PORTLAND – Barry Metcalf was a vagabond and a dreamer whose most valuable gifts to his children and grandchildren were the stories he told about his adventures across the United States.

He worked in a rodeo in Texas, drove race cars at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, bought an elephant from a pen pal in India, went deep-sea diving for sunken ships’ treasures, made moonshine where he grew up in South Carolina and even did a stint with a traveling circus.

“In all of his stories there was a little bit of truth and a little bit of fantasy,” said Barry Metcalf, his son, who lives in South Portland. “The stories he used to tell me, I loved it.”

Mr. Metcalf, who died June 17 at age 71, was born in Kings Mountain, N.C., the son of Aurilla Metcalf. When he was 7 years old, he moved to Moore, S.C., where he was raised on a chicken farm by his mother and stepfather, Robert Cogdell.

At age 17, he joined the Navy and was stationed in Brunswick. While in Maine, he met and married Elna Corbin of Portland. He took her with him when he went back to South Carolina to work on the chicken farm. The couple divorced after having four children — Barry, Tina, Roberta and David — and Elna Metcalf returned to Portland to raise them.

Mr. Metcalf never married again and never stayed long in one place. The wanderlust would strike and he’d hop on a bus, steal a ride on a train or hitchhike to his next destination.

“He was a traveling man and a rebel at heart,” said Tina Metcalf, his daughter, who lives in Portland. “He loved going places. He loved being outdoors. He had many adventures in his life and I hope he has many more where he’s going.”

Every few years he’d come to Portland to visit his former wife and his children, often staying in the woods near Deering Oaks or on the outskirts of the city. He usually came in the summer because he liked warmer weather. During one of his longer visits, the family set him up in an apartment, but he was back in the woods in a few weeks.

“One time, my mom let him stay with us,” his son recalled. “He bought an old boat and it wound up sitting in our yard. He bought part of an old Volkswagen and was going to make a trike out of it. You never knew what he was going to do. He’d stay a couple of months, we’d see him off and on and then he’d up and disappear.”

He liked to drink, his son said, and it took a toll on the family.

“I think he really loved my mom and he loved us kids, but he missed a lot of our lives,” Barry Metcalf said.

“He just couldn’t do the right thing. I never had the typical father-son relationship, but I’m going to miss the stories he told.”

A memorial graveside service with military honors will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Mt. Vernon Road in Augusta.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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