Jon and Melinda Popham got married aboard the Melinda Ann, a former pleasure craft that Jon had converted into a lobster boat. He named it for his bride, and planned to build their future on it.

“He told me he wanted me to stay home and raise our (2-year-old) son, he was worried about making sure we had the best of everything. He loved (fishing) and he was doing well, he told me this year would be epic,” Melinda Popham said Wednesday.

The Popham family’s dream life was shattered Saturday when Jon Popham, 28, of Machiasport died after falling out of the Melinda Ann near Jonesport. Although the Coast Guard hasn’t released many details about the accident, Melinda Popham said Wednesday that her husband was apparently pulled overboard and dragged under the water when his foot got caught in the line of a 15-trap trawl. One of his sternmen, Timmy White, dove in with a knife to try to cut him free.

By the time White and the other sternman, Jesse Frisbee, had pulled Popham out of the water, he was unresponsive. His crew gave him CPR, as did a Coast Guard rescue crew. The Melinda Ann was 2 miles from Jonesport when the accident happened early Saturday afternoon.

Melinda Popham sobbed at times Wednesday while recounting the details of her husband’s death. But her mood brightened somewhat when she talked about how funny he was, how hardworking, and what deep faith in God he had. She said he would want people reading about his death to know how important his faith was.

“He always said he wanted to go out with a bang,” Melinda Popham said. “He’d be proud to know he could share his faith with people.”


Falling overboard is a common fatal accident among lobstermen, said J.J. Bartlett, president of Fishing Partnership Support Services, a Massachusetts-based fishing safety group. He said 61 percent of all lobstermen killed at work die in similar accidents. The fast-moving line, an open deck and people who are used to taking risks every day are all factors that contribute to the accidents, he said.

Melinda Popham said she was told that the boat’s two sternmen were banding lobsters and baiting traps while Popham was setting out the traps in a 15-trap trawl – 15 traps tied together with one line.

“The boat was going fast and they heard a bang, and they saw Jon go in the water, they thought he was conscious and Timmy grabbed a knife and dove in after him,” said Melinda, starting to sob. “His foot was stuck … they hauled him up … he was unresponsive.”

In Popham’s obituary, the Popham family said White “will always hold a special place in the hearts of family for jumping overboard himself to pull Jonathan from the water.”

Melinda Popham said she’s been overwhelmed by the support of family and friends, as well as from people all over the area. More than $9,000 has been raised so far on the fundraising site to help with the care of Melinda and the couple’s young son, Isaias. A college fund for Isaias also has been set up, at the Machias Savings Bank.

A memorial service for Popham is scheduled for Saturday at Machias Christian Fellowship in Machias, where the Pophams are members.


Though his family was from Machiasport, Jon Popham spent much of his childhood in Texas before returning to Machiasport as a young adult. Melinda Popham said she was working in a bank when she and Jon first met.

“He told people right away, “I’m going to marry that girl someday,’ ” Melinda recalled. The couple were married quietly, by their pastor, then renewed their vows before family and friends on the Melinda Ann.

Jon Popham was a prankster, often jumping out to startle people, for a laugh, and quickly giggling at anything funny. One time Melinda Popham’s mother asked him why he pranked her so often, and not Melinda.

“Because Melinda hits back,” Melinda recalled him saying, with a laugh.

When Popham moved back to Machiasport from Texas, he started fishing. At first he fished for lobsters in a small skiff, pulling up one trap at a time. Eventually he decided to buy his own boat, but not just any boat. He found a pleasure yacht in Connecticut that had a flat-screen TV, a living room and a kitchen. He removed the furnishings and converted it into the Melinda Ann.

When he was driving the boat back to Maine by himself, he lost power and the boat became stuck on a ledge for a while. Being stranded, alone and in the dark, made Popham think more about “a higher power” in life, his wife recalled. He had recently been to Israel with a group from their church to further explore his faith, she said.

She said he came back from the trip a changed man. But one thing that never changed was his devotion to her.

“We’d be in the truck, getting iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, and one of us would say, ‘I love you,’ ” she said.


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