Bud King, 96, walks around the dining room while visiting with friends Nov. 28, 2019, during the community Thanksgiving meal at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. King, a resident of Oakland, has been a driving force behind the annual event since it began back in 1990. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file photo Buy this Photo

Remembered by friends and family as a community stalwart, loving family man and a proud Oakland resident, Edward “Bud” John King died last week at the age of 97.

For years, he and his wife, Josephine, hosted the annual community Thanksgiving Dinner at Messalonskee High School. They and Mike Marston, who co-founded the meal with King, along with a host of volunteers began a tradition in 1990 that now serves about 1,500 meals each year free of charge to attendees.

King’s daughter, Dru Aslam, said King retired early from running Buddies Meats and Groceries, an IGA, on Oakland’s Main Street due to health reasons, but her father wanted to give back to the Oakland community he “adored.”

“Being in the grocery business, and Thanksgiving is such a grocery holiday, he would see people who would spend the holiday alone and just wanted a place for the people to come. He was incredibly proud to see how much it became a community event,” Aslam said. “It’s just turned into something that’s brought the community together. It’s become Thanksgiving for some people and a tradition for both volunteers and people who attend the meal.”

King was predeceased by his wife of 74 years, Josephine (Thibeau) King, in 2018. He is survived by his daughter, Dru Aslam, and son-in-law Padiath “Sunny” Aslam of Belgrade; grandson Jai Aslam of Raleigh, North Carolina, partner Aneri Pattani; and stepgrandchildren, many nieces, nephews and friends.

Until his passing, King lived in his own home with support.

Marston, who founded the dinner with King in 1990, described King as “very caring and generous.”

While in high school, Marston helped King with inventory at Buddies Groceries. They talked about creating the dinner in 1972, and the conversation stuck for years until they started it in 1990.

“He always tried to help out people when he thought they were in need,” Marston said. “We thought it would be good for children in school to learn about giving on Thanksgiving in particular, so we started the meal. He was a great person and a great friend, and he’s going to be missed in our community.”

Mike Marston, left, and Bud King share a light moment during the 2015 Thanksgiving dinner at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. King announced that he was retiring from hosting and sponsoring the event but said his children and grandchildren will continue assisting area families on Thanksgiving. Morning Sentinel file photo

Jessica Garten has volunteered at the Thanksgiving Dinner for the last 15 years and leads the kitchen. King always sought her out for a Thanksgiving greeting and bouquet of flowers.

“We always looked forward to him coming because he was the one who started the program, but he told us awesome stories about his life,” Garten said. “He was just an amazing person, so it’s really sad to see him go. He was always looking for ways to help the community. He was so selfless.”

Michael Perkins met King more than 30 years ago through the annual Thanksgiving Dinner and has volunteered ever since.

As a fellow veteran, Perkins remembered speaking with King about his experience in World War II as a Army Air Corps member. King served in the Pacific Theater in Saipan and Tinian, two of the Mariana Islands the Allies captured in 1944.

“I sat and talked to him one day over an hour, just talking about his years in the military. And that man was so proud about his time in the military, and it was warming to me,” Perkins said. “He had some photos where he was on the flight line the day they loaded the atomic bomb.”

“He loved his town of Oakland, and it will be a loss,” Perkins said.

After returning from the military, King managed Michaud’s Market in Oakland before changing the name to Bud’s Food Center and later Buddies Groceries.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a graveside service for Bud and Josephine will be held in the summer of 2021. An online guestbook may be signed, and memories shared at www.familyfirstfuneralhomes.com.

There will still be a Thanksgiving dinner this year, but it will be different because of the pandemic.

“It’s not going to be quite the same as it was in the past, but as I understand, we have been given permission to move forward with something where there will be contactless delivery for homes and curbside pickup,” Dru Aslam said. “His fondest wish was to have the dinner continue forever.”

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