Ed Benedikt, a former state legislator well known for his environmental advocacy, died Sunday February 8th. Ed was an active member of FOMB monitoring water quality at two Bath sites through last summer. In past years Ed sat on our Steering Committee, acted as Treasurer and also chaired a Water Quality subcommittee. Water quality was a prime concern of his and Ed also sampled water for Friends of Casco Bay in the New Meadows River leading him to form the New Meadows Lake Association and to advocate for cleanup of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Ed was born in Vienna on December 27th, 1930; he was seven years old when Nazi Germany annexed Austria and began to extend its genocidal campaign against Jews. He and his sister, Lucie Benedikt, were brought to England in the Kindertransport, the rescue mission that saved ten thousand children from the Holocaust. Benedikt lived in various foster home placements in England for almost five years and came to the U.S. in 1943.
For most of his professional life, Ed was a naval architect working on the design, maintenance and performance of U.S. Naval Ships. He was a graduate of Drexel University and held a Master’s degree in Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.
Ed was very committed to the role of government in helping people. He served on many governmental groups and contributed his time and efforts to political campaigns and to the local, state and national Democratic Party. In 1995 and 1996, Edmund was the Maine State Representative for District 49 in Brunswick.
He liked hiking, bicycling, skiing and – most of all – sailing. He has been a sailboat owner for more than sixty years and spent many happy hours sailing on Long Island Sound and, since moving to Maine in 1989, on Casco Bay. He enjoyed travel and has been in many countries and on all seven continents.
Associate Kermit Smyth of FOMB and formerly the Brunswick Conservation Commission said Benedikt’s heart lay in his work with the Brunswick Area Citizens for a Safe Environment [BACSE], which he helped found.
BACSE began in 1991, a time when the base was still very much actively used by the Navy. Using $350,000 in EPA grants and $336,000 from in-kind contributions from members — much of that from Benedikt — BACSE has been able to employ professional environmental scientists in researching remediation at the former base.
In a December interview, Benedikt said remediation efforts at the former base have been effective because of “a remarkable coalition and cooperative effort” by former base commanders and staff, members of the EPA, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, and the town of Brunswick.
“Ed has been instrumental in the progress that’s been accomplished at the Naval Air Station base redevelopment,” said Suzanne Johnson, co-chairwoman of the U.S. Navy Restoration Advisory Board and a member of the BACSE board of directors, in a news release issued in December announcing Benedikt was stepping down for health reasons. “His technical expertise, indomitable spirit, ability to bring people together and the huge time and energy commitment he’s given stand us in good stead to continue BACSE’s efforts to ensure safe civilian use of the property.”
“He was just devoted,” said Kathleen McGee of Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, with whom he worked on a number of political issues for 20 years. As a lobbyist in Augusta, McGee said she also worked with Benedikt on other issues including taxes and campaign finance reform.
“He cared deeply about environmental health. He worked on that until the day he died,” she said.
McGee described Benedikt as “a very very thoughtful, sweet caring man.” “He thought things through,” she said. “He was very conscious of the repercussions of different environmental issues.”
Ed began the now annual winter snowshoe hike of Peterson Canal in North Bath to call attention to this historic landmark, America’s first canal, coincidentally connecting his two loves; Merrymeeting Bay and the New Meadows Lake/River.
Benedikt was very curious, thoughtful and engaged. He was a man motivated to enact some positive change and will be sorely missed.
Ed’s family have asked in lieu of flowers, donations be made to FOMB. We thank them and extend our condolences.