Stephen Thomas Carleton

SOUTH PORTLAND – Stephen Thomas Carleton, 60, left this world on Sept. 12, 2019, at his residence, with the same gutsy, dogged determination and fiery spirit that he entered it with and maintained throughout his life.

He was born in Portland on May 3, 1959, the youngest of four sons of Robert and Joan Carleton. Being the youngest brother, he developed a competitiveness and drive that would sustain him throughout his life and help him through the challenges that were to come.

He attended Portland schools and graduated from Deering High School class of 1978. He developed life-long friendships with a number of classmates.

After high school, he enlisted in the Navy, hoping to become a Navy SEAL. Instead, he was assigned to submarine tender, the USS Frank Cable. Though he was disappointed, he made the best of it, and honored his three-year commitment. He was assigned to the carpentry division where he made wooden fixtures, furniture, and cabinets for the ships including the captain’s and officers’ quarters. His passion for woodworking persisted to the end. The majority of his Navy time was spent in the ports of Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, S.C., and Seattle, Wash., with a brief sojourn in Guadalcanal.

After the Navy, he returned to Maine and began commercial fishing in Casco Bay. He and the crew would be out to sea for days, only to return to sell their catch and then return to the sea. He liked to say they would only come into port to “ice up, grub up, and fuel up.” Of course, hitting the working waterfront pubs in Portland, such as Popeye’s Ice House and Ruski’s Tavern, was part of the routine. He then enrolled in The Landing School of Boat Building and Design in Kennebunk. Financial hardship caused him to leave the school early. On his first day of a new job March 7, 1983, he rode his bicycle to work. On his way home, while crossing the Million Dollar Bridge under icy conditions, he lost control of his bike, was struck from behind by a vehicle, and suffered a spinal cord injury. He completed months of rehabilitation at Maine Medical Center, attended by wonderful and caring rehabilitation staff. He would remain reliant on a wheelchair for mobility for the rest of his life.

Yet, he was determined that limitations from his injury would not define his life. Rather, it presented opportunities and challenges to explore. After a short period of disability, he became gainfully employed at the US Postal Service in Portland, where he continued working for twenty-odd years.

Steve was an accomplished wheelchair racer for years, among the top tier in the country for a time. He completed the Boston Marathon multiple times as well as a number of other marathons and shorter races across the country. After mastering one endeavor he moved on to new challenges. His pursuits included cruising with a recumbent hand-cycle, competing in triathlons, participating in adaptive downhill skiing, solo kayaking and camping, ten-pin bowling, and most recently competitive trap and skeet shooting. He was a regular presence Easy Day Bowling and more recently at the Scarborough Fish and Game Association. He enjoyed much comradery and formed enduring friendships along the way.

Steve was well-known for his quick wit, goofy jokes, and zany character. He maintained a boyish smile, dimpled cheeks, and a full mane of auburn-red hair well into older age. Although he was popular with the ladies, he never married and had no children. He preferred to remain unencumbered to pursue and perfect his many interests.

Winters were hard for Steve due to the snow, ice, and cold limiting his mobility. Twice he went on a “road trip” to Seattle, intending to take up permanent residence there. But, his love for Maine, his family, and friends drew him back each time, despite the winter weather.

Soon after his injury, Steve made a vow that he would never accept what he perceived as an invalid status, requiring excessive dependence on others to live his life. He was quite open and honest that when it came to that point, his life would end on his terms. He had been in failing health recently, and, true to his word, he intentionally ended his life on Sept. 12, 2019, crossing the finish line of this world and ready to explore what challenges lie before for him in the afterlife.

He was predeceased by his father, Robert Carleton; grandparents; an aunt, and two uncles. He is survived by his mother, Joan Carleton; brothers, Michael, Mark, and Peter Carleton and Matthew LaRiviere; as well as his uncle, aunts, and cousins in Maine, North Carolina, and California. He will be missed by his life-long fiends Mark Morris, Jeff Nordstrom, and Mark Poirier, as well as the late Rick Thayer, and many other friends including his current companions at the Scarborough Fish and Game Association.

Per his wishes, there will be no formal memorial service. In keeping with his spirit, his ashes will be dispersed by family and friends at sea on a later date.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider donations in his name to Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation, maineadaptive.org