Richard Hennessey died unexpectedly Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at Maine Medical Center in Portland following an accident at his home in Kennebunk. He was 77.

He was born on Feb. 20, 1943 in Somersworth, New Hampshire, to Ralph Hennessey, a civilian accountant at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and Vera Blinkhorn Hennessey, a Catholic school teacher, a woman Richard revered for raising him and his brothers, working full-time – correcting papers late into the night — and caring for a husband who scorned housework and possessed no driver’s license. Richard and his brothers, Vincent and Steven, referred to their mother affectionately “D.L.,” or Dragon Lady, for her blunt persona.

Richard graduated from Somersworth High School in 1961 and St. Anselm’s College in 1965, before attending The New England Institute of Anatomy and Embalming Science in Copley Square, Boston. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a medic, once being activated for six weeks to “test swimming pools in Hawaii,” an experience he recalled mostly for the arduous multi-day flight in a freezing transport plane.

Richard first came to Maine in the early 1950s, summering with his family at a carriage house owned by his aunt and uncle, sweeping tennis courts at the Kennebunk River Club and rowing passengers between the breakwaters for 10 cents a trip. Two summers later, he began a 26-year association with the storied Shawmut Inn as a busboy, a time his brother Vincent remembers as “a different era,” when young people were grateful for employment and happy to live in crowded dorms, receiving one clean sheet and $10-a-week plus tips for working seven days.

It was at the Shawmut that Richard met his future wife, Susan Gould, then 17 and working as a “relish girl” serving condiments to diners. She recalls Richard approaching her on her first night, and his saying, “Hi. I’m Richard. Welcome. Could you bring coffee to my tables?” Although they worked together for years, Susan remembers that “if you had told me then that I would marry him, I would have said you’re crazy!” They married at St. Martha’s Chapel on Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport in 1974.

When Richard moved to Kennebunkport in 1969, he initially worked for Bibber Memorial Chapel in Kennebunk before he was asked to manage the Shawmut Inn by Frank Small, who had recently inherited the hotel and found himself unable to run it successfully. When Mr. Small died in 1974, leaving the hotel with over a million dollars in debt, Richard and Susan agreed to become the new owners with Diane and Raymond Mailhot, assuming all debt. By aggressively advertising in The New York Times and Maine publications, catering to weddings and conventions, and booking bus tours, they turned the Shawmut around, employing over 120 townspeople each season, many of whom remained close to Richard throughout his life. The Hennesseys and Mailhots sold the Shawmut in 1984.

Beginning with their first trip to Rio, the Hennesseys traveled widely, touring Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, Spain, France, Scandinavia, Turkey, and Switzerland and taking the journey of a lifetime on the historic Orient Express from London to Budapest.

For 30 years, from 1974-2004, the Hennessy’s hosted large Thanksgiving feasts at their home where the headcount often exceeded 50 and where Richard’s distinct, shrieking laugh could be heard throughout the house. Many of those invited had no family or plans and people returned year after year.

Richard began collecting as a teenager. Susan remembers that “when the other boys were playing football, Richard was buying his first tall clock,” lugging it to his parents’ home from a “clock guy” – a restorer – where he had hung around after school. Richard’s collection is large and eclectic and includes French porcelain, glassware, Delftware, Imari, and he was an unforgettable figure at auctions with his white beard, faded bib overalls and flannel shirts.

His collection of Maine painters is well known; Gordon Robinson, Roger Deering, Abbott Graves, Lynne Carr, and Bruce Penney hang in every room in the Hennessys’ house, but Richard’s passion was Louis Doyle Norton (1868-1940), a Turbat’s Creek painter noted for his murals, portraits, and pastels of the waterfront and everyday life in early Kennebunkport. Richard considered him “a genius.”

Richard lived with Susan and their many rescued dogs in the 1747 Titcomb Garrison House on Old Port Road, described as “perhaps the oldest home in Kennebunk,” once part of a 2,000 acre land grant from King George II to shipbuilder Stephen Titcomb of Newbury and called a “garrison” for its Indian raid defenses. Now in the Museum of the Streets heritage trail in Kennebunk, Richard discovered the property while driving by as a For Sale sign was being hung. He bought it the same day.

Anyone familiar with “Rotten Richard” knew he cultivated a gruff façade – cooking dinner with a “big fat Manhattan” in hand, he would tell guests “if you don’t like it, throw it against the wall!” But he embraced a bighearted, Dickensian view of life, reaching across class, religion, and age – befriending artists, rabbis, dishwashers, filmmakers, handymen, scholars – were all welcomed, sat by the fire, fed well, and loyally looked after. Sick friends were brought hot dinners, loans made (and rarely repaid), work found for those down on their luck. He laughed at human foibles, especially his own, telling and retelling stories where he was often the butt of his own joke. As his brother Vincent recalls, “He lived the way he wanted to live and he was good to a lot of people.”

He is survived by his wife, Susan, his two brothers, Vincent of Kennebunkport and Steven of Dayton, their wives Mary and Cynthia and his nieces and nephews James, Katherine, Mary Ellen, Thomas, Patrick and Brian.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the AWS (Animal Welfare Society) P.O. Box 143, West Kennebunk, ME 04094 or Community Outreach Services, Inc. P.O. Box 175, Kennebunk, ME 04043.

To share a memory or leave a message of condolence, please visit Richard’s Book of Memories Page at www.bibberfuneral.com.

Arrangements are in care of Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St., Kennebunk, ME 04043. www.bibbermemorial.com.