PARIS — I met Ben Conant in 2019, within a few weeks of joining the Advertiser Democrat. A lifelong history nerd with a degree to prove it, I wanted to connect with Oxford Hills’ stewards of the past and write interesting, thought-provoking stories about the area’s “olden days.”

Ben Conant of Paris, seen in January 2022 at the Paris Cape Historical Society’s Porter House on High Street in Paris, was a founding member and driving force of Paris Cape Historical Society and lifelong curator. Conant died Monday at his home at the age of 82. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

Ben was on board with my aspirations and immediately introduced me to 20th century photographer Jack Quinn and his 100,000 image catalog spanning 50 years of Oxford Hills history.

When I looked for locals to feature during Black History month Ben guided me past the well documented former slave Pedro Tovookan Parris of Paris Hill in favor of another African who came to Paris in 1799, Hector Fuller, and also Harry Johnson, who was emancipated from slavery in Louisiana during the Civil War and later accompanied his benefactor to western Maine.

Ben knew exactly where to find the handwritten notes of Silas Maxim’s interviews with Fuller, the 19th century writer of History of Paris, Maine, from its settlement to 1880. And how to use mercantile business journal entries in the society’s archives to verify Fuller’s residency over time, as well as his food and spirits preferences.

We had many visits and covered many topics, some of which stretched into multiple stories and some which remained as promising anecdotes. During my last visit, in early June, we talked about a number of Paris homes that shared unique features incorporated by their architect; it remains to be seen how I proceed on this potential story without him.

I am gratified that I was able to drop in on Ben’s final history presentation. He spoke at Paris Cape Historical Society’s June 20 meeting. It was an interactive evening with about 20 others as they reminisced about Paris’ Market Square neighborhood as it grew and changed over the last two centuries. What a memory his friends in attendance have to treasure as life and time plod forward.


Paris historian Ben Conant, who died last week, leads an interactive presentation at Paris Cape Historical Society June 20, four days before his passing. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

With the Sun Journal publishing a commemorative article on Ben last Friday, I decided that instead of mimicking a well done and well received tribute, I would turn my homage over to his community and share their parting thoughts in the pages of the Advertiser Democrat.

What follows are the comments I collected from people I was able to reach and the farewells many others posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

“While there was sometimes a friendly competition between the Norway and Paris Cape Historical societies, Ben was always kind, friendly and very helpful. He was the local historian and the depth of his knowledge was astounding. If Ben couldn’t find the answer to a question, the answer didn’t exist. I always enjoyed our conversations and considered it a huge compliment when he asked me a history question. His passing will be mourned for a long time.” — Sue Denison (Norway Historical Society)

“I moved three doors down the street from Ben in 1973. He was a monumental figure, second dad, friend, teacher and all round a mentor to me. The stories and memories I have with Ben are almost endless. The love and guidance he gave me molded me into the dad, husband and man I am today. He was at my home last month twice to celebrate two of my boys’ birthdays. He is a treasure and truly part of my family. The day before he passed we talked on the phone excited to meet up Saturday and enjoy some family photos I stumbled onto. He never made it. His last words to me were, ‘I luv ya luv ya luv ya.’ He is celebrating with his Lord right now. God welcomed him. You good and faithful servant.” — Mark Hatch

“RIP fine man who will always be missed and miss not meeting you here and there from time to time.” — Beverly Brown

“So sad to hear this! He could always bring a smile to my face no matter how bad of a mood I was in. Such a kind, gentle, loving soul. Rest peacefully, you deserve it, you made a difference in a lot of peoples lives and I’m glad to have met you. I hope there’s plenty of Cumby’s pepperoni pizza for you up there!!” — Trisha Mitchell


“I will miss this gentle and loving soul.” — Janice Salo MacDonald

“So sad. I was at the meeting Thursday evening and he was the same old Ben, big loss for the town.” — Peter Kilgore

“What a great man. His knowledge was amazing and his memory was unbelievable. I will miss him dearly.” — Kerri Andrews

“So sorry to hear this. Ben Conant was such a font of history and general information. Sympathy to his loved ones.” — Janet Jamison

“He was a treasure to the town and will be sorely missed!” — Rusty Brackett

“A community treasure,” — Sarah Hanson Bailey


“That must be Ben Conant. He truly loved God and wanted everyone to know Him.” — Ellen Hanson

“So sad. Along with his gentle smile goes a wealth of knowledge.” — Debbie Martel

“You will be missed by many Ben Conant.” — Barbara Anne Duplissis West

“Ben was an amazing man who will be dearly missed by all who knew him.” — Robert Wessels .

“I just can’t say enough wonderful things about the man. Ben was the local historian for Hebron, Oxford, Norway, Paris, Hebron and Oxford going back to the 1980s. He was the greatest storyteller. He was instrumental in researching and rewriting the Annals of Oxford for it to be republished. The Oxford Historical Society has several cassette tapes with Ben telling different stories about Oxford’s history [during that time] that are a treasure to carry forward. I will always remember him saying before hanging up the phone, ‘you have a good day.’ He was an amazing man.”  — Trish Larrivee (Oxford Historical Society)

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