Jonathan Aldrich

PORTLAND – Jonathan Aldrich, resident of Cape Elizabeth, died at the age of 84 in the early morning of Jan. 6, 2021, after suffering a stroke. Despite various health troubles in the last decade of his life, to the end he remained a stimulating, generous, and sparkling presence to those who knew him.Jonathan was born in Boston on Jan. 22, 1936, to parents Elizabeth and Bailey Aldrich. His father was a federal judge, and his great-grandfather was the author and poet Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Jonathan grew up in Cambridge, Mass. with his brother David, and spent summers throughout his life in Tenants Harbor, Maine. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. At Harvard he won the William Lloyd Garrison Prize for poetry and an Academy of American Poets Award. It was at Bread Loaf that he met his future wife, Nancy, also a poet, as well as many lifelong friends. Jonathan and Nancy were married in 1966 and were together 54 years. Following his education, Jonathan was an English teacher and principal of Argenta Friends School in British Columbia, Canada. He taught English at Elmira College, N.Y.; at Berea College in Kentucky; and for 25 years at the Maine College of Art where he was recognized with a “Best Teacher” award by faculty vote. Many of his students from all stages of his teaching career kept in permanent touch with him, and regarded him as a formative influence. Jonathan was an accomplished poet, producing more than a dozen books in the course of a 40-year writing career. His first book of poetry, Croquet Lover at the Dinner Table, was published in 1977 by the Breakthrough Books series of the University of Missouri Press. Further works include Wade’s Wait, a book-length narrative poem published by the Beloit Poetry Journal in 1985, and The Death of Michelangelo, also in 1985. He continued to write extensively after his retirement from teaching, and published eight collections of poetry between 2000-2015. His translation of Baudelaire’s Le Voyage became an award-winning collaboration with artist Allison Hildreth and printer David Wolfe. A major retrospective of his work, The Old World in his Arms, is forthcoming from the Wolfson Press at the University of Indiana.Jonathan was active in the Portland arts community, and was a trustee of the Portland Stage Company, where he worked closely with artistic directors. For decades, he and Nancy hosted periodic meetings of poets at their home in Cape Elizabeth. Another long-term and beloved institution was the bridge group with three neighborhood friends, with whom he played regular games for more than 40 years. Above all, he was a proud and loving father who supported his children unconditionally in all of their pursuits, and a deeply devoted and loving husband whose harmonious, respectful, and engaged relationship with his wife Nancy was unmistakable. His performative and sharp-witted nature, far-flung interests, and a genuine curiosity about people of all sorts gave him great insight into personalities, and made him entertaining, sympathetic, and encouraging. While possessing a sometimes impishly eccentric sense of humor, he was at heart a deeply ethical and conscientious person who took great pains to consider the perspectives of the people around him. He was a devoted friend.The family is grateful to Jonathan’s long-time primary physician Dr. Thomas McInerney as well as oncologist Dr. Kurt Ebrahim for their care and good will.Jonathan’s memory is celebrated by many, especially his wife Nancy; daughter Tess, her husband Anthony Alessandrini and their daughter Mina of Brooklyn, N.Y.; son Tom, his wife Carolyn and their daughter Junie of Amsterdam, Netherlands.Interment will be at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass. In lieu of a formal gathering at this time, the family is developing an alternative way for friends to memorialize Jonathan.Arrangements entrusted to Hobbs Funeral Home, South Portland. Online condolences may be expressed at Photo by: Mimo Gordon Riley. The organizationsJonathan himself respected could be considered aspossible recipients of donations in his memory:Population ConnectionP.O. Box 97129Washington D.C. 20090 or:The American FriendsService Committee1501 Cherry St.Philadelphia, PA 19102 or:Portland Stage Company25 Forest Ave.Portland ME 04101

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