WATERBORO – He served his country with honor during the Vietnam War, devoted a significant portion of his life to protecting the Saco River and was always willing to extend a helping hand to those in need.

Francis Ray Towns Jr., whom everyone knew as “Mike,” died Friday at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough with his wife and family at his side.

A longtime resident of Waterboro, Mr. Towns was 61 years old.

“He spent his life helping others. It just never stopped,” said his brother-in-law Bill Ferland of Hallowell, who remembers the driveways of his elderly neighbors that Mr. Towns would plow for free. “He was unmatched, in terms of being a kind and caring person.”

Born in Augusta, Mr. Towns graduated from Bonny Eagle High School. Ferland said Mr. Towns met his future wife, Joyce, while working at GTE Sylvania in Standish.

They were married in 1972, after he left the military.

Mr. Towns joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1971. He became a decorated sharpshooter while serving his country, receiving the meritorious Mast Award for outstanding duty and service and the National Defense Service Award.

“He was on the front lines in Vietnam, but he never liked to talk about it,” Ferland said.

However, he used his military experience to become a licensed federal firearms dealer.

Mr. Towns worked for the hydroelectric division of Central Maine Power Co. — that division was eventually bought out by Florida Power & Light — for more than 30 years.

Ferland said his brother-in-law was responsible for managing several hydroelectric dams along the Saco River.

It was during that time of his life that he became interested in protecting the river from development pressures.

He became a member of the Saco River Corridor Commission, representing the town of Waterboro. The commission installed fishways and tried to protect the river’s quality.

“He wanted to keep the river as clean as possible,” Ferland said. “He did a tremendous job.”

After he retired, he joined his wife in operating Waterboro Antiques on Route 5. He owned and operated the antiques shop for the past 11 years.

Ferland said customers who desperately needed money would come into his shop to sell an antique and Mr. Towns, recognizing their need, would often pay them more than what the item was worth.

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” Ferland said.

Mr. Towns loved the outdoors and fishing. He fished all over Maine, as well as in Alaska and Canada.

His best friend, Bill Tapley of Millinocket, accompanied Mr. Towns on his fishing trips to Alaska.

Their friend Donald Willey of Massachusetts owned a commercial fishing boat. Willey would shut down his operations for three weeks so that the trio could fish for salmon and halibut in Alaska.

“We went everywhere,” Tapley said. “It was a great time to be alive. We were the three amigos.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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