Believed a positive attitude could dissolve any obstacle

Published December 20, 2018

JEFFERSON, Maine — Frederick Merle Finnemore, 80, of Jefferson, Maine, formerly of North Reading, was born January 11, 1938 in Caswell Plantation, Maine; one of seven children in an Aroostook County potato farming family.

From the very beginning he loved to create. At 16, he left home and traveled south to the big city, attending Tufts University in the engineering apprentice program. Slide rule in hand he then headed up to the University of New Hampshire and earned his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering. Once he knew how to make the ideas in his head come to life, he was asked to serve his country. He joined the Army and was assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. As a Specialist Fifth Class, he received a Commendation for Meritorious Service for his work during the early ‘60s. 

Fred, never seen without his pocket protector, mechanical pencils, and micro metal ruler, joined General Electric, then Polaroid, in Massachusetts. At Polaroid, Fred worked on the evolution of the instamatic camera. He holds over 150 patents, but a family favorite is the little rubber eye piece you’ll remember on any 1970s-era instant camera – the piece that cupped your eye socket so you didn’t poke the viewfinder in your eyeball. Good call. He made a home with his wife Nancy Hall in North Reading, Mass., living there for close to three decades. He then “retired,” busier than ever, to Jefferson, Maine in 1995 with his family, enjoying their farm on Damariscotta Lake for almost 20 years. He downsized when the farm was placed under a conservation easement and it became an artists’ retreat for the Maine Farmland Trust.

Over the years, Fred’s inventive mind led him from Tabor to Vicor, Insulet to private consulting; to design parts, pieces and entire projects; patenting them collaboratively and individually. With pen and 3×5 cards in hand, he would stop a conversation to illustrate a point visually. Every number, every letter was written in precise draftsman’s style. Fred’s career led him to celebrate a true entrepreneurial spirit. He occasionally joined a leap-of-faith, hang-on-Myrtle-we’re-headed-for-the-rhubarb, buckle-up-buttercup business when an idea had wings. He really believed in possibility.

Fred was who you talked to when you had an idea. He could take it from dream to 3-D in the blink of an eye. Want to make a kayak propulsion system that works like a whale’s tail? Sure, he’s your man. How about an pump that a patient could wear that tests glucose painlessly, assesses sugar levels then delivers precisely the right amount of insulin – no problem. At any moment, he would sit down, mechanical pencil in hand and sketch out the plans for a kitchen, the blueprints to a power converter or the intricate workings of a better mousetrap. He knew the properties of low friction polycarbonate and viscosity of B+ blood samples. His mind, always, was sharp as a tack and broad as the Aroostook sky.

Fred was never willing to give up. He’d work harder, faster, longer and more tenaciously than anyone really should. His eye was always to the horizon and nose to the grindstone. He believed that a positive attitude could dissolve any obstacle. No matter what it was, he could fix it, design it, build it, draw it, make it or refine it. He was a woodworker and jack-of-all-trades. He spent untold hours teaching his son Todd how to coax wood together to create something beautiful, much more than the sum of its parts. Todd carries on his father’s talent and ability in every arena, from woodworking to “Yes, I can make that (insert anything here).”  It’s astonishing what a wonderful father can offer and a devoted son receive. He has passed down his mantle as the Merry Punster – and Todd has accepted.

The true everlasting love of his life was jazz. We think he was born with music pulsing in his veins. He could name that tune in one note. Fred would travel vast distances to hear his favorite musicians swing, wail or smolder. He was a regular at the Press Room in Portsmouth, N.H., the Traditional Jazz Concert Series at the University of New Hampshire and evenings at The Sahara Club in Methuen, Mass. He loved to share a story at the Monday Lunch Club and a glass of wine listening to live music wherever it was playing. Fred taught his daughter Cynthia to dance, on the tops of his feet, to the uptempo beat of the 1930s and slow, mellow tones of the strings, horns and ivories that made jazz the key to his happiness.

In the middle of his life he and Nancy adopted their daughter Ashlyn, bringing her close to his heart. He loved her very much.

Fred joins his brothers Jim Finnemore and Timothy Finnemore, and his parents Floyd and Mattie Finnemore in the next place. He is survived by his sisters Nancy Mclaughlin and Priscilla Nichols; brothers Robert and Bill Finnemore; his first wife Nancy Finnemore; children Cynthia Finnemore Simonds, Todd Finnemore, Amber Thomas and Ashlyn Finnemore and their families; grandchildren Travis, Kayla, Elizabeth, Jaxon, and Hannah; many nieces and nephews and his beloved partner Donna Dillman.

His song ended on December 7 when his heart couldn’t keep the beat any longer. He was Life-flighted from Miles Hospital to Maine Med – but there was nothing more they could do. We are forever grateful for the care and compassion we were shown by the CICU team at Maine Med. They were absolutely extraordinary.

Fred, Dad, Grampy, Uncle – he will be deeply, heartbreakingly missed.

A celebration of his life will be held on Friday, January 11 at 2 p.m. at St. Patrick Church in Newcastle, Maine. A reception and jazz jam will follow. Please feel free to bring an instrument and sit in for a song or two. If you would like to leave a message for the family, feel free to add to the online memory book at: Click the memories or condolences button on the left menu to add a photo, story or note.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that a donation be made to the Fred Finnemore Jazz Musician Scholarship Fund. We have set up a GoFundMe page at: