Frank William Handlen, 106 years young, a well-known, loved, respected, and accomplished marine artist, died Thursday, May 25, 2023, at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford.

Frank was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of William George and Gertrude June (Upton) Handlen and was raised in Caldwell, New Jersey, where he began to develop his love of marine painting and married his first love, Fredricka (Fritzie) Hendershot who he met in high school. Frank was mentored by the famous marine artist, Frederick Waugh, who encouraged him to move to Maine to be closer to the sea, “where it will all be before you.” With no formal art education, Frank was an entirely self-taught artist, writer, sculptor, and craftsman who had a life-long passion for learning.

He moved to Biddeford Pool in the early-1940s where he and Fritzi raised their three children, Patty, Susan, and Paul. During his years in Biddeford Pool, he worked as a graphic artist for an advertising company in Biddeford, as a boatbuilder at Bernie Warner’s shipyard on the Kennebunk River, and as a house painter, while developing his art in his free time. He loved sailing, and while living in Biddeford Pool, he restored an Alden sloop to take his family on short sails. He demonstrated an uncanny ability to create almost anything and became known by “Poolers” as the person who could create anything for friends in need, from an emergency false tooth to a parade float.

When World War II broke out, because he was a father of two children, Frank was spared fighting in the war, but served the war effort by working in a gun factory. Ironically, when Fritzi was dying from cancer, he sadly had to watch his own son, Paul, go off to serve in Vietnam.

After Fritzi died from cancer in 1969, Frank settled in Kennebunkport. He married Mary Schephens (deceased) and devoted his life to painting and writing. During the 1970s, with his self-taught skills, that included calculus, he designed and built the 42-foot, 16-ton cement-hulled topsail schooner, Saltwind, in his sister-in-law’s (artist, Helen Schephens Kraus) backyard in Kennebunkport. The Saltwind was launched in the Kennebunk River in 1974 and remained moored there, behind his home until a few years ago.

In 1994, he was commissioned to create the heroic bronze statue, Our Forebears of the Coast, which stands on the Kennebunkport River Green. A smaller version was recently installed at Biddeford Pool, near the home where he and Fritzi raised their family.


Frank loved to tell stories of his early years growing up in Caldwell, New Jersey, and of his life in Biddeford Pool. He wrote a collection of short stories about life “on the Pool,” and several short works of fiction. He also devoted a great deal of time to writing a biography of a friend.

Frank was a Fellow of The American Society of Marine Artists for 22 years. He illustrated “Seapiece: The Story of a Maine Boy” by Will Beale and “The Story of Maine for Young Readers” by Melville Freeman and Estelle Hale Perry. His pastels, oil paintings and pen and ink drawings are extensively owned by private and corporate collectors including The Kennebunkport Historical Society, The Brick Store Museum, MBNA, Sears Roebuck and The St. Botolph Club in Boston.

Survivors include his son, Paul Handlen of Gilead, Maine, his grandsons, Paul Handlen, Jr. Aaron Michalovic, his granddaughter, Shelby Dean, and his partner of 12 years, Sharon Covens.

Visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St., Kennebunk.

Should friends desire, donations in Frank’s memory can be made to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, PO Box 7004, Cape Porpoise, ME 04014. To leave a message of condolence, please visit Frank’s Book of Memories at

Arrangements are entrusted to Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St., Kennebunk.

Comments are not available on this story.