ELLSWORTH — Gerry Monteux looked at the stretch of the Union River where he came in search of bald eagles, shook his head and smiled.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” said Monteux, a wildlife photographer, as he reflected on the dramatic changes in his life.

For more than three decades, Monteux was a TV sports anchor who went by the on-air name Bill Patrick. He played a role in coverage of Major League Baseball, football, hockey and the Olympics, for ESPN and NBC, among other networks.

But five years ago his career came to an end when NBC declined to renew his contract. Then his wife of 13 years got a divorce.

Facing major life changes, Monteux felt he had no choice but to pursue what he loved. So he moved to his favorite place, his camp on the coast of Maine, and turned his hobby into a profession.

At the start of this year, Monteux proclaimed on Facebook that 2017 would be a “big year,” a term typically associated with birders. Monteux would attempt to photograph more new species or natural scenes than he had ever done in a calendar year. He’s had success with a half of the dozen goals on his list.

In the end, Monteux said 2017 turned out to be a powerful year because it made him reflect on the happiness he’s found in Maine.

“It took me a long time to figure out what is the most important thing,” said Monteux, 62. “I always thought it was money. It took a really dramatic life change to see what is really important. I lost my job. I lost my wife. I went through hell. But looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Monteux grew up in Ohio, then attended the University of Maine after a childhood spent summering in Hancock near the home of his grandfather, the famous French conductor, Pierre Monteux.

And as a boy, Gerry Monteux spent countless summer days photographing scenery along the rugged Down East coast. He said his parents “went broke” developing his film.

Years later he bought a camp in Hancock. So when it came time to plot a new course in his life, the answer was simple.

“My fondest memories are here. I always knew I wanted to grow old here,” Monteux said. “It was a big step. I went back and forth. But then I thought, you never know unless you leap.”

He moved to his camp in 2013 and opened a print shop that could double as a gallery. He bought a printer “as big as my car,” where he reproduced his photos on canvas. Monteux also opened two small galleries in Ellsworth, a town he proudly said is developing into an arts community.

At this time last year, Monteux began to take stock in all that happened to him since moving to Maine.

“The galleries were on solid ground and turning a small profit,” Monteux said. “For the first time I thought, I’ve got no worries for the first time in my life. Now every single day, I think how I’m grateful for everything I have.”

So he declared 2017 would be a big year, pursuing with his Nikon camera the wildlife species that had evaded him.

He spent April at the Schoodic Peninsula, and in the middle of the night captured the coastal granite terrace next to the sea with a sky of stars above.

He spent June in the bug-ridden woods outside Baxter State Park in pursuit of a cow and calf, only to be nearly trampled by a enormous bull moose.

In April a friend told Monteux about a great gray owl on Mount Desert Island. Monteux found the ghostly figure hidden in the woods and checked it off his list.

Then in November he went to Florida, and found the tiny and elusive burrowing owl that he wanted, and photographed several at close range. He also came away with a photo of a sandhill crane and checked that off the list.

Jim Boutin, a professional videographer from Hollis, befriended Monteux in Baxter State Park three years ago while both were photographing moose.

Boutin said the changes in Monteux today are obvious and inspiring.

“He’s made some dramatic changes in his lifestyle and I think he’s happier for it,” Boutin said. “His eye has improved, his passion has improved. He seems more relaxed.

“We just spent some time in western Maine looking for moose. Gerry picks up on every sound in the woods. And he’s pretty good at it for a city boy.”

Monteux said the time spent in nature this year has helped his perspective on life.

“I’m the happiest I’ve been in 30 years,” Monteux said. “I went from making a lot of money to not have anything. I spiraled into a deep depression for a year.

“But today I am doing something that I love to do, as opposed to TV. I live in a beautiful place, I have great friends, and every time I go out shooting I am in my happy place. I just don’t know what else I need.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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