Maine Authors

Preserving family history in paperback

Mon, 01/06/2014 - 9:30am

Captain Mark Colby has taught in a one-room school, consisting of eight students in eight different grades, worked as a supply boat captain in Nigeria, written feature pieces published in Maine magazines, and worked on ships in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 63-year-old grew up in Southport, Boothbay Harbor and David’s Island as a third generation Mainer. He now lives in the harbor.

For the last 14 winters, not including this one, he drove a kerosene truck for Dead River Oil, and he is the current captain on the Pink Lady II whale watching ship during the summer months.

In November of 2013, Colby published his first book, “William Johnson Colby: A Remarkable Life Remembered.” The book tells the story of Colby’s grandfather, from his early life at sea to his retirement in Boothbay Harbor on Fullerton Street. The story, while focusing on William Colby, interweaves with numerous other people and creates a rich tapestry of history.

“William’s life connects Newburyport, North Quincy, Southport, Boothbay Harbor, and ports around the world,” Colby said. “He lived his early life at sea with his family, and the cover sketch of him was drawn by his sister, my great-aunt, Elizabeth Cushing Colby in 1892. He fought in the Spanish American War, serving on the USS Pueblo and worked for the YMCA as the International Secretary.”

The book chronicles the good with the bad. When the Great Depression began in 1929, William Colby was president of Willett, Clark, and Colby, a small religious-oriented publishing firm in Chicago. The Depression caused the firm to close its doors, and William Colby moved back to Massachusetts with his family and eventually found work with the Boston Community Fund, becoming executive director. Over time, this group joined forces with other charitable organizations and today is known as the United Way.

Colby was inspired to write the book after learning about the full life his grandfather had led.

“As I got older, I started delving into family history and became amazed at what kind of a person my grandfather was,” Colby said. “There was so much to learn, and I’m very lucky that my grandfather and father saved so much of our family history. The sketches, journals, photos and letters were so valuable to me. Dad even saved the letters I sent him in the ’70s when I worked on an icebreaker in the Coast Guard.”

Colby completed and published the work in November 2013. “Eventually I had to stop,” he said. “The work took four years and there are so many interwoven lives I could have kept writing forever; I had to stop somewhere.

“Much of the work already existed in other sources. All I really did was sort through it and shave it down so it was understandable, then add family stories that have been passed down through the years,” Colby said. “Like the story of why my family moved out of the Cozy Harbor House and onto David’s Island. It seems my father, Robert Colby, had a habit of splattering his porridge on the other guests in the dining room!”

 “A Remarkable Life” is dedicated to Colby’s three children, Alden, Elliott and Adaline Colby. Each received a copy of the book as a Christmas present in December.

“Even today, in the digital age, it is possible to lose history. It is my hope that someday my children will enjoy learning about their history as much as I have,” Colby said.

“I am honestly so proud of him,” said his daughter, Adaline Colby.

Colby received help with editing his work from local historian Barbara Rumsey of the Boothbay Region Historical Society.

“She was particularly helpful and encouraging, and her editorial comments were very much appreciated,” Colby said.

“I learned through writing that it truly is who you know that makes life important,” Colby said. “Not financially, but in the heart. Relationships are truly what shapes our lives and our hearts.”

Those interested in buying a copy of “A Remarkable Life” can contact Mark Colby directly at Copies are $20 each.