Matthew Barron and Robert Beith were leaders of the Portland community, serious men with big, important jobs.

Matthew Barron

Barron, a graduate of Cheverus High School in Portland, started his career working in the city’s welfare department in 1934 and worked his way up to become director in 1950. He also was named head of Portland’s City Hospital, which he and his wife, Evelyn, a registered nurse, transformed into a modern nursing care institution for the elderly and handicapped. The Brighton Avenue facility was eventually renamed the “Matthew I. and Evelyn A. Barron Center.”

After Barron retired, he served on the City Council, including as mayor.

Beith started his career as a reporter at the Portland Evening Express and worked his way up to become executive editor of that newspaper and ultimately the publisher of Guy Gannett Publishing Co., which also included the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal in Augusta and Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

He also worked with the state education department to introduce newspapers as a teaching tool in Maine classrooms and was a leader of the effort that resulted in freedom of information legislation that made government more transparent to all Maine citizens.

But what has become one of their best-known legacies grew out of a simple little idea the two friends conjured up in the difficult winter of 1949.


Barron and Beith decided that Beith – who wrote a newspaper column under the name Bruce Roberts – would use his column to ask readers for donations and Barron would use the money to buy toys for needy children who might otherwise go without holiday gifts.

Robert B. Beith

It worked, beyond their expectations. A new charity was born, and both men continued leading the annual effort even as they moved into bigger and bigger professional roles.

What is now officially called the Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts outlived both men. Barron died in 1980 and Beith died in 1990.

Each year, the founders are remembered in donations made in their names to the Toy Fund, including from family members who saw first hand their devotion to the children served by the Toy Fund.

It’s something his family is proud to be connected with, said Anthony Donovan, a nephew of Matthew Barron who made a donation in his memory this year. “He was a big figure in our family,” Donovan said of Barron. “Bigger than life.”

Before he died, Beith credited Barron with understanding not only the need for the charity, but also the community’s desire to help.


“Matt Barron always said that the people of the area would never fail the fund drive,” Beith said.

And newspaper readers continue to prove him right.


From Mamie & Grampy $100
In honor of our grandchildren – Margaret, Jane, Charlie & Ella $150
Barbara Gorman $4,000
In memory of Pearl & Edmund Conley, Norman & Alda Roy. Merry Christmas! JoAnne & David Roy $50
Leslie & Edward Garber $100
The staff at Sevee & Maher Engineers Inc. $1,085
In memory of our parents – Nathan & Ruth Sullivan and George & Anna Gellerson. Love always, Pete & Deb $100
Anonymous $100
Ronald & Barbara Boes $200
In memory of my mom, Ruth Hamm, who donated every year. Miss her so much. Love, Mary Turner $150
In loving memory of Uncle Bob, from the Miller family $75
Dawn Libby $100
In memory of our parents, Ethel & Witold Kocieko. Love always, Tom & Me $25
In memory of our 3 German Shepherds – Szarik, Missy and Abby. They loved Christmas and us! $25
In loving memory of my parents, Virginia & Roger Vaughan, and my siblings Roger Jr. & Marjorie Vaughan, from Vesta Vaughan Rand $50
In loving memory of our son and brother, Timothy Durant, from Jim & Jackie Durant $100
First choice is $100 for pencil boxes, in memory of Marie $100
Anonymous $1,000
Anthony DeBruyn $250
In memory of Diney, who loved Christmas. We miss you. $100
In memory of Bob Joyce, Michael Joyce and John DeCosta. From Tari & Ron Joyce $250
Lynne Russell-Johnson $50
In memory of Barbara Jenna $25
Anonymous $25
Anonymous $100
In memory of Mom & Dad, who made Christmas special $100
In memory of the Lachance children $150
In loving memory of Sam Tucker, from “el Presidente” $200
In loving memory of Mum, Laurie D. $200
In memory of Herbert H. Fricke $125
Thomas Hickey $50
Edmund McCann $50
In memory of Bill Smith, who worked evenings for the Toy Fund about 29 years ago $100
In loving memory of my brother Woody, from Jerri $200
Merry Christmas! Rusty & Sally Bennett $100
In memory of our grandparents Blanche & Joe Capelluti, from Jill & Andrew $50
McCormick & Bouchard Eye Care $250
Anonymous $500
Ray & Arlyss Becker $200
In loving memory of Dorothy Legassie Miller & Bob Miller, from the family $350
Anonymous $300

TOTAL TO DATE: $170,081.49


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