PEAKS ISLAND – His picture speaks volumes.

At first glance, Thomas Mulkern was a thin and scrawny guy who had bright eyes, bushy eyebrows, and a strikingly long and greying beard. What he lacked in appearance, he made up for in personality. A study in contrasts, beneath his rough exterior and frank honesty was a man who could be warm and welcoming, who could beam with happiness, joy and love for life.

Mr. Mulkern, a beloved Peaks Island resident, known for his trademark beard, died unexpectedly on Tuesday. He was 65.

He was remembered this week as a loving and caring man who was respected for his integrity. His younger brother Marty Mulkern explained that if you didn’t want to hear the truth, he was not the man to ask. “He was an all-around nice guy, but chances are he would offend you in the first five minutes of meeting him. When people got to know him, they accepted him for who he was. People enjoyed being in his company.”

Mr. Mulkern grew up on Peaks Island as the second oldest of 11 children. He graduated from Portland High School.

In 1969, he entered the Army. He served as a sergeant with the 1st. Calvary Division Company C during the Vietnam War. He was discharged in 1972. He went to work for the former General Electric in South Portland as a certified nuclear welder. He worked there for 11 years.

Mr. Mulkern also worked as a welder on the South Portland waterfront. There, he was instrumental in building the cradle to hold the Maine-built clipper ship, Snowsquall, which is on display at the Maine Maritime Museum. His brother said he was a highly skilled welder and was well-respected in the industry.

“While Tom was building the cradle, he was offered another job that would have paid him much more,” his brother said. “He turned down the job until he fulfilled his commitment to build the cradle. That’s the type of guy Tom was. People had a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

For several years, Mr. Mulkern worked for the family business Lionel Plante Associates as a welder and deckhand on its vessels. He retired in 2005.

Mr. Mulkern lived on Peaks Island for most of his life. He was well known on the island and loved by its residents.

His niece, Tonya Ng, of Hollis, said he was the type of guy who would knock on a neighbor’s door to welcome them to the island.

“I don’t think there’s a single person that lives on Peaks Island that doesn’t have a story about my Uncle Tom,” his niece said. “We had a lot of family parties on the island. He would be there and grab a woman he didn’t know and dance with her. He would break the ice and make you feel comfortable.”

“He was iconic,” she said. “He was someone that everyone knew and loved and respected. You met him once and remembered him forever.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com