NEW GLOUCESTER — Those closest to John “Jack” Linnell describe the retired attorney and former Auburn mayor as a man with two very distinct sides. There was the one the public saw in the courtroom or City Council chambers and the one reserved for family and close friends.

“I was the first person from away who was a partner in this little law firm, but I was never made to feel like an outsider by he or his colleagues,” said John Oxman, longtime partner and friend of Linnell.

Oxman, 65, joined Linnell, Choate and Webber not long after Linnell joined the family practice in the mid-1960s. From the time the New York native arrived, he said that Linnell always made him feel like family, despite the fact that the two never saw eye to eye on politics in the nearly four decades they knew each other.

“I never felt diminished in a conversation with him,” Oxman said. “He had a genuine interest in the staff at his firm.”

The 72-year-old, L-A native split much of his retirement between his homes in New Gloucester and Tucson, Ariz. He died suddenly at his home on Aug. 4. Linnell spent his professional career at the firm his father founded in 1931.

He served as councilman and mayor of Auburn from 1967 to 1974. He chaired the state Republican Party for four years and was a Maine delegate to the 1976 national nominating convention.

Oxman will speak at Linnell’s funeral at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at St. Michael’s Church in Auburn. He said his close friend loved life and took every opportunity to learn. He said  Linnell wouldn’t simply try something new, but throw himself into it with all his energy, making it his mission to learn everything he could about the topic at hand.

Linnell’s son, John Linnell, agreed.

The younger Linnell said if his father wasn’t coaching him in a sport, he was somehow involved, be it taking stats or cheering him on from the stands. The 40-year-old Auburn man is now a father himself and remembers the lessons learned from his own dad.

“He always had his thumb on me when it came to things going on in my world,” John Linnell said. “He was a good dad right up until his final days.”

Linnell’s wife, Cotheal, said her husband led an active life on one hand, but a very quiet and peaceful life at home. The 67-year-old said her husband spent much of his time taking care of the six acres surrounding the couple’s secluded home.

In addition to the property, Linnell also cared deeply for his dogs — two corgies who were with him right up until his sudden death last week.

Cotheal Linnell described her life with Jack Linnell as quiet. She said that she and her husband were both avid readers and often spent quiet nights sharing thoughts on different books they read. In fact, she said that presence is one of the things she’ll miss the most about her longtime love.

“I’m going to miss that smile — seeing him look at me across the room. We communicated with each other without speaking and I think I still will. I’ll still hear him and see his smile and his wave,” Cotheal Linnell said.

But on the other hand, as Cotheal Linnell explained, there was that larger-than-life side of her husband that most of the public got to see.

Linnell specialized in malpractice law and often was most often on the defense side of the courtroom. Cotheal Linnell said she used to love going to watch her husband in court because he was not only incisive, but very kind to both sides of often difficult cases.

And he threw that same interest and energy into his retirement as a volunteer. Linnell rediscovered a love of aviation through his work with Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona and with Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine. He was also an active boater and golfer.

“I just don’t know what I’m missing here without my Jack,” Cotheal Linnell said. “He was such a presence. He was a simple, strong, ethical and wonderful man. He was a great big person in a small pond. He was a very talented, very wonderful man.”


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