Randee Jo Bucknell was a passionate political activist, who fought tirelessly for social justice causes and made a difference in the community.

Bucknell advocated for Portland’s homeless and hungry during her years as a volunteer at Preble Street Soup Kitchen. She gave love and shelter to foster dogs for many years. She gave a voice to strengthen policies on women’s rights, gay rights and the environment.

Bucknell, whose energy and fierce determination inspired many, committed suicide at her home on Oct. 4. She was 48.

On Friday, her family and friends talked openly about her life. They still struggle to understand why she ended it.

Bucknell spent much of her childhood in South Portland. When she was 12, she went to live in Millinocket, where she attended Stearns High School, but never graduated. She later earned her GED.

Her sister Beth Davis of South Portland described her as a free spirit and independent thinker, who directed her energy to supporting causes she believed in.

“She led a very inspiring life and a lot of people looked up to her for that,” Davis said.

Bucknell lived in Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood. She was a loving mother to daughters Shelby Groetzinger, 27, of Standish and Edith May Bucknell, 17, of Portland.

Groetzinger described her mother as generous, open and engaged in people’s lives. She said her mother was a volunteer in the soup kitchen at Preble Street for about seven years. On weekends, Groetzinger and her sister would volunteer with her.

“She ran the kitchen and made lots of meals. She enjoyed interacting with people,” her daughter said. “It made me look up to her. It’s something she instilled in Edie and I.”

She also got involved in politics. Bucknell, an independent, served as manager for the Children’s Environmental Health Campaign. For many years, she volunteered at the polls on election day.

Longtime friend Andy Verzosa said she educated herself about issues and wasn’t shy about expressing her opinion.

“She rallied up in (Monument) square, and held signs and demonstrated,” Verzosa said. “She had her opinions about various political things. She put her feet into action. She was there.”

Groetzinger was quick to say her mother wasn’t perfect. As a single mother, Bucknell sometimes struggled to find steady work, pay her bills and put food on their table. But Bucknell was a survivor.

“She taught us how to be thrifty and crafty and to do things for ourselves,” her daughter said. “She would say, ‘We don’t need a man to do that.’ We figured it out for ourselves. We would forage food. We would berry pick, garden and go fiddle-heading.”

Bucknell introduced her children to music and the arts and brought them to galleries and cultural events.

“She would beat herself up when she didn’t quite meet her own standards as a mother,” Groetzinger said. “It was more than enough. Just the fact that she wanted the best things in life for us was enough. There wasn’t a moment Edie or I ever second-guessed my mother’s love for us.”

At the time of Bucknell’s passing, she was an office manager at Electrical Maintenance and Installation in Portland.

In recent years, she struggled with some health issues and her mental health.

Bucknell left a 20-minute video, but Groetzinger hasn’t watched it.

“I think she had so much passion for the world that it was overwhelming for her,” her daughter said.

“I’ll miss her love more than anything,” Groetzinger said. “That was one thing she was great at – showing how much she loved everyone around her. She had a lot of love to spread around. I just don’t think she had a lot of love for herself.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

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