Zebulun Carpenter Leavitt

BGORHAM – It is with profound sadness among his many adoring family and friends that we grieve the lost life of Zebulun Carpenter Leavitt, 20, who tragically died on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in a car accident in Gorham, Maine.

Zeb was born into richness and love, which shone through in his larger-than-life being and soul. He began and lived his life nurtured by three loving parents: Anne Leavitt, Denise Carpenter, and Peter Stickney. From football and wrestling to hunting and fishing to mechanics, music, spirituality and politics, Zeb was a 21st Century Renaissance man. He was impassioned with learning and sharing knowledge with others about anything and everything, having been exposed to so many of his life’s pursuits and pleasures by his parents, grandparents and relatives, teachers and friends.

Zeb grew up in Gorham and went to Cheverus High School in Portland, graduating in 2018. His freshman year in college he studied business with high honors at Washington County Community College in Calais. He then received a merit scholarship and transferred to Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where he had just finished his third semester studying Theology.

Growing up in Gorham, Zeb built strong and lasting friendships, playing basketball, riding dirt bikes, fishing, patrolling downtown on his tandem bike (often with multiple friends on board), and finding many wild adventures with the other four of the “5 Brothers,” Owen Smith, Derek Kuusela, Tanner Garand and Nolan Brown. “We loved each other and Zeb brought all of us closer together,” Derek said. Nolan remembers, “we fought and we hugged, we laughed and we cried, we did it all together bud, all us boys.”

He began his team sports career playing football in Gorham. A gifted athlete like his mother Anne, at Cheverus he was a semifinalist for the Gaziano Lineman Award, given to the top offensive and defensive lineman in Maine high school football. One of his favorite football memories was playing in the 2018 Lobster Bowl, an all-star game featuring Maine’s top seniors where he befriended many former adversaries, and with his team, the East, defeating the West. His senior year he won Male Athlete of the Year. Cheverus football coach Mike Vance described Zeb, his former team captain, as a leader who went out of his way to help others. “He was part hunter, part poet and extremely intelligent; he marched to his own beat.”

Zeb was also a star wrestler for Cheverus. When he was a freshman there was only one Cheverus wrestler, Aidan Whitis, who had to practice with the Deering team. Whitis and Cheverus coach Jason Barriault recruited Zeb onto the team. Zeb in turn recruited a number of his football friends into the Cheverus wrestling program, making it a competitive force in the state. A natural leader, Zeb became captain and won multiple awards for the wrestling team. As a junior in 2017, he won the state Class A championship heavyweight division title.

Inspired by his father Peter who taught music in southern Maine, Zeb was an outstanding natural musician. He played piano, mandolin, tuba, electric bass and percussion, and learned French horn and string bass without a lesson. He recently settled on acoustic guitar and electric bass. He played for church services and masses, and had been a member of the Down Easters Barbershop Chorus and Cheverus Jazz Band. In the summer before eighth grade Zeb toured seven European countries playing the French horn with the Sousa International Honors Band and Choir. He had a beautiful singing voice as well, which took listeners by surprise coming from someone of his physical stature.

In turn, Zeb inspired his father: “Zeb was a natural gifted artist. He had a natural artist’s eye for beauty and nature and a great sense of proportion. He knew how to set a stone wall. And Zeb LOVED his family. He had a sense of the vast domain of the Universe.”

Zeb’s love of the Maine outdoors prompted one grandfather, Nelson Leavitt, to buy him a lifetime fishing license. His early fishing escapades on the Saco River in Hollis where his grandparents, Mo and Diane (Dan) Davis lived, resulted in many colorful stories of memorable catches and mishaps, including the sinking of Papa’s canoe during an outing with his friend, Owen Smith, in which they lost not only the canoe but poles, tackle box, life jackets – every last bit of gear. Another favorite “fish story” frequently retold between Zeb and Grammie Dan involved a deer: “We were fishing together in the canoe, and a deer swam right in front of us. I was petrified it was going to capsize the canoe. Zeb was so ecstatic, my worry became fear that HE would capsize the canoe!” More recently, Zeb enjoyed summer days trolling for salmon on Sebago Lake with his friend, Tanner Garand. He was also a passionately conscientious and gifted hunter. He was particularly proud of the 13-point buck that he took in the woods of Newfield Maine; the trophy head still adorns the wall of his bedroom. Committed to using every ounce of meat from the game he took, Zeb was teaching himself the skill of field dressing, and was Grammie Dan’s supplier of venison for her famous mincemeat. He earned a Junior Maine Guide certification, and this past summer began outdoorsman training at Maine’s Outdoor Learning Center in Lincolnville, toward becoming a Registered Maine Guide.

Likewise, Zeb’s hobbies and work life involved being outdoors, where he was most at home. Like his mother Anne, a mechanical engineer, he had a natural facility for mechanics and the workings of things. He worked for his Uncle Brian’s and Aunt Stacie’s company, Leavitt Earthworks, alongside his cousin Jesse, learning to operate big machinery and enjoying after-hours camaraderie with the crew. He also worked on the family farm of his mother Denise (“Nene”) in Newfield, working the fields, baling hay on his tractor (which he began driving at age six) and recently, training his pulling steers, Salt and Pepper. Denise describes Zeb’s tireless desire to learn new things and his calmness when he worked with animals. “He had a strength greater than physical—he had a strength of character, spirit, caring, camaraderie, honor, loyalty, and integrity—a kind and gentle man.” His cousin, Mia Sendrow, remembers, “one of the things I admired most about Zeb was his ability to dream, coupled with his resolve to make his wild schemes a reality. He always seemed to be dabbling in new hobbies and pursuing his various interests, expanding his horizons all the while.”

Zeb was adored by his aunts and uncles. He had close relationships with Aunts Pam and Julie Leavitt and Uncle Peter Davis and their families throughout his life, despite them living literally in three different corners of the country. Luckily for them, as true as he was to his Mainer identity, Zeb was a fearless traveler. As a kid he flew, sometimes alone, to visit them, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Florida. “It was like receiving a bundle of atomic energy in the mail! He would arrive, fill the house with love, antics, personal sagas, political debate, adventure and naughtiness, entertain our friends, and then take off back to Maine until next time. Such a dear gift: nephew, cousin, soul.” He was equally cherished by his Uncle Paul Stickney, who says of Zeb, “He envisioned God as Love. This is something that I treasure and have great peace about.”

Above all else, Zeb was a deeply caring and empathetic human being and thinker, made evident by a tattoo on his arm of a Celtic Cross, a symbol of knowledge, strength and compassion, qualities he had in abundance. The Cheverus credo, “People for Others,” ran deep within him. His senior year he was awarded the Saint Francis Xavier Campus Ministry Award. That year he had helped lead the school’s Kairos Retreat, which focused on building community, fostering trust and openness, and encouraging reflection. The retreat had a lasting impact on his heart and soul. It sparked his passion for lively engagement and discussion, and deepened his connections with friends, both old and new. The whole Cheverus community was hugely important to Zeb, providing him with an extended family. From peers to teachers to parents, the entire Cheverus community was a loving spiritual support system for him. Most recently, Saint Joseph’s College provided him exposure to Theology in a small, tight knit group setting, and despite COVID, Zeb managed to find even more friendships there.

The last year of his too-short life was marred by the loss of his close friend Rylie. Her passing would be one of the biggest challenges of his life. For a man accustomed to the constant music of friends and family, this difficult journey was one that, because of COVID, he largely had to navigate alone. He faced his grief with a huge heart, playing his guitar and talking through his emotions with his mother, Anne.

The family of his friend Tanner spoke truth to Zeb’s incredible presence and humanity in the community: “Zeb was a fixture in many homes in Gorham. His honesty and compassion and willingness to pitch in and get dirty was appreciated and adored by the parents, brothers and sisters of his friends. Zeb was well fed wherever he went. Always sure to help with dinner dishes after a meal at a friend’s house, he earned a place in the hearts of many people and was always welcomed with open arms and a smile. He always entered a home wearing his charming demeanor and bearing gifts of laughter, warmth, and humility. Zeb’s absence from our living rooms. our kitchens, and our dining room tables will leave a gaping void in our hearts.”

His mother Anne loved and admired Zeb with all her heart. Theirs was a profoundly deep and sweet bond. “Zeb was an open book. I knew where he stood, how he felt, who he cared about. He loved to make me laugh. He told me a lot, he taught me a lot.”

Zeb was predeceased by several loving grandparents: Merle (Mo’) “Papa” Davis, Doris “Grammie Growl” Carpenter, and Connie and Don Stickney. He is survived by many who loved him and were enriched by his love and spirit for life: his mother Anne Leavitt of Gorham, his mother Denise Carpenter of Newfield, his father Peter Stickney of Newfield, his grandmother Diane Davis of Windham, his grandfather Nelson and wife Rose Leavitt of Augusta, his aunt Pam Leavitt, uncle Joe Sendrow and cousin Mia Sendrow of Redlands, CA, aunts Julie Leavitt and Maria McVarish of San Francisco, CA, uncle Peter Davis and cousin Kai Davis of Fort Myers, FL, uncle and aunt Brian and Stacie Leavitt and cousins Jesse and Kayli Leavitt of Standish, uncle and aunt Paul and Karen Stickney of Portland and his three “sister cousins” Clara, Emily and Dorothy, aunt and uncle Carole Ann and Richard Glueck and cousins Kendra and Tristan Gleuck of Winterport, aunt and uncle Susan and Russell Bushnell and cousin Holli Rachael Bushnell of Rochester, VT, aunt and uncle Betsy and David Bessey and cousins David, Christopher and Joshua Bessey of Brownville, uncle Don Stickney and cousins Everett and Donald Stickney III of Prescott, AZ, and many friends including the “5 Brothers,” Cheverus friends Christian Gilliam, Hannah Abbott and Bobby Holzhacker, and countless teammates, classmates, workmates, teachers, mentors and mentees.

In the words of his best friend, Owen Smith, “There isn’t a single day I can remember where Zeb wasn’t a good friend. His only rule in life was to love others. He believed that if you could show love in everything you do then there’s no way you could do wrong. The effect Zeb’s love and compassion has had on the lives of the people around him is so great that, even though he’s gone, it’s impossible to talk about him without it putting a smile on your face.”

We miss and love you so much dear Zeb. Fly high until we meet again.

Zeb’s family is planning a Zoom Meeting Memorial on Sunday, January 3, 2021 at 1pm. We would love to have you join us to honor Zeb and to share memories. If you wish to participate, please send your name and email address to Zeb’s Aunt Julie at [email protected] with “Zeb’s Memorial” in the subject line, and she will contact you with instructions for joining the Zoom gathering.

For anyone wishing to make a donation in celebration of Zeb’s life, Maine’s Outdoor Learning Center has established a scholarship in his memory. Here is the link:


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