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Katahdin Survivor Fendler to visit Bangor

Last updated: Saturday, July 3, 2004

Donn Fendler became America's most celebrated Boy Scout in 1939 when, as a resourceful 12-year-old, he survived nine days alone in the Maine wilderness. His up-close encounters with bears and black flies are immortalized in Joseph B. Egan's inspirational book, "Lost on a Mountain in Maine."

Now a vigorous 77, Fendler remains one of the state's most active seasonal residents.

This summer, 65 years after his ordeal, he will make about 35 appearances at Maine schools and libraries, where children, accompanied by their parents, will line up to meet a living legend.

"I get more invitations from fourth- and fifth-graders than anybody else," Fendler said Thursday during a telephone chat from his rented home in Newport. "I also meet with third-graders."

The retired Army lieutenant colonel, who lives winters in Clarksville, Tenn., squeezed a July 6 appearance at the Bangor Public Library into his busy schedule.

Other visits include a July 13 library talk in Oakland and a return engagement July 28 at one of his favorite spots, Daicey Pond, located in Baxter State Park.

Fendler's ordeal began on July 17, 1939, when he drifted away from his hiking party on Mount Katahdin's Hunt Trail. It ended July 25 when the Rye, N.Y., boy, by then a 58-pound shadow (he weighed 74 pounds on July 17), happened onto a distant cabin near Stacyville where he was given food and shelter by its tenants, Nelson and Lena McMoarn.

His survival story rated a Life magazine photo spread and two meetings with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. U.S. Rep. Ralph O. Brewster introduced the youngster's epic into the Aug. 10, 1939, Congressional Record.

Marriage to his wife, Maryrose "Ree" Fendler, along with fatherhood and Army duty in Vietnam kept life interesting in the years after Fendler's 1939 odyssey.

People from around the country still write to the man who, as a boy, inspired them during elementary school book readings. He answers every letter.

"I don't get too excited about my talks - I just try to get to the younger children's level," Fendler said this week, explaining that sometimes tiny preschoolers show up to hear him speak.

Tuesday's Bangor appearance is geared toward children, but the general public is also invited to attend and meet a bona fide Maine survivor.

Donn Fendler will speak and sign copies of "Lost on a Mountain in Maine" in the Children's Room of the Bangor Public Library at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 6.





John Thurlow