Sept. 9, 1957: Maine voters approve a change to the Maine Constitution that ends the 137-year-old practice of holding statewide elections on the second Monday in September.

Instead, that voting will occur on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, just as it does in every other state.

The September date was designated originally for the benefit of farmers. Elections occurred roughly between the late-summer harvest and the early-fall harvest.

Another approved constitutional change increases the length of gubernatorial terms from two years to four and limits to two the number of terms a governor can serve consecutively. That change will be effective for the first time in the gubernatorial election of 1958.

Voters adopt both changes by more than a 3-to-2 margin.

Sept. 9, 2014: James Laurita, 56, founder of Hope Elephants, is crushed to death at his property in the Knox County town of Hope, apparently accidentally, by one of the two retired circus elephants for which he was caring.

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In this photo taken in 2012, Jim Laurita, executive director of Hope Elephants, feeds a carrot to one of the two retired circus elephants at his nonprofit rehabilitation and educational facility in Hope. Associated Press

Laurita and his brother had gotten into the circus business in the 1970s. He founded Hope Elephants in 2011 as a way to care for Rosie and Opal, which had performed in circuses for about 40 years and were suffering from a variety of physical ailments.

Laurita’s body is found inside a corral after he went in to feed the two elephants around 7 a.m.

A deputy sheriff says he thinks Laurita fell in the corral and hit his head on concrete. The state medical examiner determines later that Laurita succumbed to asphyxiation and chest compression fractures, probably because one of the elephants stepped on him.

Laurita had handled the elephants back in his circus days. After leaving the circus, he earned a veterinary degree from Cornell University, then worked at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and Wildlife Safari in Oregon. He and his family moved in the mid-1990s to Maine, where he set up a veterinary practice.

In 2011, Laurita and his brother, Tom, after winning over town officials and neighbors, founded the nonprofit Hope Elephants and brought their former charges to Hope.

Laurita cared for the elephants and provided them therapy, and the brothers made them available for schoolchildren to visit and learn more about the endangered creatures.

Animal rights groups criticized the arrangement, saying the Hope property was unsafe and that Maine doesn’t have the proper climate for elephants. A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of the premises, however, had determined that Laurita’s license was active and that Hope Elephants was complying with federal regulations.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

 

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