Minor Rootes’ passion for theater knew no bounds. He taught it, acted in films, designed sets and worked as a union stagehand lugging amplifiers at rock concerts when he was nearing 70.

It should surprise no one then, that in one of his final acts on earth, he gave a monologue.

Rootes, a longtime University of Southern Maine theater professor who died Saturday at age 86, took the unusual step of writing his own obituary in the first-person. Instead of the usual listing of birthplace, schools, jobs and hobbies, Rootes’ obituary reads like an oration he intended to present to all the people who shared, and affected, his life.

“During my 86 years of life, I look back with few regrets though I know I have some forgotten apologies to bestow on people I have slighted. Please accept,” he wrote as part of the opening.

Minor Rootes, a longtime USM theater professor who died Saturday, wrote in his obituary that his students “have really been the ones who educated me.” Courtesy Rootes family

Rootes, who lived in Gorham, went on to ponder the historic events he saw during his life, from the Great Depression and World War II to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the election of a black president, Barack Obama.

He devoted most of the obituary to recognizing the people who had the greatest impact on him, including his students (“They have really been the ones who educated me”), his mother, his first wife, his second wife, several co-workers, and the doctors and nurses at Mercy Hospital “for keeping me alive an extra decade.”


Maria Antonieta Rootes said Monday that her husband wanted very much to say his own goodbyes. And he wanted to do it in a personal way.

“His whole life was dedicated to people, so before going away he needed to say goodbye,” she said. “He taught, so he wanted to talk to people, to communicate. That was important to him.”

People who knew Rootes said Monday that the first-person obituary, thanking and recognizing so many people, was in keeping with his warm and generous personality. And it might have been a function of how much time he had to think about what was important to him during a 10-year struggle with cancer.

“Not all of us have the opportunity to think about that, about life ending, and I think he became very reflective,” said Thomas Power, 76, a retired USM theater professor who worked with Rootes. “It reads like a letter, to all of us, to all the people who were important to him.”

In the obituary, Rootes thanks Power and another theater professor, Bill Steele, “for never allowing me to take myself too seriously.”

But Rootes took other people seriously, and appreciated them in a serious way.


“That (obituary) is Minor dead on, the way he’s thanking everyone,” said Christenia Alden-Kinne, who worked with Rootes at USM for 40 years. “If you want to find out about him, where he was born, it’s not in there.”

Although first-person obituaries do pop up from time to time in newspapers around the country, they appear to be rare in Maine.

Directors at two Greater Portland funeral homes – Adam Walker of Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Homes in Portland and South Portland, and Mike Frechette of Hobbs Funeral Home in Scarborough and South Portland – said Monday they couldn’t recall another first-person obituary written by the deceased. But both said it has become somewhat common over the past decade or so for people to write their own obituaries. It’s part of a national trend that’s seen obituaries become more personal, funny and frank, and far less formal.

In 2014, USA Today described the “selfie” trend in obituaries and listed several examples from around the country of people writing their own obituaries, including in the first-person. Legacy.com, an online memorial site, also features first-person obits.

“People are living longer, and we see elderly people who want to write down what their lives were about,” Frechette said. “They write them partly so their kids will have something to work with.”

Rootes grew up in Southern California. He came to Maine to teach at Gorham State Teachers College (later part of USM) in 1966, and was teaching there until this year. He also acted, including a role in the Stephen King movie “Graveyard Shift,” filmed around Bangor, and in the Maine independent film “Sundowning.”


One of his former students, Samantha Kinne, daughter of Alden-Kinne, said Monday that Rootes was the kind of man who defied easy description. He had a booming baritone voice and a commanding presence. He laughed at his own jokes, even if no one else did. And he exuded an energy and passion for theater that was contagious.

“If you were doing a scene and had a reservation or physical hangup, he’d get you in such a state that you’d deliver. He’d get all riled up, curse, whatever it took,” Kinne said. “I always felt that if I tried to describe him to people, they wouldn’t believe me.”

So maybe it was best he didn’t leave the job of summing up his life to others.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 210-1183 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier

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