SCARBOROUGH — Robert Orville Jenkins loved an adventure.

While most people would plan every minute of their trips, he traveled on a whim, working his way to where he was headed, if he could.

“I remember him telling me about working his passage on a ship, I can’t remember where to, but just getting on a cargo ship of some sort and working his way across rather than paying,” his daughter Melissa Mangili said.

Once he arrived at his destination, Mr. Jenkins would stay at a hostel. But with his fondness for interacting with local people, it would not take long before someone offered him a place to stay.

“He enjoyed people,” his wife of eight years, Siga Jenkins, said.

Mr. Jenkins died April 16. He was 71.

Early in his career, Mr. Jenkins worked to develop a new system of orientation for the blind.

“He was proud of that,” his daughter Melanie Nickless said. “He was an advocate for blind people and believed strongly in helping them to be independent.”

While he continued helping the blind, Mr. Jenkins ultimately pursued a career of entrepreneurship in a variety of areas. Mangili said his main business was Thrift Auto Parts in Gardiner. He would buy cars at auction and sell them off as parts, she said.

Mr. Jenkins’ main passion, however, was enjoying travel and the great outdoors. He and his wife went to Costa Rica, Cancun, Hawaii, Moscow, Lithuania, Cuba, Jamaica.

“He was a great traveler,” his wife said. His experiences included hitchhiking from Maine to Tierra del Fuego off the tip of South America.

The couple actually met on a flight from Amsterdam to the United States. He asked a gentleman to switch seats and they ended up next to each other.

“So we had time to talk,” during the eight-hour flight, she said.

His daughter Kristen Jenkins caught the “travel bug” from her father early on.

“I grew up hearing all his stories about his time in Germany and all over,” she said. She got a job as a flight attendant right out of college.

She also shared his passion for hiking and the outdoors. Mr. Jenkins had camped and canoed all over, she said, including a trip down the Allagash just after ice-out one year. On that trip, a bear ended up in the campsite, and as he took a step toward the bear ready to shoot, the bear took a step back.

“So he took another step forward, and the bear took another step back, and they danced that like until the bear was on his way,” she remembers from her father’s story.

Mr. Jenkins owned an 1851 farmhouse and enjoyed tending his gardens.

“It was great going to his house for Thanksgiving. We would eat whatever he grew,” Mangili said.

“He was famous for his strawberries though,” she added. “He’d bring pints of strawberries to all the family gatherings.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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