ANDOVER – Word continues to spread up and down the Appalachian Trail of the sudden death on Saturday of Paul F. Trainor, an Andover businessman who with his wife befriended and helped more than 4,000 long-distance hikers over 18 years.
Trainor, 63, of Pine Street died at the family camp on Covered Bridge Road.
Despite having to make family and funeral arrangements, Trainor’s legacy continued to thrive this week through the efforts of his wife, Ilene, and son-in-law David Roussenin. Since his death, they have helped hikers by providing all the comforts of home, and then some.
“I had heard – on the trail – of Paul; that he really enjoyed the hikers and loved helping them, and that he had a big heart,” hiker Jerry Burgess of Cookeville, Tenn., said Tuesday afternoon at Trainor’s Pine Ellis hostel. “He would give away things. He had helped a lot of hikers. So it’s really powerful that this guy just passed away and they’re still helping hikers. Most places would have closed up if this just happened.”
“I had heard that this was a nice place to stay, and then, a few days ago on the trail, I heard that he passed away,” said Jonathan Stich of Charleston, S.C., who is finishing a through-hike he began in 2004 when he walked from Georgia to New Jersey.
“He was a sweet guy, and his door was always open,” said University of Maine at Farmington alum Tanya Steele, a southbound hiker from Vassar, Mich.
Roussenin said his father-in-law had lung cancer.
“A lot of his friends – hikers – have been calling and asking about him. A lot of people can’t believe it, that it happened so fast. I can’t believe it,” said Roussenin, a Mayan Indian from Guatemala who moved to Andover last summer from Montreal to help the Trainors run Pine Ellis.
Roussenin said Trainor, who was plagued by back problems and continuous pain for years, and Ilene spent this winter in Massachusetts but Trainor returned early for doctor appointments. That’s when he learned he had lung cancer, Roussenin said.
Ilene Trainor couldn’t be contacted Tuesday, but Roussenin spoke highly of his father-in-law.
“He loved the business and he had really tried to help everybody that has hiked the Appalachian Trail. He was really concerned about hikers who have problems with their feet and legs. I think he was, all the way around, a good man. He used to buy apples for hikers.
“The new (hikers), they really don’t know Paul, but they know of him, because word on the trail is to come to Pine Ellis. Anyone who needed help, Paul was there, or, if they didn’t have enough money, Paul would help them out. He dedicated his life to them,” Roussenin said.
Past A.T. hikers have been stopping by to check on Ilene.
“The word is out, you know. Right now, she needs help. With this kind of business and the house at the campground, it’s kind of hard to pay the bills with what the hikers bring in. I mean $20 a day isn’t going to pay the bills. This house (Pine Ellis) is for sale. The business is already established,” Roussenin said.
In 1990, Trainor jump-started the business, which is eight miles from the Appalachian Trail, by talking with two long-distance hikers at Melissa’s Market in town, offering them free lodging, breakfast and a ride back to the trail if they’d spread the word about Pine Ellis.
Stich and Burgess both said they hoped someone would continue Paul and Ilene Trainor’s legacy of helping hikers.
“In his memory, we want to keep it going,” Stich added.