Former Publisher Ferguson Calder Passes Away

Photo: Ferguson Calder with grandson Caleb.

By Lura Jackson

What makes someone from Scotland – who has traveled all over the world and the United States – plant their feet in Calais, Maine, and call it their home? Ferguson Calder knew the answer, but as of July 5th, having lived 71 years, he is sadly no longer around to tell us himself. “Fergie”, as he was affectionately known throughout the community of Calais, leaves behind a legacy of clear commitment to Calais and its residents, evidenced in part by his nearly three decades of service as publisher and editor of the Calais Advertiser.

Calder came to the Calais area initially through his work as a construction manager with M.W. Kellogg. He commuted to Point LePreau in Canada from Calais for several years before retiring from the engineering trade. At that point, Calder and his wife, Maureen, purchased and operated The Cracker Barrel sandwich shop across the street from the present-day post office. After four years in the sandwich-making business, the Calders opted to purchase the Calais Advertiser, taking over the publishing role from Jay Hinson.

Among those who remember working with Calder at the Calais Advertiser is Rhonda Pulk, who started working with him in 1995. “He was a very caring man who gave me a shot at a job that was completely out of my skill set,” said Pulk, who began as a typesetter and then took over the position of Production Manager/Graphic Design. “We were a family then, the Calders and their crew,” Pulk continued. “My daughters grew up at the paper. It was their second home.”

Cheryl Stabinski took over the role of Graphic Designer in 2005 – a job she continues to this day – and she similarly remembers Calder with great fondness. “Him and I just clicked,” recalls Stabinski. “We became good friends.” She said that she and Calder shared a love of dogs, and said that along with her twin brother and neighbor Dave Amos, many nights would be spent hanging out at Calder’s house after work. Stabinski and Calder would play pool in the unused apartment above the Calais Advertiser’s office, as well as downtown at the Beef and Brew.

Carole Smith, who works as a typesetter at the Calais Advertiser still, shared, “Fergie was a great guy to work for. He was almost always happy.  He loved his Boxers and had them in the office every day.” Smith said that she and others in the office would tease him to wear his kilt, though she never saw if he did. 

Calder’s efforts as a publisher and editor of The Calais Advertiser were well known and marked around Washington County. “Ferguson was a believer in the importance of community newspapers and in the essential role they play in the civic life of a place,” said Edward French, editor and publisher of the Quoddy Tides in Eastport. “He cared deeply about Calais, which showed in the extensive coverage he provided in the newspaper.”

One of the consistent comments from community members that knew Calder was how patient and generous he was with children and young adults. “Our oldest son worked for him for one summer as a writer,” said a former friend of Calder’s that wished to remain anonymous. “Fergie mentored him and was very good with him.” She added that their youngest son was passionate about firearms, and that Calder provided guidance for him and the women in the community on the subject as well. “He taught a firearms safety course for women in Calais. I took it, and he was very helpful and informative.”

Aside from his work at the Calais Advertiser – which lasted until 2013 when he sold the paper and moved to West Virginia – and his passion for firearms, Calder was an active fireman for the Calais Fire Department. 

Acting Fire Chief Kenneth Clark recalls that Calder worked frequently on the night shift, and that he was a key figure in rejuvenating the Baring Fire Department in 1991. Clark said that Calder would send photos of fire scenes to the department, even after he was no longer a fireman, enabling the department to assess situations after the fact. “Anytime that we can have a person such as Ferguson Calder to work with us and with the community, it shows their exemplary character,” said Clark. “We really appreciate that.”

Calder took his enthusiasm for civic duty to new levels when he ran for city council in 2000. His popularity in the community was clear. Five people ran for the two open seats; Billy DelMonaco came in first with 771 votes, but Calder was just behind him at 735. The next highest person received 583 votes. “He was friendly, and boisterous,” said City Clerk Theresa Porter. “He did make it a little difficult for us here,” she added with a laugh, describing his penchant for lively discussions. “That’s a good thing sometimes.”

While we don’t have the luxury of talking with Calder any longer, we can look at his comments from the past to gain an appreciation of his good humor. In the July 10th, 1986 issue, he wrote this about Eastport’s festivities: “There were celebrations galore in the area this week. Well done, Eastport, a great week – from mudwrestling to bagpipes – never a dull moment. How about that parade? It seemed like everyone was downtown talking, shaking hands, and sharing hello’s. I have never seen so much good food for sale or as many folks wanting to buy it. After the parade, we went for a soda at the Cannery Wharf, the queue was long! So it seemed a good idea to buy a few and take them back to my perch. Wrong! I had no sooner set them down and they were gone. It seems there were two gals in greater need than me. Oh well, what the heck, it is the Fourth, and I’d been liberated by two ladies.”