Friends, family remember Donn Fendler, subject of 'Lost on a Mountain in Maine'

    Twelve-year-old Donn Fendler (left) grew up to marry and serve 28 years in the U.S. Army. He is paired with the childhood photo in a 2009 BDN photo illustration. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS AND ERIC ZELZ)

    STATEWIDE (WGME) -- They say to be a true Mainer, you have to be born here. If there was one exception it might be Donn Fendler.

    He was the legend behind the book 'Lost on a Mountain in Maine'. Family members say he died Monday at 90 years old.

    Fendler's story captivated the people of Maine and beyond in 1939 when he and his family were visiting from New York. While hiking Mount Katahdin, 12-year-old Fendler got separated from the group in a storm. It prompted massive searches and made headlines across the country.

    "Every day they found something, oh, he's down in that hole down there, you know, it was terrible on my mother and us too," said Fendler's twin brother Ryan Fendler. "By the end of five or six days, we were almost getting used to the idea that he wasn't going to come back."

    For nine days, Fendler used his Boy Scout skills to stay alive and eventually find help. He was covered in bug bites, dehydrated and had lost 16 pounds.

    "I call it a true story that's more unbelievable than fiction," said friend and fellow author Lynn Plourde. "If I, as an author, were to write the story as fiction, an editor would say 'no, no, no, that could never have happened' but it really did."

    Fendler's story of survival became the book 'Lost on a Mountain in Maine', it was read in many Maine classrooms that Fendler would end up visiting.

    "When we would do signings there would literally be hundreds of people in line," said Plourde, who helped Fendler turn his book into a graphic novel, "He would talk to each person when they came through that line, kids would write to him and he would answer each letter."

    The decorated veteran eventually settled down with his family in Tennessee, but came to Maine every summer.

    "Any place he would go in the state of Maine, somebody would recognize him," Ryan Fendler said. "If anybody I ever knew had their heart in Maine, he did, he just loved it here."

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