John Howard Gannett

CONNER, Fla. – John Howard Gannett, 100, passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 16, 2020, at his home in Florida, surrounded by the love and kindness of his caregivers, as well as his family by phone.

John was born on August 23, 1919, and spent his early childhood at 184 State Street in Augusta, Maine (the current home of the First Amendment Museum.) His parents, Anne Macomber Gannett and Guy P. Gannett moved the family to Cape Elizabeth, Maine after Guy purchased the Portland, Maine newspapers. John attended Nash School in Augusta, Waynflete School in Portland and Cape Elizabeth High School. He graduated from The Governor’s Academy (formerly Governor Dummer) in South Byfield, Mass., in 1939. He went on to Wentworth Institute in Boston for his post-secondary study in printing and machining.

The specter of war was on the horizon, and in June of 1941, John enlisted in the regular Army with the 703rd Ordinance Company at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine. He was next appointed to the Ordinance Officer Candidate School at Aberdeen, Md. His next assignment was to Avon Park Bombing Range in Florida where, on leave, he joined a group of soldiers to take the train to Tallahassee, Fla., home of Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University.) On a blind date, he met Patricia Randall of Conner, Fla. They went to see the newest sensation, an animated movie by Walt Disney titled, “Bambi.” The two were married at Avon Park, Fla., on July 5, 1943.

John was next assigned to the Royal Air Force Station Mendlesham in England. There, John supervised the arming of 50 caliber machine guns and bombs onto B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators as part of the Eighth Air Force’s strategic bombing campaign.

He was released from active duty in 1946.

John and Pat then moved home to Maine, becoming inn keepers at the Lily Bay House on Moosehead Lake. One harsh winter later, John returned to active duty at Camp Hood in Texas. He was then assigned to the 1st Ordinance Battalion in Yokohama, Japan. Now with a young daughter, the family moved to Japan for three years where they expanded their family again. He was assigned to MacArthur’s General Headquarters as executive officer of the Pacific Stars and Stripes military newspaper. The family returned to the United States in 1949, settling in Augusta. John assumed the role of general manager of Kennebec Journal printing, a division of Guy Gannett Publishing Company (where he was Vice President) which included the Portland Press Herald, the Portland Evening Express, the Portland Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Morning Sentinel along with broadcast properties WGAN and WGUY radio stations and television station WGAN, now WGME (Gannett of Maine) as well as several other radio and television stations in many other states. John received his discharge from the Army in 1950.

Now with three children, the family settled into community life. He was active in “Jaycees.” John’s creativity and interest in anything that ran on tracks, particularly trains and trollies, led him to transform the family Volkswagen bus into a trolley for a Jaycees parade. For another parade, John designed tiny lobster boat replicas to fit over garden tractors!

He was voted “Outstanding Member” of the Jaycees. In addition, John was Commodore of the Kennebec River Yacht Club. Over the years, boating on the river diminished and with only a few members left, John led the group to donate the land to the City of Augusta. It is now a city park and the Eastside Boat Landing.

After a trip to the New York Boat Show in 1959, John returned home to become a dealer for jet boats and develop Cobbossee Marina on Lake Cobbosseecontee in Manchester, Maine. The marina became the family’s home and a hub of activity on the lake, creating a community for locals, kids, and summer visitors.

In addition to his love of trains, especially “two footers,” he was a dedicated volunteer for the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Portland (where he became an official conductor) and the Maine Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. He designed and built extensive outdoor model railroads, ostensibly for his daughters.

John was a past president of the Yankee Post of the American Ordinance Association. He was also a 65-year member of the Augusta/Bethlehem Masonic Lodge, Lafayette Lodge in Readfield, Maine and Morning Star Lodge in Conner, Fla., and a member of the Kora Shrine. He was also a member of the Newcomen Society, the Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the American Red Cross, The Augusta Country Club, the Down East Yacht Club, Cobbosseeconte Yacht Club, where he was both light keeper and buoy tender, the Ocala Boat Club and Florida Live Steamers, where he and Pat traveled to “meets” around the state, hauling 7.5-gauge trains in his homemade custom train trailer, usually with an old diesel Jeep.

In retirement, John and Pat moved to Pat’s family homestead in Conner, Fla.

John loved his machines from jet boats to Jeeps and garden tractors to big rig trucks. His interest in big trucks led him to become an independent truck operator. John, Pat and Lobo, the family dog, drove long hauls of goods crisscrossing the country. After three years of trucking, John and Pat retired again.

Now, he and Pat had time to continue their interest in boating. They became active in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary where John earned many certificates and licenses. He was an instructor for many of the Auxiliary’s safe boating skills courses. He and Pat performed countless “Courtesy Marine Examinations,” reminding boaters of boating safety. In 2006, John and Pat were recognized by the Auxiliary for fifty years of service.

John was predeceased by his wife of 69 years, Patricia Randall Gannett, parents, Anne M. and Guy P. Gannett, sisters, Madeleine Gannett Gatchell and Jean Gannett Hawley and nephew, Roger Williams.

Surviving are his children, Terry Gannett Hopkins, Patterson R. Gannett and companion Marylee Sanders, Genie Gannett and husband David Quist; grandchildren, Tyler Quist, Simon Quist, Derek Gannett, and Tricia Hopkins; great-grandchildren, Kate Hopkins and Caroline Hopkins, Jezreel Quist and Hiker Quist, and Isabelle Gannett and Tommy Gannett; niece, Maddy Corson and nephews, Chip Williams and Tim Williams, and former daughter-in-law, Ann Cameron Gannett and former son-in-law, Dusty Hopkins.

A memorial gathering will be held at a later date.

Donations in John’s memory may be sent to the First Amendment Museum at

184 State Street,

Augusta, ME 04330.

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