BANGOR – With great sadness, we mourn the loss of Michael Gilmartin, who died on Monday, May 11, at the age of 51. He was a brave, compassionate, and elegant man whose courage, humor and innate sense of grace were an inspiration to the friends and family he leaves behind. Although he was born with cerebral palsy, and was confined to a wheelchair for his entire life, Mike never allowed himself to be defined by his disability. Indeed, his determination to live life to the full was perhaps his defining characteristic.

The beloved son of Alice and Robert Gilmartin born Feb. 21, 1958, and brother of Susan Gilmartin, he spent his early years in Sherborn, Mass., at his parent’s home on Woodland Street and at his grandparent’s home on Farm Road. In both places he was surrounded by his own family, and by a noisy, energetic, swarm of cousins and neighborhood friends along with a bevy of aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

As a child, he delighted in being part of whatever activity happened to be going on. Whether swimming at Farm Pond in summer or going for a sleigh ride in winter, racing to find the most Easter eggs or trooping around the neighborhood on Halloween, he could always be found enthusiastically at the center of it all.

He spent some of his later childhood years at Lakeville State Hospital in Middleboro, Mass., and was educated at the Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, N.H. His greatest love, however, was Maine, especially our family home at the Deck House on Harriman Point Road in Brooklin. The summer vacations we spent there were golden for all of us, but especially so for him, who relished the freedom that came with the sea and the beach and salt air. He loved watching the seals and the seagulls, toasting marshmallows over a bonfire on the beach, perfecting his blueberry muffin recipe, and he never missed an opportunity to go really, really fast in any boat equipped with an outboard motor

After leaving Crotched Mountain, he lived at Sonogee in Bar Harbor for several years as well as Pineland Center in New Gloucester. After the construction of Teakwood Knoll in Lewiston, he became one of the original group of residents. During his years at Teakwood he developed many close friendships that exist to this day.

In 2003, he began a new chapter in his life, moving to his own apartment on Court Street in Auburn. He treasured every element of his independence, and his apartment quickly became the hub of his ever expanding plans and activities, and a happy gathering place for family and friends. He shared his home with Spirit, an elegant black cat possessing her own sense of independence. A constant source of joy and pride for him, Spirit was truly a cherished companion.

His life was filled with many wide-ranging interests and pursuits. He took great pride in his job at Fancy Stitchers in Lewiston and enjoyed his relationships with staff and co-workers. He spent time weekly at John F. Murphy Employment and Enrichment Services working on art projects and visiting with JFM friends.

Music was a life-long passion for him and he devoted a great deal of time and energy to acquiring and organizing his vast collection of big band and swing records. He was especially proud of his collection of vintage 78’s and classic record players.

In his free time, when he was not out combing yard sales and flea markets for 78’s, he loved amusement parks and fairs. No roller-coaster was ever too terrifying or too fast for Michael. In the winter, he was an avid fan of snow tubing. And of Christmas. He loved decorating trees, giving presents, and throwing parties. He was a connoisseur of elaborate celebrations, and would spend months perfecting details and making his own invitations, which usually featured his vigorous and often wry sense of humor. His favorite party locale was The Look Out in Brooklin. His visits there combined the things he loved best – the Maine coast and a boisterous herd of family and friends.

He would probably like most to be remembered as ‘an ordinary guy’. But that is the one thing he certainly wasn’t. Funny, loyal, occasionally irascible, always engaging – he was an intense flame of life. He lived big. His grace and courage were awe inspiring to those who knew him well – his dear friend, John Sawyer; his case worker of 20 years, Patricia Harris; his advocate Skip Macgowan; his remaining Aunt, Rebecca Dahlgren; and Uncle, Ivar Olson; his many cousins; his brother-in-law, Rome Hanks and sister, Susan Gilmartin.

The space Michael leaves cannot be filled, nor will the light that was his life fade. For those of us who were lucky enough to know him, he will always be here.

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