Robert Wm. Harkins, M.D., J.D., born Sept. 19, 1935, in Jersey City, N.J., died at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, on Nov. 8, 2015.
Robert was predeceased by his parents, Joseph and Helen Harkins; grandson, Jack Skakel; and many old friends, including best friend, Duncan McDougall; and favorite dog ever, Breughel. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Shirley Rankin Harkins; his daughter, Mary Rita Sheridan and her three children, Bobby, Evan and Fiona of Bondville, Vt., Joe Harkins and his wife, Kym, and their children, Kainoa and Kalani of Bangor, Maine, Kevin Harkins and his wife, Eileen, and their two children, Micheal and Maeve, of Amherst, Mass., Katie Skakel and her husband, David, and their two children, Grace and Delia, of Mosier, Ore., and Robert Harkins Jr. and his wife, Amy, and their two children, Lily and Henry, of West Newton, Mass.; and stepdaughter, Pam and her husband, Joe Varholy, Manchester, Conn.
After graduating from medical school at St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed training at Waterbury Hospital, then served as a doctor for the U.S. Army in Yokohama, Japan, during the Vietnam War. After that assignment, he then built his family practice in Woodbury, Conn., where he served his patients in an authentic, old-school way as a vocation to help people. He worked tirelessly around the clock, and regularly made house calls to remote farms, counting on his beloved SCOUT to deliver him through snow storms and down muddy dirt roads. In a way unheard of today, he was sometimes paid not in dollars but with eggs, butchered meats and the occasional pony. Ultimately, the effects of multiple strokes rendered him unable to continue practicing and he retired in 2005.
After retiring Bob lived quietly in Middlebury with his wife, Shirley, where he was content to enjoy reading and gardening. During the past year, however, his health declined steadily, and in September, he moved to Bangor, to be near his son. Not one to ever ask for anything, he had the good fortune of moving into the Maine Veterans Home, where he clearly found peace of mind and reached a state of grace in the past four weeks. He was amazed by how welcomed he felt at the Maine Vets home, where in short time he befriended other veterans, and quite a few of the wonderful people who work there. He said he was extremely thankful to be close to family, where he was able to attend his grandson’s soccer games, enjoy trips to Bar Harbor and the drive-in theatre. He may have been stoic, but those who knew him will recall him as a deeply caring and profoundly thoughtful man. In the past month, more often than not, one could see what might be called his trademark, glistening smiling eyes. Sadly, he fell ill while enjoying the warmth of a backyard campfire and watching his grandsons jumping in a pile of fallen leaves. He did not recover from complications that arose from this episode. At the end of his life he enjoyed a state of grace surrounded by his children at his bedside.
Robert once said his greatest satisfaction in life is that all of his children whom he loved dearly were “mediocre,” which in his humble way meant that they were kind, helpful to others and safe from the extremes of life. His family extends gratitude to all the people who cared for him at the Maine Veterans Home, the Bangor Fire Department, and the ED and CCU at EMMC. The family is planning a private memorial at a later date.
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