think that he must have been leaving the island for something important.”

He was also growing frail and a little “scatterbrained,” she said. “He was the classic absent-minded professor.”

And he was beloved.

“He pretty much burned with love of language and poetry,” Ferris said. He helped ignite similar passions in many of his students.

Ogden was a native of Erie, Pa., who taught at the University of Michigan before joining the Trinity faculty in 1967, according to his biography and resume on the college’s Web site.

He wrote several poetry books, won honors from the National Endowment for the Arts and Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.

In 2006, he was nominated to become Connecticut’s poet laureate.

In a statement on his faculty Web site, Ogden wrote that he focused much of his writing on the mountains, lakes and people of northern Maine.

“I’ve built three cabins on an island in Rangeley Lake in Maine where I often live in winter as well as summer when I’m not teaching,” he wrote. “That island provides the solitude I require for my writing, a liquid place of mountains and fierce shifts of weather and temperature, an isolation in which I hear the voices that call me to poems.”

When he returned to Hartford from his trips to Rangeley, Odgen would talk about them with a boy’s enthusiasm, Ferris said.

“He was like a kid coming back from summer camp,” she said.

Maine officials said Monday that Rangeley Lake and other water bodies in the area usually are frozen by Jan. 1, the start of the state’s ice-fishing season, but that unusually warm weather had left thin ice and open water in many areas.

Crews have been called out to several rescues recently in addition to Ogden’s death on Rangeley Lake, officials said.

Elsewhere, Dexter fire crews rescued a man from Wassookeag Lake on Sunday after he fell through the ice while trying to save his dog, which did not survive. In Old Town, a man was rescued after falling through the ice on Pushaw Lake while snowmobiling with his brother.

People who have lived in the Rangeley area for 50 or 60 years have never seen anything like the lack of ice, Warden Reggie Hammond said.

“Nobody’s seen the lake not frozen by Jan. 1,” he said.

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