John H. Reed, a potato farming boy who became Maine governor by surprise and then went on to serve an ambassadorship, is perhaps the best-known Mainer or person with close ties to the state who died during 2012.

The list includes other politicians, educators, business leaders and Mainers who achieved fame in unique ways. Frank Knight was longtime protector of New England’s tallest elm tree, actress Phyllis Thaxter was seen by millions playing her “Superman” movie role, and Bryce Bayer invented a part used in nearly every digital camera.

Reed, 91, died Oct. 31 in Washington, D.C., after an illustrious life in politics.

A Fort Fairfield native, Reed grew up in a potato farming family and served in the Navy during World War II and in the Maine Legislature from 1955 to 1959. While he was state Senate president, Reed became governor in September 1959 upon the unexpected death of Gov. Clinton Clauson. Reed was appointed in 1967 to the National Transportation Safety Board and was U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives in 1976-77.

Others who died during the year include:

Hugh Edwin Young, 94, who became University of Maine president in 1965, died Jan. 2 in Madison, Wis. Young became University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor in 1968, during the tumultuous Vietnam War era, and was dubbed “War Maker, Strike Breaker” for his harsh stance against anti-war protesters.

Rushworth Kidder, a writer and founder of the Rockport, Maine-based Institute for Global Ethics, died March 5 in Naples, Fla., at age 67. Kidder kept a home in Lincolnville.

Hattie M. Bickmore, 78, the first woman to chair the Maine Republican Party, died March 16 of lung cancer at a Scarborough hospice. A Marine Corps veteran, Bickmore was left widowed with five children when her husband drowned in a boating accident in 1967. She became active in Republican party politics and served as state party chair between 1978 and 1982. Bickmore was a delegate to several national party conventions.

Samuel Collins Jr., 88, a former Maine supreme court justice who previously served five terms in the state Senate, died March 22 at his home in Rockland. A Caribou native, he was the uncle of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. He was appointed supreme court justice in 1988 and served until his retirement in 1994. He had served leadership roles in the Senate.

Hilton Kramer, 84, the former chief art critic at The New York Times and founding editor of The New Criterion magazine, died in an assisted living facility in Harpswell on March 27.

Frank Knight, 103, of Yarmouth, whose decades-long battle to save New England’s tallest elm tree served as an inspiring tale of devotion, died May 14 in hospice care. Knight had affectionately referred to the 217-year-old elm, nicknamed Herbie, as “an old friend.” The massive tree, dying of Dutch elm disease, was cut down and wood from the tree was used to make Knight’s casket.

Joe Tiede, 84, a retired sportswriter and editor for The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., died June 22 at his home in Wilmington, N.C. A Bowdoin College graduate, Tiede launched his sportswriting career in 1955 in Bangor. He wrote for the StarNews of Wilmington, N.C., before joining The News & Observer staff in 1956.

Peter Kyros, 86, who represented Maine’s 1st Congressional District from 1967 to 1975, died July 10. The Portland native worked on war ships in Bath at the start of World War II, enlisted in the Navy in 1943, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. After leaving the Navy in 1954, Kyros earned a law degree from Harvard Law School. He served in Congress during a turbulent period that included the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

James Franklin Goodrich, 99, a former president of Bath Iron Works and undersecretary of the U.S. Navy under President Ronald Reagan, died July 16 in Falmouth. He served as president and CEO of BIW from 1965 to 1975 and became chairman in 1978. Three years later, Reagan chose him as undersecretary to rebuild a 600-ship Navy.

Phyllis Thaxter, 92, a Portland, native and actress best known for her role as Clark Kent’s adoptive mother in the 1978 film “Superman,” died Aug. 14 in Longwood, Fla. Thaxter appeared in 17 movies and also had dozens of television roles. She was the daughter of Maine Supreme Court Justice Sidney Thaxter, and her mother had been a Shakespearean actress.

Charles “Charlie” Lyons, 68, of Scarborough, president of York County Community College who also led administrations at other campuses across the state, died of cancer Aug. 22. He had served as president of the University of Maine at Augusta from 2001-06 and president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent from 1996 to 2001. Lyons also served three years as vice chancellor of the University of Maine System.

Capt. Susan Clark, 48, the first female harbor pilot for Portland Harbor, died of cancer Sept. 6. Clark had piloted more than 1,000 ships into Portland Harbor since 2001.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Henderson, 33, a Houlton native, died Oct. 1 of injuries from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. A Special Forces soldier, he was a 1997 graduate of Hodgdon High School.

Rodney Quinn, 89, a former Democratic Party activist who served as Maine secretary of state for a decade, died Oct. 27 in a Scarborough hospice. Secretary of state for five terms beginning in 1979, he was instrumental in getting Democrats elected to the Legislature and securing their majorities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Richard Spath, 89, the fifth president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent, died Nov. 6 in Portland. Spath led the university from 1971 until 1986.

Bryce Bayer, 83, of Brunswick, a retired Kodak scientist and the inventor of a widely used color filter array that bears his name, died Nov. 13. His Bayer filter was patented in 1975 and is incorporated into nearly every digital camera and camera phone, Kodak said in 2009.

Kevin Grover, 40, of Falmouth, a former Maine Teacher of the Year who taught second grade Falmouth Elementary School, died Nov. 22 after a Thanksgiving Day run while visiting relatives in Rangeley. He was the 2010 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Russell Libby, 56, a leader of the organic farming movement in the state, died of cancer Dec. 9. Libby was executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association for 17 years, growing it into the largest state-level organic association in the nation.

The Rev. James Gower, 90, a co-founder of the College of the Atlantic, died Dec. 17 in Bar Harbor. Originally proposed as Acadia Peace College, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor has only one major, human ecology. The first classes were held in 1972.

This story was edited on Dec. 31 to correct the name Hattie M. Bickmore.

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