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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Islanders recall writer's summers on Chebeague

Copyright 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.


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VISITING HOURS for David Nyhan will be 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Bell-O'Dea Funeral Home in Brookline, Mass. The funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the United Parish Church in Brookline. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Thomas S. Durant Fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St., Boston, Mass., 02114.

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It took Ed Doughty a while to learn that the David Nyhan who enjoyed coffee and doughnuts at Doughty's Island Market on Chebeague Island on summer mornings was a nationally known political writer who was on familiar terms with senators and presidents.

"He would come in and chat and just be a regular guy," Doughty said of Nyhan, who over the years became not just his customer but a close friend. "He was one of those Chebeaguers that we welcome."

Donna Damon, an islander who represents Chebeague on the Cumberland Town Council, said the man who readers of The Boston Globe knew as a reporter and columnist, "Chebeaguers knew as our friend."

Nyhan, 64, died of an apparent heart attack on Sunday after shoveling snow at his home in Brookline, Mass. He retired from the Globe in 2001 after 32 years but continued to write for the Eagle-Tribune Co. His words, known for their liberal stance, influenced local, state and national politics. His eulogy on Friday will be delivered by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Doughty said Nyhan didn't dwell on his career or politics during his nearly two decades of summer sojourns on Chebeague, the Casco Bay island that he came to love. "I think he used Chebeague to get away from that," Doughty said.

Damon said a memorial service for Nyhan will be held on the island this spring, but no date has been set.

Although Nyhan was unassuming about his accomplishments, he stood out on Chebeague. A gregarious man at 6 feet 4 inches tall, Nyhan was "warm, generous, sincere, unpretentious, witty and loyal," Damon said.

She said the "towering Irishman with a twinkle in his eye" forged a special bond with everyone in her family, from her elderly father to her husband to her young son, and was "as comfortable talking with fishermen as he was with U.S. senators."

"He was the real deal," Damon said.

Nyhan's brother, Christopher Nyhan, a Portland attorney, said that in the early 1980s, he and his wife had a cottage on Chebeague that David and his wife and children visited in the summer.

In the late 1980s, Christopher said, David and his wife bought their own cottage. In the summer they became an integral part of life on the island, which has a year-round population of about 350 and about 1,500 residents in the summer.

"One of his favorite things was taking the trash to the dump and stopping at Doughty's market and picking up a bear claw and the (New York) Times and the Globe, and he was as happy as a clam," Christopher Nyhan said.

David Nyhan loved sailing and the time he spent at the Chebeague Island Boat Yard with owners Hartley and Dianne Brewer. "He was always tinkering with his boat and fixing something or other," Dianne Brewer said. "I'm going to miss that 'Afternoon, Mrs. Brewer' and the tip of the hat."

Nyhan gave generously of himself, Damon said. He taught island children to sail and was a friend to her father, who died three years ago at age 91. For years he also was a best buddy and mentor to her son, now 18.

Doughty said Nyhan was always bringing him collector's items he knew he'd enjoy, such as old Red Sox jerseys.

Damon said that one islander gave Nyhan a rare tribute by saying: "If all summer people could be like David Nyhan, there would be no more summer complaint jokes."

Staff Writer Tess Nacelewicz can be contacted at 791-6367 or at:

Reader Comments
Do you have any stories to share about David Nyhan and his time in Maine?

Barbara Hamilton of Chebeague Island, ME
Jan 28, 2005 8:02 PM
Last summer I had the opportunity to talk with David and his brother when they came to the Chebeague Island Golf Club to golf for the day. They were very outgoing and looked forward to their time together on the golf course. He was a very nice and intelligent man. He surely will be missed on the island!

tom calder of chebeague island, me
Jan 28, 2005 12:43 PM
it didnt matter if you were a high roller or a street sweeper,david had time for everyone,with a smile and a joke or two,ill miss him on the island

Laurie Wood of No Yarmouth, ME
Jan 28, 2005 5:10 AM
David became our neighbor on Carter's Point a few years before my father died. The two hit it off immediately. There was certainly a physical resemblance and they found pretty quickly that there was a political and intellectual alliance as well. David began to spend summer evenings on our front porch sharing stories and laughs with my father. They were men of a perhaps bygone breed. As my father would say, "he was a stand-up guy." We will miss him.

David Hill of Chebeague Island, ME
Jan 27, 2005 9:51 PM
I wish I had known David better. I was certainly grateful when he towed my sick golf cart home one day. What a loss for all who knew and loved him.

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