Josh Seal will always be remembered as the man in the televised COVID-19 briefings who used American Sign Language to share the sobering details of the pandemic with Maine’s Deaf community.

Josh Seal with his wife, Liz, and their four children. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Seal

But friends and family knew what Josh cared about the most: deaf kids. His four children, aged 3 to 12; the ones he had taught at Governor Baxter School for the Deaf; and the ones he was helping by founding Maine’s first summer camp for deaf youth.

The man who hated costumes even dressed up as Santa so kids could ask for presents in ASL.

“Fostering opportunity for them, showing them they could do more, that was his passion,” said his wife, Liz. “His job didn’t matter as long as it let him help deaf kids. Josh thought a lot about the future of the Deaf community and he knew it came from the children.”

His job as the director of interpreting service at Pine Tree Society, a nonprofit that services Mainers with disabilities, allowed him to found Dirigo Experience summer camp. Until its launch, Maine’s deaf children were forced to attend summer camp in Vermont or Connecticut.

His boss, Noel Sullivan, said Josh’s death left an enormous hole in Maine’s Deaf community. “He was committed to breaking the cycle of isolation and creating safe space for Deaf people,” Sullivan said.


He had been at his job at Pine Tree Society for less than a month when he was tapped to interpret the COVID briefings of Nirav Shah, then director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He was nervous that he’d misspell when reeling off Shah’s rapid-fire county-by-county statistics.

“I marveled at his ability to interpret what we were saying at light speed – even my (awful) attempts at humor during dark days,” Shah said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “He never missed a beat. He will be forever missed and always remembered as a part of Maine’s history.”

The 36-year-old Portland native met his wife when they were in preschool. On their play dates, he was the mischievous goofball and she the tomboy. She missed him after they were sent to different public schools – she thought his habit of filling his pant pockets with dirt was hilarious.

They would meet again in high school through a mutual friend who connected them online. They headed off to Texas for college but decided to come home to Maine when she was pregnant with their first child, Jayson. Three more – Sephine, Jarrod and Jaxton – would follow.

Josh loved sports and rooted for all the Boston teams, but football and his beloved Patriots got top billing. The family, all of whom are deaf, has little use for TV, but Josh insisted on paying for a cable subscription just so he could watch games in real time.

He played sports, too. He was on a deaf basketball team, but his real passion was disc golf, Liz said. He was a regular at three area courses and liked to play in tournaments across New England, often bringing the family along.

They loved to travel together and had gone on three eight-week road trips since 2015 – along the East Coast, to the Southwest, into Canada. He loved the wild, rocky beaches at Olympic National Park and the river-carved canyons of Zion National Park.

On their first cross-country trip, Josh agreed to take a young girl in his oldest son’s school class along with them. It was tight quarters, but the girl, who didn’t have much sign language, needed more real-life experiences. When they returned eight weeks later, her vocabulary had exploded.

“Josh just couldn’t say no to a kid,” Liz said. “I was like, ‘Should we do this?’ Josh was like, ‘Yup!’ ”

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