Robert “Bob” McCarthy, age 83, renowned King of the Southport Daylilies, died Friday while in Hospice in Rockport, with his beloved family and his dear golden retriever Penny close at hand. Bob was not a native Mainer, but as the saying goes, but he got there as fast as he could. Born in Orange, New Jersey to William and Marian McCarthy, he attended school in New Jersey. He married his sweetheart, the lovely Carole Jean Weisel, in 1959, and together, they set about starting a family and building what was to be a prosperous, lifelong career in the insurance business. But like many, Bob was a man not defined by how he made his living, but how he made his life. Insurance was his business, but his life was the waters and gardens of Southport.
Bob & Carole discovered Southport in 1964. Every year thereafter, though Bob’s work had them living in Canada, California, and Texas, they would load up the family station wagon, stuff the whining kids inside, and set out on the long trek to spend weeks of the summer in Maine. Their three kids became grandmasters of the old-school “License Plate Game.” In the early 80’s they found the plot of land that they would call their own. Subsequent vacations included bouts with the chainsaw and clearing the land, work with the builder, and watching their dream take shape. Finally, in 1986, with the kids out of the nest, they made it official: they moved to Maine to start all over, and they put Dallas, Texas in their rearview mirror.
It was on the rough, rocky shoreline of their home overlooking Pratt’s Island that Bob’s love of daylilies took root. Each passing year would bring a new planting bed: at first, up by the house, and as time went on the new beds crept further and further down toward the sea, each springtime bloom season more spectacular than the last. He kept a log of all his different cultivars, a collection which grew to over 200 different varieties, each with little signs marking their common and Latin names, with their bloom seasons – spring, summer or fall -- choreographed for maximum effect. Many people in the Boothbay Region have lilies from the McCarthy garden, his proudest legacy.
Bob was always the biggest personality in the room; he was a man of big opinions, big tales, and a big, hearty laugh. He was always quick with a story, a joke (the bawdier the better), or a refill of your glass of wine. He and Carole loved to entertain, and their Southport home soon became the favorite vacation spot for family and friends. He soon acquired a yacht (“Don’t tell people it’s a ‘yacht.’”), which he named after his favorite comic, The Far Side.
He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Carole; his beloved sister-in-law-turned-mother, family matriarch Bernice Dolen, age 94, his best friend and golden retriever Penny; his three children, Michael, Kevin, and Kathleen; and his three grandchildren, Colin, Colleen, and Ryan.
In lieu of flowers (we have plenty!), we encourage you to go deadhead your lilies. And if you don’t have any, order some from Oakes Daylilies in Tennessee, 8153 Monday Road, Corryton, TN 37721 (www.oakesdaylilies.com); he would have wanted you to. Donations in Bob McCarthy’s memory may be made to The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Drive, Boothbay, Maine 04537 (www.mainegardens.org) or The American Diabetes Association, 45 Forest Avenue, Portland, Maine 04101 (www.diabetes.org).
Arrangements are entrusted to Hall Funeral Home and Tribute Center, 975 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, Maine.