Portland-Arthur "Sonny" Rich, 79, of Portland, passed away on December 31st. It was a genuine surprise to those who knew him, most of whom were convinced he would outlive God, just to be spiteful and prove he could do it. He died as he lived, disobeying doctor’s orders, ignoring the pleas of friends and family, and doing exactly what he wanted. In his last few days he had a chance to catch up with many people who were important to him and he died doing something he loved.
Sonny was very old-school, a throwback in a city that seems so different from the place that it was even a decade ago. He grew up on the old Munjoy Hill, and was as much a part of the character of that neighborhood as anyone you could ever imagine. He attended the North School and Portland High School. When he was younger he worked at A.J. Pierson, delivering flowers all over Maine and getting to experience much of the state. For many years he was an operations director at Donnelly Billboards, often cutting deals that somehow kept his family well fed with lobster dinners. Later in life he worked for Overhead Doors, Portland Glass, as a sternman on a Steve Train’s first lobster boat, and in vehicle maintenance at the U.S. Post Office. He served in the U.S. Army reserves from 1964-1969.
He was fiercely independent and a hell of a character, the kind of person that just doesn’t exist in the real world. He was at times mercurial and angry. He tortured his family and friends endlessly. He grew up in a rough time in a rough neighborhood and some of that never left him. He was in fist fights his entire life, the last one being only a few years ago. And he usually won.
But to think of him that way really doesn’t get to the core of who he was. He was a joker and a flirt, an incredibly unique and funny character. He had a huge heart and was beloved by many. He loved to plow and in many instances he didn’t charge those who couldn’t afford it. Memories include him lighting off M80s and throwing them under chairs at family cookouts, shooting at squirrels with a pellet gun in his backyard (and later feeding and naming them), and feuding with just about everyone at one time or another. (Congratulations Robert--you were the last one!)
In 1956 he was drag racing a car (possibly stolen) down Congress Street when he drove by three Catholic school girls walking for an ice cream. He pulled the car over and told them to get in. One of them, Pauline, became his beloved wife of 53 years. You seriously can’t make this stuff up. It’s like a damn Billy Joel song.
He is survived by Pauline, his son Timothy of Bar Harbor, and dozens of nieces, nephews, friends, family, and so many others who will miss him dearly. His brother Larry and sister Eileen both passed away many years ago and he thought of them often. He will be greatly missed by his best friend and neighbor Ron Farr who he saw nearly every day. The morning before he died he drove by Ron’s house, honked his horn, gave Ron the finger, they both laughed, and then he drove away. That was just Sonny.
Sonny was a member of many social clubs in Portland, including at times the Elks, The Columbia Club, and the Amvets, where he served as a trustee for several years. In his later years he greatly enjoyed playing ball with his dog Maggie, traveling to Bar Harbor and working in his son’s restaurant, and spending time working on projects around his house.
Visiting hours will be held on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home, 660 Brighton Ave., Portland. A short funeral will follow at 1pm, followed immediately by a celebration of his life at a to be determined place that will hopefully be stocked with Miller Lite and cheap cigarettes.
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