Saturday, May 25, 2013
SCARBOROUGH - Ann Bundy can say, with pride, that her husband "was the biggest drunk in Portland."
Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.
Because, she said, the key word in that sentence is "was."
Walter Crockett, who passed away Saturday at 79, spent 17 years on the streets due to alcoholism, Bundy said.
After they met, when she was a psychology intern at the Togus veterans' hospital near Augusta and he was in a detox program there, he sobered up and stayed so until his death.
"He'd been in every detox in New England," she said, but "he always aspired to being an average guy."
The two married in 1981.
Bundy was well aware of how hard his life had been on the streets.
"Back in those days, they used to arrest you for public drunkenness," she said, although those arrests probably had a side benefit.
"They'd arrest you and hold for a month or so," Bundy said. Those enforced brief periods of sobriety are "what probably saved his brain," she said.
During the 17 years of drunkenness, she said, Crockett had recurring periods of sobriety, when he would get a job and an apartment.
"He was sober for nine months once," she said, "but most of the time it was two weeks."
Invariably, Crockett would relapse and be back sleeping on the streets, when there were no homeless shelters and that was a literal phrase.
Bundy said she has a picture of Crockett from his drinking days, "sitting in Lincoln Park, and he had a beard, and he was 42 and he looked a lot older."
After he stopped drinking, Bundy said, "he kept getting younger looking for quite a while."
After he married Bundy, Crockett started a painting business and also worked as a custodian for Husson College and St. Joseph's School in Portland.
Later, he worked for the city of Westbrook as a painter and the school department before retiring in 2005.
"It meant everything to him to own a home and have a job and go to work every day and have friends," she said.
Bundy said her husband was the most non-judgmental person she ever met, and passed on his outlook of tolerance and acceptance to her and to his children and step-children.
"He was very important to my children's lives because he was totally positive and supportive," she said.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: