When Steve Hirshon was walking around Portland, he couldn’t get beyond a few steps without being greeted by a passer-by.

With a flowing white beard, Hirshon often stopped to chat, his friends said.

Hirshon, 65, a political activist, community radio show disc jockey and walking encyclopedia on the subject of Portland, died in hospice care Friday night after a long illness that caught up to him only in the last few months.

“He could have a conversation with the poorest person in the world and dine with the queen and just be Steve,” said Dory Waxman of Portland, a close friend.

Hirshon had the coveted 6:30-8:30 a.m. “drive time” spot on Thursdays at the community radio station WMPG at the University of Southern Maine. His longtime show, “Hukkin’ a Chainek” – a Yiddish phrase that means making a big noise – featured a melange of musical genres, from rock to jazz, intermixed with interviews with community activists, authors, journalists and politicians. He hosted the show for more than 30 years.

Dale Robin Goodman, development director at WMPG, said Saturday that Hirshon will be greatly missed by his radio colleagues and listeners.

“I think of Steve as the mayor. I would see him walking through town. Everybody knows him and he is finding out what is important to you today. He was interested in whatever anybody had to say,” Goodman said.

Steve Hirshon shown in his Monument Square office in 2006 when he worked as a stock broker. Staff photo by John Patriquin

He owned a tobacco shop in the Old Port for a few years and tried various other endeavors before settling into a career as a stockbroker at Maine Securities. He was busily involved in community life outside of work. He was a president and longtime board member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. His oldest friends called him “Fang” after the dog on the 1960s TV show “Get Smart.”

He retired from his WMPG slot in November, hoping to pick up a half-hour afternoon talk show on the station before his health deteriorated, said his longtime friend Lorenzo Raffa, a regular on Hirshon’s show.

Raffa said the last song Hirshon played on his show was “Keep Me in Your Heart,” the last song on the last album by singer-songwriter Warren Zevon.

“I sort of got a feeling that Steve knew that the end was not far away when he played that,” Raffa said.

Hirshon had been on dialysis for close to a decade. He was hospitalized shortly after he left the show and spent the last days in hospice care. Many friends dropped by.

Ron Spinella, a fellow Bayside activist and board member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said Hirshon had his fingers on the pulse of Portland.

Every Friday for the past 15 years, Hirshon, Spinella and a group of Bayside friends would meet for breakfast at the Miss Portland Diner to talk about the issues.

“This was especially notable since his health was failing. He would do dialysis and then his morning show. He was like the Energizer Bunny,” Spinella said.

Waxman said after meeting Hirshon during a controversy over a Bayside skating rink 25 years ago, he became one of her best friends.

“He was the kindest, wisest human being that ever lived in Portland. He could bring people together and was a great listener,” Waxman said.

She said Hirshon was an only child who was orphaned by age 19. He became politically active during the Vietnam War.

He and his domestic partner, Collette Bouchard, shared a 33-year relationship. He attended the University of Houston and the University of Southern Maine. He was member of Etz Chaim Synagogue.

“We are going to have to try and figure out how to get by without Steve in our daily lives. He will always live within us,” said Waxman, a former Portland city councilor.

Cheryl Leeman, also a former city councilor, said she got to know Hirshon over their shared interest in Portland neighborhoods.

“He was just an amazingly kind, thoughtful person. Everybody who met him would agree he was genuine,” Leeman said.

She said what she admired most about Hirshon was his ability not to take political disagreements personally.

She said in recent years both she and Hirshon would lament the advent of divisiveness in Portland politics that was absent when they both became active in the community 40 years ago.

“It used to be that people came together to solve problems. We would talk about how much it had changed over the years,” Leeman said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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