Yarmouth’s Gibson Harnett pitches against Gray-New Gloucester during a game in May 2017. Later that spring, Harnett led the Clippers to the Class B state title, pitching a 3-0 two-hit shutout against Old Town in the championship game. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Gibson Harnett was known as the most competitive guy in the room.

At Yarmouth High, where he graduated in 2017, he was a three-sport standout, helping the Clippers win state championships in soccer as a junior and senior, and capping his senior year by pitching a 3-0 two-hit shutout to win the Class B baseball championship.

Gibson Harnett

But his personal drive was balanced by his loyalty to friends and a keen interest in the well-being of others.

“He expected people to be as competitive as he was and to behave in a certain way, and he would hold people to that standard, but once you did that and figured that out you would have a friend for life,” said Chris Romano, his longtime friend and teammate on the high school soccer and baseball teams.

Last May, while living and working in New York City, Harnett was diagnosed with late-stage clear-cell sarcoma, a rare, incurable cancer.

Harnett died Thursday morning at Maine Medical Center in Portland, his family said. He was 24.


For the past week former teammates, friends and family packed the hospital’s visitation areas to be with Harnett and each other, several flying to Maine from across the country.

“As earth-shattering as it is to have a 24-year-old die, he died surrounded by a lot of love, and friends, and great memories,” said his father, Kendall Harnett.

Romano said it was a testament to Harnett’s friendship that so many people wanted to be near him.

“He was toward the tail end of his energy and all of a sudden he brought everyone into the room with him and was cracking jokes and talking specific memories and references and trying to make light of the situation as much as possible,” Romano said. “Which I think we could all agree was such a blessing. To get the real, true Gib one more time.”

Memorial services for Harnett are pending.



Harnett grew up in Yarmouth with his parents Kendall and Deanna Harnett and his younger sister Parker, 20, a junior at Williams College.

Yarmouth High baseball coach Marc Halstead says of Gibson Harnett, above: “The kid was just flat-out tougher than the next guy.” Courtesy of Kendall Harnett

As Harnett was battling through multiple treatment stages at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York he often took the time to check-in on other people, said Marc Halstead, his baseball coach at Yarmouth.

In one of their frequent calls, Halstead shared how his own son was having a tough fall sports season as a travel-team hockey goalie. Before long, Harnett was calling Halstead’s son offering counsel and encouragement on how to manage the pressures and expectations of competitive sports.

“If you were to talk to the kids from Greely, Cape Elizabeth, York who competed against Gibson in high school, they probably didn’t like him very much because he was so competitive,” Halstead said. “But he was the 24-year-old guy who had cancer who was calling my son to check in on my 13-year-old’s travel hockey life. That’s compassion. That’s empathy.”

Harnett was a good athlete and a captain in basketball and baseball. But it was his ability to harness his competitive fire that was his greatest asset.

“Gibson was 5-foot-11 and threw 78 miles an hour,” Halstead said. He had no measurable (athletic traits) that jumped off paper. But he leads his soccer team to a state title as a senior, they probably win in basketball if he doesn’t get a gash to his head early in the regional final and can’t play the rest of the game, and then wins baseball. It was a spectacular senior season for a captain and leader who was not a 6-foot-3, Division I scholarship type kid.”


In the baseball tournament, Yarmouth entered as the No. 9 seed. Harnett pitched three complete-game victories, beating Leavitt in the preliminary round, 8-1, then shutting out rival Cape Elizabeth, 2-0, in the regional semifinals and defending state champion Old Town in the championship game. The only run he allowed was unearned in the first inning against Leavitt.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years and I don’t remember anybody (at Yarmouth) throwing 20 consecutive scoreless innings and he does it in the playoffs,” Halstead said. “He knew how to pitch, but the kid was just flat-out tougher than the next guy.”

Harnett was named to the Maine Sunday Telegram All-State baseball team and was chosen as The Forecaster’s Yarmouth Spring Male Athlete of the Year.

Halstead said Yarmouth baseball will “find a really good and appropriate way to honor Gibson.”


At the University of Connecticut, Harnett earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing with a concentration on digital marketing and analytics, while pitching for the club baseball team. He also met his loving and supportive girlfriend, Izzy Gillis. Harnett was employed at FEVO, a start-up software company based in New York City with a focus on entertainment ticket sales.


Gibson Harnett and his family established a venture called Time to Compete to raise money and help build support teams for young adults who have been diagnosed with debilitating illnesses. Courtesy of Kendall Harnett

In the final months of his life, Harnett and his family established a venture called Time to Compete to raise money and help build support teams for young adults who have been diagnosed with debilitating illnesses. Time to Compete launched its website in December and has filed for not-for-profit charity status.

“It was really important for him to create some sort of legacy,” Kendall Harnett said. “It’s important for us to keep this going. It’s work that we want to do. It’s hard to think about it right now, but it’s not something we want to let go.”

Harnett wrote about his own situation on the Time to Compete home page, detailing how he had gone for an MRI on his 24th birthday last May. He thought he had suffered a groin injury in a pickup basketball game.

The next day, when the test results were posted to his patient portal, Harnett read the dreaded word: cancer.

Tina Pettengill said her nephew seldom expressed anger or dismay about his diagnosis and avoided asking “Why me?”

“He didn’t spend a lot of time asking that question. He wanted to fight it and continue to make memories and be around family and friends,” Pettengill said. “That was a gift to us. He gave us a lot of gifts along the way, including how to handle this.”

In September, Harnett posted a message on his Instagram page to give friends an update. Written with a wry sense of humor and conversational style, he detailed that while immunotherapy had shrunk some tumors, new ones had formed. There was a tumor on his spine. Next-step treatment options were limited. Still, he said he was feeling hopeful and grateful.

“I am so lucky to have the best friends, an amazing family, financial security, and the best community I could ask for,” Harnett wrote. “I don’t post this looking for sympathy, but the way you beat cancer is with an army and every single one of you is part of my battle.

“We continue to compete. There is really nothing else we can do. Love you all. Time to compete.”

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