The Valentine’s Day Phantom strikes at the Portland Public Library in 2020. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Kevin Fahrman “was a big, big person,” said his wife, Patti Urban, on Sunday. “Big in stature. Big in love.”

He had many talents, according to those who knew him. He was a photographer, a graphic artist, a teacher. But there was something else about Fahrman, something most people didn’t know, that Urban says he deserves to be remembered for now.

He was for decades the “driving force” behind Portland’s Valentine’s Day Phantom effort, she said, leading the group that secretly plastered hearts throughout the city every Feb. 14.

Kevin Fahrman, 67, of Falmouth, died Friday. Fahrman was the driving force behind the Valentine’s Day hearts spread across Portland every Feb. 14. Submitted by Patti Urban

Fahrman, who died Friday at 67, took over the annual tradition from someone else in 1979, Urban said, and it became a community effort.

For years, the group has taped hundreds of red paper hearts on storefronts and notable landmarks throughout downtown Portland for the city to wake up to on Valentine’s Day morning.

A large red heart canvas was even hoisted onto Fort Gorges in Casco Bay.


Several of Fahrman’s friends said Sunday they were surprised to learn of his role in the tradition.

“I never knew,” said Mark Robinson, of Biddeford. “I was his friend for 35 years, and we never knew.”

When he was passionate about something, he was tireless, Urban said.

Through the years she cringed as she heard tales of how he went out to Casco Bay in a boat, in the middle of the night “with no running lights to get the heart on Fort Gorges.”

While the hearts spread much joy, Urban said she was a Valentine’s Day widow because Fahrman was too exhausted to celebrate.

“Kevin’s simple yet powerful gesture brought joy and love to the community, reminding us all to cherish our loved ones and treasure the place we call home,” his obituary reads, adding that “yes, the tradition will continue.”


Fahrman and Urban met in 1999 after going out with friends. “They grabbed each of us and said, ‘You’re both newly single. You should meet,'” Urban said with a chuckle. “That was it.”

They married when they had a daughter in 2005. Urban had two children from a previous marriage. “They were like his children,” she said.

Patti Urban says she cringed as she heard tales of how her husband went out to Casco Bay in a boat, in the middle of the night “with no running lights to get the heart on Fort Gorges.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“He had the biggest heart,” Urban said. “He loves everyone. He always worried about what other people wanted and needed.”

Fahrman often took portraits of people who could not afford to pay, and he photographed children who had a serious illness, some who were terminal, she said. “He was a giver.”

Michael McAllister, the executive director at SailMaine, spent hours on the ocean with Fahrman. SailMaine is a nonprofit community sailing center in Portland that provides affordable access to the ocean. Fahrman’s daughter is involved in sailing, and he donated hours taking photos of kids sailing.

“He wanted to share experiences all the kids were having. He just gave a lot,” McAllister said. “We’re all heartbroken about his passing.”


Fahrman was born in New York and moved to Connecticut when he was in the eighth grade. He came to Maine as a college student when he attended the University of Maine to study forestry, which he didn’t pursue, his wife said. He came to Portland and enrolled at the Portland School of Art.

He is survived by his wife, his daughters, Sierra Fahrman and Kelly Franklin, his son, Colin Franklin, and a brother, Brian Fahrman.

There will be a celebration of life from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the Portland Yacht Club in Falmouth. The celebration will not be able to accommodate everyone, but it will be live streamed, his wife said.

There will be tears, laughter and music. Fahrman’s friends will play their guitars.

Staff Writer Ed Murphy contributed to this story.

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