NORWAY – The Tucker family has been a part of Norway for 205 years.
“My father would always say, I’m just a Norway boy.’ He was always proud of the fact the he was one of the Tuckers from Norway, Maine,” Tucker’s son, Benjamin Tucker III, said Tuesday, sitting at his Norway home.
The oldest of five siblings, Tucker III personally reminisced about his father and ancestors Tuesday as he looked over family artifacts collected through the years.
The town and the Tuckers are part of one another, he said. “[My father] had a great sense of that. Growing up, he emphasized what a great little town this was,” Tucker III said. “His roots were deep here…It was such a vibrant town that seemed to have a bright future, before anyone imagined big box stores. It was a self-contained little entity.”
Tucker Jr. died April 2 at Maine General Medical Center in Augusta. He was 80. During his career, he carried on the family tradition of collecting history and passing along stories by working for three Maine newspapers, including the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, where he eventually became managing editor.
“He was particularly proud to be on this newspaper,” Tucker III said. “To come back and work for the local paper was a big deal.”
Tucker Jr. returned to Norway in 1954 after graduating from University of Maine in Orono in 1952 with a journalism degree.
As he sold advertisements for the newspaper, he would walk the main streets of Norway and Paris, stopping to speak to people on the sidewalk or popping in at businesses to chat with owners. “He would always be talking about the latest local news or whatever,” Tucker III said.
“Another family trait I would say is we’re always interested in people. We’re big talkers, but we’re also good listeners.”
Tucker Jr. had a dashing, eye-catching look, and during the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy was regularly broadcast on television screens, the gregarious, local newspaper man would sometimes be mistaken for the handsome, beloved president.
“Kids would say, Is that President Kennedy?'” Tucker III said.
Tucker Jr.’s career took him around the state. He first worked for the Presque Isle Star Herald in 1952, The Boothbay Register in 1953 and 1954, and later as a public information officer for four state departments. He also taught journalism at the University of Maine Farmington in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His last job was with the Maine Department of Human Services, which he left in 1991 to retire in Readfield with his wife of 48 years, Marion, who died in 1999.
Tucker Jr. seemed to know at least one person in whatever Maine town he was visiting. And no matter where he was, he would pick up the local newspaper. “He was always fascinated with every town,” Tucker III said, which was part of his attachment to Maine.
“My father taught his children that Maine’s greatest asset isn’t just its natural beauty, Maine’s greatest asset is its people.”
But for all his focus on others, Tucker Jr. had a private side.
“My father had a quiet reticence about him,” Tucker III said, adding, “I think he was a great thinker. He was an extremely intelligent man. And people who are inclined to being extremely intelligent often have a private side.”
The first Benjamin Tucker to arrive in Norway came by horseback in 1801 after reading an ad in a Boston newspaper about a Maine town seeking a harness and saddle maker. His son followed in his footsteps, and his grandson started a dairy farm on what is now called Ashton Road, but was once named Tucker Road.
The dairy farm stopped operating in 1915, after being the biggest supplier of milk to the town for 40 years, Tucker III said.
Tucker Jr. was the first to graduate from university, which he did after serving in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.
“There has been a Ben Tucker in Norway for 205 years,” Tucker III said. “I represent 205 years of Ben Tucker.” Tucker III has a son and grandson, both with the name Benjamin, who live in Burlington, Vt.
“I don’t know how many small towns in America have that long a connection,” he said.