SKOWHEGAN – William Partridge of Solon had been a loner ever since he came home from Vietnam in the 1960s, family members said Wednesday.
With long white hair and a beard, Partridge, 65, traveled around central Maine in an old 1977 GMC van that was loaded to the roof with books and magazines, knickknacks and household items.
He was a collector whose vehicle was a familiar sight in downtown Skowhegan.
Partridge, also known as “Rusty,” died Tuesday when the van he was driving overturned on an Interstate 95 off ramp in Augusta. He was alone in the van and was not wearing a seat belt.
His sister Bonny Partridge, of Florida, said she was already in Maine for the funeral last Saturday of their mother Sclastic “Scotty” Partridge, 90, of Solon. The service was held at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.
Now, she said, she has to deal with a second death in the family.
Bonny Partridge spoke briefly Wednesday about her brother’s death, noting only that he was a terrific brother before he went to the war in Vietnam.
“He came back broken,” she said by phone Wednesday. “He used to love to take me everywhere with him, which is unusual for an older brother. He was a great brother until he went into the service . . .”
Jody Ross, of Wilton, a cousin, said Partridge was a quiet, laid-back man who had a couple of friends but kept mostly to himself.
“He was pretty much a collector of a little bit of everything. He turned into a loner,” Ross said Wednesday. “He really didn’t come out of his cave very much. He was a changed man after Vietnam.”
Partridge appeared to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his stint with the Army in Vietnam, Ross said.
Police at the accident scene in Augusta on Tuesday said Partridge’s van was “fully loaded” with personal belongings, as it was each time he came to Skowhegan to meet friends and check out what was new at the Skills Inc. thrift store downtown.
Geri Kramer, an employee at the Skills store, said Partridge was a sweet man who was quiet but made friends easily.
“He’d always find something interesting in the store, and he would share what he knew about it,” Kramer said. “I’ll miss him very much. I cried when I saw the news this morning,” Kramer said. “He had such a presence. He was always very polite, very pleasant. He had a good sense of humor, just a real joy to have in the store. It breaks my heart. I’m going to miss seeing him come in the back door.”
Kramer said the Skills thrift store had become a kind of community meeting place in recent months and Partridge fit right in, getting to know the other regular customers and catching up with what was going on in one another’s lives.
Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: