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1928 - 2019
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Obituary for John Atkinson

John  Atkinson
March 4th, 1928 – January 19th, 2019

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, John Atkinson, a wry, intelligent, curious, affectionate and dedicated father of three died at age 90. He was a resident of Schooner Cove Retirement Community in Damariscotta.

John was born in New York City and moved to Long Island with his family when he was a teenager. His stories of life as an impish and impressionable Irish-American boy in the 1930’s and 40’s included adventures as a turnstile boy for his beloved Dodgers at Ebbets Field, spotting the Hindenburg Blimp as it sailed over the city’s rooftops, and going to the Macy’s Day parade, which became a holiday television tradition in his later years.

After high school John entered Hofstra University to study business administration. He left early, however, to join the Army, where he served as a radar technician during the Korean War. Perhaps it was this introduction to technology that led him to enroll in the Television Workshop in New York City once he was discharged. He landed his first his first broadcasting job at WIFE-TV in Dayton, OH, launching his long and somewhat star-studded (at least to his family) television career.

In 1960, when working as a Producer-Director at WPRO-TV in Rhode Island, he met and married the love of his life, Roberta [Bobbi] Guillet. Soon after, they settled into their family’s first home in Barrington, where they made lifelong friends. A few years later he moved his family to Durham, North Carolina for a job with the Capital Cities television station, WTVD-TV. Eager to return to the northeast, he and Bobbi relocated their family to Massachusetts in 1970, where he became an award-winning television executive at WNAC-TV. Among the highlights of his two decades at Boston’s Channel 7 was traveling with Seiji Ozawa and principals from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to produce a documentary about Ozawa’s return to China after the normalization of diplomatic relations with the U.S. Towards the end of his career in broadcasting, John worked in the emerging tech sector, consulting on innovative teleconferencing projects for both Wang Laboratories and Digital Equipment Corporation, and in education as an instructor at Emerson College.

A resident of Harvard, MA for 35 years, John was a tenacious learner who acquired many skills and hobbies that he pursued in his backyard and basement workshop. An avid gardener by age 13, he often began and closed his days by planning, starting, tending, harvesting or preserving his fruits and vegetables. Having introduced Bobbi to gardening when they were newlyweds, they together created beautiful and bountiful landscapes wherever they lived. Their post-retirement gardens were among their most productive and artistic. Another hallmark of John’s character was his sharp wit. Ever the impish soul, he rarely ceded an opportunity for a well-timed wisecrack or joke, regardless of audience sensitivities.

After retiring, John served on several town organizations including the Harvard Historical Society, Warner Free Lectures, the Community Cable Access Committee, and the Board of Assessors. He was also a longtime member of the Harvard Unitarian Church. He was happiest, however, when working outside. On his 60th birthday, Bobbi’s inspired gift of a beehive led John to the only pursuit that challenged gardening as his favorite pastime. Over the years his bees’ honey and beeswax candles grew from family staples into a local micro-business. He also greatly enjoyed raising chickens, fishing, reading, traveling, canine companionship (especially when running errands), and the many joys of being a grandfather. He carried on most of these activities when he and Bobbi relocated to Eliot, Maine in 2003, where he once again volunteered on the town’s Local Access TV Cable Work-Group and Democratic Committee. With more time on his hands he also became the family’s self-taught computer expert and helped his son-in-law with his telecommunications business. When John and Bobbi moved to Damariscotta, Maine, in 2010, his life continued to be enriched by family, friends, and his love of reading, history, politics, and technology.

John leaves behind his wife of 58 years, Bobbi Atkinson of Damariscotta; son, Peter Atkinson of Ipswich, MA; daughters, Elizabeth Atkinson Eames of Newburyport, MA and Jennifer Atkinson of Damariscotta; sons-in-law, Erik Eames and Mike Tatro; and his grandchildren, Madeleine, Nathaniel, Sarah, Sopna, and Miguel, and many nieces and nephews.

On Sunday afternoon, April 14th, a gathering in his memory will be held at Schooner Cove Retirement Community. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating a gift of honeybees to families around the world through Heifer International,

Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home, 612 Main Street, Damariscotta, ME 04543. Condolences, and messages for his family, may be expressed by visiting:

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