Robert Ridgewell surely had saltwater pumping through his veins.

A salty lobsterman from Phippsburg, Mr. Ridgewell was 10 when he began fishing on his father’s boat in Portland. He lobstered during the summers and fished during winters. And for the next 64 years, he dedicated his life to doing what he loved – fishing.

He died unexpectedly on May 2. He was 74.

“He was a fisherman,” said a soft-spoken Laura Ridgewell, his wife of 50 years. “He was always at sea. It’s where he was happiest.”

Mr. Ridgewell fished and captained numerous fishing boats throughout his life. In his early years, he worked for Jed Bartlett Lobstering & Trawling, and later became captain of the fishing vessel Molly and Jayne. He later bought and captained the April Gayle and took it offshore, dragging and swordfishing on Georges Bank. He also captained numerous fishing boats in Portland, including the American Eagle, Edward L. Moore and the Robert & Michael.

Around the late 1980s, Mr. Ridgewell bought a lobster boat and 1,200 traps. He and named it My Son in honor of his late son, Robert “Bobby” Ridgewell Jr., who died Oct. 17, 1987, from injuries suffered in a car accident.

Soon thereafter, he fulfilled his son’s dream to fish in the Bering Sea in Alaska. He went there in January and rigged a boat to go fishing. He stayed for several months before returning home.

“His whole life was his son,” his wife said. “He put his all into whatever he did. He was all the way. … After Alaska, he focused on lobstering.”

Mr. Ridgewell lobstered until three days before he died. He set traps across the Small Point Harbor area.

“He loved everything about fishing,” his wife said. “He loved the peace, the quiet, being close to God, and close to his fellow man because they were all out there.”

Though Mr. Ridgewell spent much of his time at sea, family was always first on his mind.

On Tuesday, his wife spoke with great emotion about the life they shared together. She reminisced about their trips to Moosehead Lake to ice-fish. She fished, too.

“I went with him sometimes,” she said. “Once he fell and broke his leg. I went with him and pulled the traps alone. … We’ve had the best life. When we were together, we were like one.”

Mr. Ridgewell was also remembered for his love of community. He was known for his generosity and compassion toward others. Friends say he took care of the crews who worked on his boats. His wife said he once bought a bike and a pair of boots for a boy on the wharf.

“His heart was Jello,” his wife said. “He was very generous. Early on, someone took care of him. He felt like he had to take care of the world.”

A few days before he died, Mr. Ridgewell came home from fishing with a bad cold.

On May 2, he collapsed in his bathroom. His wife believes he may have suffered a heart attack. He previously had three heart surgeries. She spoke tearfully about their last moments together and a future without him.

“I told him I loved him and that I would be with him forever,” she said. “I don’t know how I can live without him. I don’t know what to do. … I made a life around him when he was gone. When he got back, we were together. I hardly went anywhere without him. I have nothing to move forward for now. I have nothing without him.”

Mr. Ridgewell’s memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Small Point Baptist Church in Phippsburg.


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