KENNEBUNKPORT – After a brief illness, Courtney George Austin died on Friday, October 19, 2012, at the Hospice of Southern Maine in Scarbourgh. He was 71. Mr. Austin was born in Biddeford, Maine, on March 24, 1941, the oldest son of the late Courtney Chester and Gertrude Austin. As a young boy, he was raised by his maternal grandparents, the late George and Nancy McLean, in Turbat’s Creek, later recalling that they were “so poor that they ate lobster everyday” – referring to a time before lobster became popular and fishermen had to live on their catch.
He was taken in by the Small Family, owners of the Shawmut Inn, when he was twelve years old, living and working at the famous oceanfront resort as a busboy, waiter, and Maitre d’ until his early twenties. Because the Shawmut was an “American Plan” hotel, guests were served three full meals a day, meaning long hours for $10 a week plus tips. All the same, Mr. Austin always remained grateful to the Smalls and afterward told countless stories about the colorful, even outrageous, personalities of staff and guests who returned year after year, including actors Charles Laughton, Jane Morgan, Betty White and Bette Davis.
Graduating from Kennebunk High School in 1959, he studied accounting in Portland and served six years in the Maine Air National Guard. While still working nights at the Shawmut, Mr. Austin was an accountant at Mainco, a large school supply company operated out of a mansion on the Kennebunk River, before founding Austin Co. Ltd. in 1965, opening Austin’s Hardware, Goodies Candies, The Inn Town Hotel, and other commercial properties in Dock Square. His stores were well known for their unique stock of cooking utensils for “gourmets and gadgeteers.”
Although he and his wife, Gail, wintered in Vero Beach, Florida, they returned to Maine every summer. For those who knew him, Mr. Austin was a window into what it was like growing up in an undeveloped Kennebunkport, where people still had outhouses, saw the Fire of ’47, walked across Cape Porpoise Harbor when the salt water froze once during the winter, and there were few houses between the Colony Hotel and the Shawmut Inn.
Mr. Austin is survived by Gail, his wife of 47 years, his brother Michael, his children, Steven, Ian, and Alyson, and his grandchildren Ryan, Evan, Hana, Morgan, and Andrew. A memorial service will be announced in the spring.
Arrangements are under the care of Advantage Funeral & Cremation Services, 981 Forest Ave Portland. Please visit www.advantageportland.com to sign Mr. Austin’s guestbook.
In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to the
Kennebunkport Historical Society
125 North Street
Kennebunkport, ME 04046