Osmond Clark Bonsey, who was the town manager in Freeport, Falmouth and Yarmouth, died Sunday at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Bangor. He was 88.

Since his death, town managers from around Maine have been buzzing online, praising Bonsey as someone who knew how to deal with the issues, talk to the public and mentor young managers who needed his help, said Don Gerrish, a municipal consultant at Eaton Peabody who was a close friend of Bonsey.

“He was the dean,” Gerrish said. “He was the ultimate representative of a good manager and a person who cared about his communities and cared about the people in his profession.”

Professionally, Bonsey was known for promoting the council-manager form of government at a time when most southern Maine towns still held town meetings.

“He felt strongly that (the council-manager form of government) was a professional way to run a community,” Gerrish said. “When communities were talking about doing it, he was the go-to person in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Bonsey was born on July 26, 1928, in Eastbrook and was raised in Surry. He graduated from Ellsworth High School in 1946. He knew from an early age what he wanted to do with his life, said his son, Cameron Bonsey of Kennebunk.

“Dad knew from the time he was 6 years old that, somehow, he wanted to be involved in town government, because that was when he went to his first town meeting,” he said. “The energy of it – something about it imprinted on him.”

After serving in the Navy for two years, Bonsey earned a degree in public management from the University of Maine and then started his career as town manager of Corinth. He was only 23 years old. In 1953, he moved to Mars Hill, then two years later to Freeport. He spent seven years in Freeport before becoming Falmouth’s first town manager, in 1962.

After working as executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, Bonsey spent the final 12 years of his career as town manager of Yarmouth. He retired in 1991.

Throughout his career, Gerrish said, Bonsey always found the time to mentor young managers. Gerrish said Bonsey instilled in him “the importance of honor and trust and integrity, and that it’s a privilege to be in that job.”

Phil Harriman served on the Yarmouth Town Council when Bonsey was the town manager, and was a Republican state senator when Bonsey served on the state Board of Environmental Protection, including three years as chairman.

As a town manager, Harriman recalled, Bonsey never played politics. He was always willing to make sure the council knew the ramifications of its decisions, without pushing the councilors in one direction or another.

Harriman said Bonsey set “a sterling and shining example of how to present yourself in public, and that’s needed more than ever now.

“Listen thoroughly, listen well, but be open-minded enough to realize that there may be other points of view,” Harriman said.

In his work with the BEP, Harriman said, Bonsey “could move a discussion along without anyone feeling they had been shut out.”

Bonsey considered his election to the presidency of the International City/County Management Association the pinnacle of his career, his son said: “He was the first from a town of less than 20,000.”

Harriman said that every town councilor in Yarmouth attended Bonsey’s inauguration in Montreal at their own expense because “he had earned that level of respect.”

Bonsey was also known for his dry sense of humor and his honesty, sometimes expressed in the form of sarcasm. As a town manager, Bonsey couldn’t express his personal opinion publicly, his son noted, so he created a pen name with a double entendre, and whenever he disagreed with a newspaper article he would write a letter to the editor and sign it with that name.

“He knew how to communicate and to relate to people,” Cameron Bonsey said, “and he did all those things in his personal life too.”

Cameron Bonsey recalled family dinners, with his father sitting at one end of the table and his mother, Ann, at the other. Bonsey was a Republican, and his wife, who worked as an English teacher, was a liberal Democrat. They would talk – and argue – about town politics in front of their children.

“Occasionally, he would throw out a comment to get her all riled up, and it would always end with a hug and a kiss,” he said. “(They were) two people who could have different opinions but could still love and respect each other.” The couple were married for 64 years.

Bonsey kept meticulous scrapbooks of his family’s life, stashing away everything from news articles about council meetings to his son’s speeding tickets. He was an avid Boston Red Sox fan and idolized Ted Williams. One year, when Bonsey was Yarmouth’s town manager, Ted Williams served as the Yarmouth Clam Festival’s grand marshal. Bonsey got a photograph of himself with Williams, and it became a cherished possession.