AUGUSTA — There are a few things a person might notice about the jacket Donn Fendler was wearing when he got lost on Mount Katahdin in 1939.

First of all, it’s brown, not blue – unlike the one in the illustration of a boy who is not Fendler on the cover of “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” his account of his nine-day ordeal.

Curator Kate McBrien, at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, holds a medal of valor that Donn Fendler received from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. The museum in 2014 celebrated the 75th anniversary of  Fendler surviving on Mount Katahdin, an ordeal later chronicled in the book “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.”

Curator Kate McBrien, at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, holds a medal of valor that Donn Fendler received from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. The museum in 2014 celebrated the 75th anniversary of
Fendler surviving on Mount Katahdin, an ordeal later chronicled in the book “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.” Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Then there are the holes torn in the left sleeve, near the wrist, and at both ends of the zippered breast pocket. Perhaps the jacket ripped in those places when Fendler ran into a thorny vine on the fourth day after he got lost.

What strikes Maine State Museum curator Kate McBrien is the jacket’s size. It’s small. After all, Fendler was only 12 when he wandered off a trail as a storm set in near the summit of Katahdin.

“To see the jacket, it reminds you how young he was,” McBrien said. “And no one found him. He found his way out.”

Fendler’s jacket and other memorabilia – including a newspaper announcing he’d been found alive and a letter from former Gov. Percival Baxter calling Fendler “a very brave and plucky boy” – are on display at the museum through the end of July as part of a special exhibit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of his survival.

Fendler, now 87, still comes to Maine every summer and will make an appearance at the Maine State Museum, starting at 10:30 a.m. July 12, to talk about his experiences and sign copies of “Lost on a Mountain.”

Many Maine schools still assign the book, and Fendler visits schools and libraries every year when he returns from his part-time home in Tennessee to his camp on Sebasticook Lake in Newport.

The jacket Donn Fendler wore while lost in 1939 in Baxter State Park is on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta. This year is the 75th anniversary of Fendler surviving on Mount Katahdin, an ordeal later chronicled in the book “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.”

The jacket Donn Fendler wore while lost in 1939 in Baxter State Park is on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta. This year is the 75th anniversary of Fendler surviving on Mount Katahdin, an ordeal later chronicled in the book “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.” Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“Maine people can relate to it,” Fendler said during a phone interview from his Newport camp. “They’re self-reliant, hardy people, basically outdoors people. They know what the Maine woods are like, so reading the book or the newspaper articles, they knew exactly what I was going through. The book means an awful lot to them, apparently.”

When McBrien got in touch with Fendler, he was glad to lend some items to the museum.

Some things have been lost, such as the burlap sack that Fendler believed helped save his life because it protected him from biting insects. A similar sack takes its place in the display case.

One of the most important items is there, though: the Medal of Valor he received from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“How many people get a medal from the president of the United States, especially young people?” Fendler said. “It’s one of those things you treasure for all your life.”

Whether he deserved the honors and recognition he received for surviving, Fendler doesn’t know. Going off by himself in the fog was a dumb thing to do, he said. He attributes his survival to his faith in God, his Boy Scout training and a will to live.

A screen next to the display case shows a looping video transferred from 8 mm film shot by one of Fendler’s uncles at the camp of Nelson and Lena McMoarn, who cared for Fendler and called for help after he found his way to their property near Stacyville, emaciated and exhausted. He had walked at least 48 miles and lost 16 pounds, surviving on strawberries.

The video shows Lena McMoarn cutting a pair of her husband’s pants to fit Fendler and the boy being placed in a canoe with a doctor to be taken downstream to Grindstone, where he was reunited with his mother before being taken to a hospital in Bangor.