Joseph William Dombek

SCARBOROUGH – Joseph William Dombek, husband of beloved wife Rosanne and devoted father of Lisa, Lori, Lynn and Andrew, lifelong teacher, master gardener and skilled carpenter whose soulful and buoyant embrace of life touched many, died March 1, 2021, at the age of 87. He was a kind and generous man whose sparkling blue eyes reflected the beauty he saw in the world.

Joe was born on Nov. 20, 1933 in Houlton. He graduated in 1951 from Houlton High School and entered the U.S. Army in 1953 during the Korean War. He joined the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg N.C. and made 18 parachute jumps. He was released from the Army in 1956 with the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently served in the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve, where he earned the rank of captain before being released in 1968. He attended the University of Maine at Orono on the GI Bill and earned a B.S of general agriculture and a master of education.

He married his high school sweetheart, Rosanne Daigle, and together they raised four children. He was a biology teacher at Brewer High School, and the principal of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. As an educator, his philosophy was a simple if radical one at the time. “Give students the opportunity to make a mistake, or to do the right thing”, he explained in a 1980 interview. “Freedom and responsibility, I used to say.” To which his wife Rosanne observed: “The kids adored him”.

At GSA, Joe continued his work as a ground breaking educator, instituting such programs as a month-long independent study for juniors and seniors and industrial arts program for students who were less academic in nature, allowing them to learn skills they could apply in the trades. He expanded athletic opportunities for girls, and supported a robust arts program. Throughout the years Joe and Rosanne grew extraordinary gardens wherever they lived; acres of vegetables, herbs, perennials, fruit trees and shrubs. He never stopped tending or loving living things.

He loved long walks, shoveling snow, and playing cribbage with family at their beloved camp downeast. He loved the planet and instilled in everyone he met a reverence for its awesome beauty, especially bumblebees, old forests, hermit thrush song at dusk, and wild mushrooms.

He played a trombone in his early years, loved big band music and jazz, had a second job as a weather man while teaching biology at Brewer High School, created a sign-painting business in Blue Hill after he left GSA, and created laughter and lightness where ever he went. In retirement he worked as a tour guide at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory in Vermont, much to the delight of his grandchildren.

“Have faith in yourself,” he said in a message to his students at GSA. “You have as part of your being an internal voice that whispers to you – directing your actions along a course that will bring you a full, productive and happy life. It whispers of service to others, of self-respect, of the oneness of all people interdependent with nature. This voice is the echo of parents, teachers, friends, and those who love you and whom you love. Have faith in yourself and your ‘voice’ and your special gift will flame up to brighten the world.”

Joe is survived by his wife, Rosanne; their children and spouses, Lisa Dombek, Lynn Dombek and Donna Lawlor, Andrew Dombek and Kristina Mackulin, son-in-law Anton Gulovsen; grandchildren, Nathaniel, Ruby and Jacob; his twin brother, John, sister, Dolores and brother, Peter; and many adoring nieces and nephews. His daughter, Lori, predeceased him.

We are profoundly grateful for the kindness and care Joe received from the dedicated staff at the Veterans Home in Scarborough, whose professionalism and love were awe inspiring.

In lieu of sending flowers and in honor of Joe, please hug a health care worker, a loved one, or a tree.

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