Saturday, March 8, 2014
WASHINGTON — Former Maine Congressman Peter Kyros of Portland was remembered Thursday as a dedicated lawmaker who never lost his interest in politics and kept working until months before he died at age 86.
Sen. Olympia Snowe on Peter Kyros: “His love of the ocean was something constant in his life, and during his tenure in Congress, he fiercely defended the fishermen and coastal interests of Maine’s First Congressional District.”
Photo from Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership
Kyros, a Democrat who represented Maine’s 1st Congressional District from 1967 to 1975, died Tuesday the day before he would have turned 87. He was still working for a firm in Washington, DC, until fairly recently, according to family members.
A Portland native, Kyros built Liberty ships in Bath at the beginning of World War II before enlisting in the Navy in 1943. He later graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and, after leaving the Navy in 1954, received his law degree from Harvard Law School.
According to biographical information in his obituary in The Press Herald, the late Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine recruited him to run for Congress in 1966. Among other things, he is credited with helping establish the current 200-mile offshore territorial limit that is aimed at protecting U.S. fishing interests from foreign fishing fleets.
“His love of the ocean was something constant in his life, and during his tenure in Congress, he fiercely defended the fishermen and coastal interests of Maine’s First Congressional District on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said in a statement today. “Indeed, Peter’s energy and enthusiasm remained forever boundless, and his tireless efforts on behalf of our beloved state will continue to reverberate for generations to come.”
Kyros' love of politics and history appears to have rubbed off on at least one family member.
His grandson, Nick Schaufelberger, is currently working as an intern in the office of Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-District 1. Schaufelberger said he remembers being impressed with his grandfather's ability to blend history and politics as they walked around the Capitol building years ago.
He said his grandfather was pleased that he had chosen to intern on Capitol Hill and that they frequently talked about the latest happenings.
"He was always asking me for information about what was going on, and he always wanted to talk about politics," Schaufelberger, who will be a senior at Boston College, said Thursday during an interview.
Kyros served in Congress during a turbulent period that included the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation. He traveled to Vietnam four times and, although initially supportive of the war policies, he began speaking out against it despite his military background.
“All of us in the Congress are at fault for not standing up at that time and being more meticulous about what we do,” Kyros said in an interview with WCSH’s Bill Green. “But it was a Cold War era and it was kind of hard. But you can study it and learn lessons from it as we approach Iraq.”
After losing to Republican David Emery in 1974, Kyros would continue to work in Washington, D.C., initially for the U.S. State Department. He would later for several firms active on Capitol Hill, advocating for scientific and medical research, instructing others on congressional procedure and working with federal administrative law judges.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-District 2, also expressed his condolences to the Kyros family.
"From his service in the Navy, to his time in Congress and at the U.S. State Department, Peter was a model statesman who held a profound devotion for and commitment to the people of Maine," Michaud said in a statement.
Kyros is survived by his wife, Susan, daughter Joanne Carol Kyros, son-in-law Thomas Schaufelberger, daughter-in-law Valerie Kyros, and five grandchildren.