The name W. Earle Eskilson isn’t synonymous with the Press Herald Toy Fund in the way Bruce Roberts is.

But he was there in the beginning, and he represents all the people who quietly helped bring joy to Maine children during the seven decades since then.

Eskilson, who is remembered in one of the donations listed below, has a legacy that includes many contributions to the community beyond his work with the toy fund.

W. Earle Eskilson was born in 1899 and served in the Army at the end of World War I. He served on the Portland City Council in the 1920s and again in the 1930s. During World War II, he worked at the South Portland shipyards building Liberty ship transports that carried cargo and troops across the Atlantic.

In December 1949, Eskilson’s good friend, Matthew Barron, needed some help. Barron was Portland’s assistant welfare director and he knew a lot of local families were struggling and facing a bleak holiday season. Barron asked another friend, Evening Express Editor Robert Bruce Beith, to help raise money so that no children would go without toys to unwrap at Christmas.

Beith began writing a column asking readers to donate. He wrote it under the pseudonym Bruce Roberts, his first and middle names reversed.


Eskilson jumped in to help behind the scenes as Barron led the effort to purchase and distribute the gifts. And he kept helping as the campaign turned into an annual event, although none of those involved at the time would have predicted it would still be going 72 years later.

Along with helping the toy fund, Eskilson remained a community leader for decades more. In the 1950s, he owned and operated Eskilson’s Fish Market on Congress Street at the foot of Munjoy Hill. In the ’60s and ’70s, he worked for Columbia Market, a grocery store on Brighton Avenue.

W. Earle Eskilson died in 1983. His son, Peter, has donated to the fund every year in memory of his father and his late wife, Sally Ann Eskilson.

Donations from readers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Sun Journal in Lewiston and The Times Record in Brunswick allow the toy fund to provide gifts to thousands of children in need in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties. To help, go to


Elizabeth Grobe $35
For the children, from Florence Moreau $100
In memory of a Merry Christmas. From Anne & Bob Hall $100
Merry Christmas – Cocoa & Brew $1,000
In memory of Ronald S Leeman $25
In loving memory of my wife, Sharon, and our daughter, Krista, both of whom loved Christmas, from Dad $100
In memory of Betsy French, from Mary & Lou Strnad $150
In memory of John & Pat Scanlan $100
In memory of Earle Eskilson, who worked on Bruce Roberts Fund in 1949 $50
In memory of Sally Eskilson $50
Peace on Earth! $50
In memory of Paul, who served as teacher, counselor, and father substitute $25
Robert & Mary Read $500
Anonymous $100
In memory of Bill & Raven $100
This is a donation so that every child will feel the joy of Christmas! $100
In loving memory of Tom, Gram & Papa, and Mom D – Miss you every day! Patty $200
Merry Christmas! Rusty & Sally Bennett $250
In memory of my parents & grandmother $35
For the kids! $250
In memory of Wayne & Shelby $100
In memory of Ken Cleaves and Lane Fraser, both of whom loved Christmas. From Ethel Carmolli $50
In memory of Joann & Guy Rowe, who gave us so many wonderful memories. Linda, Lisa, Miranda, & Carley $50
May all children feel the joy and magic of Christmas! $100
In memory of Jeanne Mayberry, who is a true Christmas Angel $100
In memory of our grandparents, Blanche & Joe Capelluti, from Jill & Andrew $50
In memory of Andrea & John $50
Anonymous $100
Scott Dugas Trucking & Excavating $100
For all the kids $100
In honor of Charlie $25
Anonymous $30
Nancy Keith Maki $25
For Frances $50
In honor of great nieces and nephews $100
Anonymous $50
In honor of Nathan Eloian from David and Mark $100

Catherine St Pierre $50
Robert Tweedie $75
Janet Silvers $50
Merry Christmas from my great-grandchildren – Ella, Kaeden, Parker, & Magnus. From Patricia Hussey $50
In honor of Steve & Cinda Joyce, from Patrick & Anne Gibbon $100
North Scarborough Grange $60
Anonymous $250

TOTAL TO DATE: $143,441

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