Gene Auprey knew he was going to die, and he still wrote poetry about death with eloquence and joy. So much so that Hospice of Southern Maine named him its first poet laureate last fall, for the hope and comfort his poems brought to others.

But his family says Auprey, who was 66 when he died Saturday, got as much if not more from writing the poems. He wrote more than 380 during the year and three months he received hospice care.

“I think he couldn’t believe how much he was enjoying death, all the memories that came back to him, all the people he hadn’t seen in a while who stopped in to say hi. He just appreciated everything more,” said his son, Ira Auprey of Buxton. “He wrote because he wanted people to know (death) didn’t have to be just about sad things.”

Auprey, who lived in Buxton, had “dabbled” in poetry as a young man but for most of his life was too busy working and raising a family – he had eight children – to pursue it as seriously as he’d like. He grew up in the northern New Hampshire town of Woodsville. Despite his love of language and talent for writing, he failed his senior English class in high school because of a few missed homework assignments, he told the Portland Press Herald in December.

As a young man he worked in a hospital and for an animal rescue group. He worked for a plastering company, built mobile homes, was a draftsman at a cabinet company, and had his own construction company, his son said. He was also was an ordained Christian minister, his son said.

During this past year he worked on a design for housing for the homeless that would be small, inexpensive to build, and portable. His design was inspired by the current tiny house trend sweeping the nation.

“He wanted to design something small that could be put anywhere,” said his son. “We have the design and my brothers and I are going to try to build one, for him.”

Auprey suffered for years with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and was forced to stop working around 2002. He started looking for online poetry workshops, and said he started out by writing “lousy poetry.” He authored a book of poetry, “Dead Reckoning,” in 2010.

Auprey began to receive hospice care at home more than a year ago. The people caring for him, his “hospice team,” took notice of his poems and began sharing them with other hospice patients, his son said. The other patients enjoyed the poems and found them “uplifting,” Ira Auprey said. The official poet laureate proclamation from Hospice of Southern Maine said that Auprey “encourages and welcomes the sharing of his poetry to assist others in their End of Life Journey.”

In a poem titled “My Prayer to Continue,” he wrote these opening lines:

“I will not defy death nor will I accept it by default; Though pain is excruciating tonight, it is neither harbinger nor is it assassin but rather reaper of that which has withered on the stalk.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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