2016-12-29 / Front Page

Columnist M.D. Harmon dies in shooting mishap

Served as principal and priest at Sanford church and school
Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — Maine State Police and Sanford police are continuing to investigate the circumstances of a shooting Wednesday night that resulted in the death of Michael Harmon.

Maine Public Safety spokesman Steve MCcausland  said Harmon, 71, a longtime former editor at the Portland Press Herald, died at his home at 7 Brunell Ave. as he was showing a  teenage boy a handgun and the gun went off. The teenager was at the home with his father. Both are of North Berwick. They are not related to Harmon, McCausland said.

“The 16 year -old was handling the gun at the time,” said McCausland in a statement released at 10 a.m. today.  “Detectives said everyone has been cooperating.”

McCausland said Harmon’s remains would be taken to Augusta for an autopsy at the State Medical Examiner' office, but didn’t known when that would take place. He said the case will be reviewed by the Attorney General's Office. 

He said the investigation will continue, and that he did not expect more information to be forthcoming today.

Harmon, known as M.D. Harmon, had worked at the Portland Press Herald from 1970 to 2011 in various roles — as a reporter, copy editor, editorial writer and assistant managing editor, according to his LinkedIn resume. He continued to write a column for the newspaper in his retirement.

Harmon and Portland Press Herald editorial page editor Greg Kesich worked together for nine years.

"He was a really classic American conservative in the William S. Buckley National Review style," said Kesich of his colleague and a friend. "(He was)  a social conservative, a national defense conservative and an economic conservative." 

Kesich said Harmon was an advocate for limited government, low taxes and was "very very" consistent in those opinions, so much so that he was at times at odds with Republicans who weren't as staunch on those issues as he was.

"We were about as far apart as you could be on views, we disagreed on every major political issue of substance  —  but I found him to be great to work with and a tremendous colleague," said Kesich.

"He had his opinion hat and his editor hat. With his editor hat, he was making  the (editorial) page as good as it could be and not trying to advance a cause."

As well, Harmon wrote columns for The Maine Wire, an online publication of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, most recently in September.

"M.D. Harmon was a great friend of ours, and a featured columnist for The Maine Wire for years,” said Matthew Gagnon,  chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. “His wit and insight was so unique and valuable to us, and he was well loved by our readers.  We are incredibly saddened by his passing and will miss his voice tremendously."

Harmon had served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and with the U.S. Army Reserves from 1970 to 1995, retiring as a Lieut. Col. His last stint with the reserves was as Executive Officer of the 1033rd U.S. Army Reserve School.

He was ordained as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He was principal at The Church of the Prince of Peace School in Sanford and a board member of the church.

“(His death) is an incredible  loss to his family,  his church and his friends,” said  Fr. John Clifton, Rector of the Church of the Prince of Peace. “He was so a part of all of our lives. He was a vigorous supporter and friend of the school.”

The Church of the Prince of Peace School is closed for the Christmas holiday, but Clifton said he has been fielding calls from students and parents. Harmon taught English, history and astronomy at the school, as well as serving as principal. 

"Mike was a very, very loved teacher and put an enormous amount of himself into his classes," said Clifton.

A longtime church deacon, he was ordained earlier this year. On Sunday, Christmas Day, Harmon celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the church he loved and cared for, Clifton noted.

"He loved God, people and his students and he gave himself to them all," said Clifton.

This story will be updated as information becomes available.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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