While it was Art Lester’s voice that made him a favorite of weather enthusiasts across the Northeast, it was his personality, affable and aware of what was important, that people will miss.

Lester, of Raymond, the longtime voice of the National Weather Service’s radio broadcasts, drowned Aug. 7 as he swam near his boat in Sebago Lake. Divers from the Maine Warden Service found his body at around 11:30 a.m.

Quick of mind and of wit, the Lester, who was 63, leaves behind friends, family and coworkers who will miss his unique outlook on life and his easygoing manner. They gathered to honor Lester Saturday at Bray’s Brew Pub in Naples.

“He was the kindest person that you would ever know,” said Lester’s sister, Lindsay Brooks of Virginia Beach, Va., where Lester grew up. “He just could see the good in people.”

After a stint in the Air Force, Lester joined the National Weather Service in 1971 and spent the next 10 years working in places like Barrow, Alaska and Winnemucca, Nev. In the early 1980s he joined the crew in the Portland office, which moved to Gray a few years later. In all, Lester, a hydro-meteorological technician whose duties included releasing weather balloons twice a day, spent 27 years forecasting the weather in southern Maine.

The loss of Lester was felt particularly hard at the Weather Service office in Gray, where employees work irregular shifts throughout the day to gather weather data and discern patterns.

“When you are in that kind of environment and you are working all kinds of strange hours, you form a close bond,” said Al Wheeler, a meteorologist and colleague. Lester, he said, was the perfect antidote to the stress of a hard day’s work, and was the go-to guy for explaining complex meteorological issues to the public.

“He was very personable, very well-liked,” said Wheeler. “He was very good with helping people that had questions on weather data, and he was also always good for a quote in the newspaper.”

Just after Lester came to southern Maine, the Weather Service began broadcasting staff-recorded radio forecasts. From then until the late 1990s, when computer-generated broadcasts came into use, Lester’s was heard frequently over the radio letting people know about the next rainfall or blizzard.

“When we did go to the automated voice, a lot of people complained,” said Wheeler. “One of the people they missed most was Art.”

Three weeks ago, Lester joked about the situation.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve been replaced by a computer,” he said with a laugh.

Despite Lester’s laid-back personality, he was very serious about the weather and his work, his sister said. He loved gathering the information and making forecasts, even though he would hear it from his friends when his predictions were off.

“Everyone razzed him about unreliable weather forecasts,” said Brooks with a laugh. “But he took it in stride, even when he would miss a late season blizzard.”

Lester also thought the world of his coworkers, she said, and would always volunteer to work Christmas so that others could go enjoy the holiday.

“He loved the Weather Service and he loved the job,” Brooks said. “He would never be late because he knew he was replacing somebody who wanted to go home.”

Lester is survived by, among others, his son Jeremy Lester of Naples, a local musician, his daughter Jennifer Moore of Smithfield, Va., and Lois Chase of Cape Elizabeth, described by family as “the love of his life.”

Art Lester of Raymond, shown here sailing near the Spanish island of Majorca, drowned last week in Sebago Lake at the age of 63. Lester, a well-known employee of the National Weather Service in Gray, was remembered by friends as full of life and quick with a joke.


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