One in a series of occasional portraits of people COVID-19 has taken from us.

Barry Leighton, longtime operator of Central Maine Power’s Bonny Eagle hydro dam on the Saco River, died Feb. 3 from complications of COVID-19. He was 74.

Leighton, of Hollis, was remembered Friday for his passion for Chevrolet hot rods, his mischievous grin and zest for life.

Carol Leighton, his wife of 20 years, laughed and cried Friday sharing stories of their life together. She said they both were afraid of getting sick with COVID, and they had quarantined since the start of the pandemic and used services like Hannaford to go for groceries.

On Jan. 4, Carol Leighton tested positive for COVID-19. The following day, Barry Leighton had a COVID test which came back negative, followed by another test on Jan. 9, which also came back negative.

The next day, he was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Portland after his oxygen levels dropped.

“It was so scary,” his wife said. “The worst part of it is that I couldn’t go there to see him. But I’ll tell you … the ICU team at Mercy was wonderful. I have nothing but praise for those people. They were awesome.”

Leighton, who had Parkinson’s disease and pulmonary fibrosis, spent 15 days on a ventilator followed by three days of high flow oxygen therapy.

He didn’t respond, so she made the difficult decision to take him off oxygen. She said she was holding his hand and hugging him when he passed away.

“He opened his eyes,” she said. “He looked at me and looked at my daughter, then looked to the sky. Five hours later he passed away. … Sometimes, I just don’t think this happened. It’s like I’m having a bad dream.”

Barry Leighton and his wife, Carol, stand with his 55 Chevy Gasser. Family photo

Leighton was remembered by his wife as a kind, fun-loving and outgoing man.

He grew up in Hollis and attended Bonny Eagle High School. He didn’t graduate, his wife said.

“He acted terrible and was asked to leave,” his wife said, laughing. “He used to be quite the little hellion. He calmed down a bit.”

In 1966, Leighton was drafted into the Army and served two years during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged and later earned his GED.

Leighton held various jobs in his early years. He worked at a gas station, hauled sheet rock and worked for American Steel. Then, he joined Central Maine Power and worked as operator of the Bonny Eagle hydro dam at Saco River, staying with the utility for two decades. Prior to his retirement, he spent two years maintaining the grounds at the dam.

Leighton and his wife were married for 20 years. It was his third marriage and her second. She said they went to school together, then went their separate ways until meeting later in life.

Barry Leighton and his wife Carol. Family photos

“He was a friend of mine in school, but he was crazy. I didn’t want anything to do with him,” she said. “Twenty-six years ago, we met again and hit it off. We lived in sin for a few years then got married.”

He was a loving father of three daughters, and his wife said her children considered him a “bonus dad.”

Leighton had a passion for Chevrolet hot rods. One of his proudest achievements was building a 1955 Chevy. He painted the car white with flames and gave it a name, “Satisfaction.”

“That was his pride and joy. He built every part of it,” his wife said.

Leighton had three other ’55 Chevrolets including a Gasser, which he a bought a few years ago. He was part of a group, Maine Costal Cruisers, which met regularly. His wife said they had a lot of fun at the meetups.

“He let me drive a few times,” she said,” chuckling. “I scared him, so he didn’t like me to drive. It was so much fun. It took us back to our teenage years. He loved to peel rubber. He was known for that. He was pretty lucky he didn’t get caught.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: