MANLEY RUSSELL BRACKETT
July 1, 1922 – December 2, 2022
LIMINGTON- Manley Russell Brackett was born on July 1, 1922, to May Garfield Russell Brackett and Guy Allen Brackett at Brackett Orchards, the family farm in Limington, Maine. He died on December 2, 2022, having lived in the house in which he was born for over 100 years, with the exception of college and service in World War II.
Manley and his younger brother Merton grew up and worked together as boys on the farm where they developed a close bond that endured for over 96 years. During the Great Depression, the brothers learned to value thrift and frugality. The largely self-sufficient Brackett family maintained large gardens, kept cows, pigs, chickens, and geese, churned butter, made maple syrup, and canned deer meat to see them through the winter. Frogs, squirrels, and woodchucks were also food when times were tough: “Good, clean eating,” Manley once said.
As a schoolboy, Manley walked a two-mile round trip to the one-room Longfellow School in Limington Village for eight years and then attended Limington Academy across the street where he played baseball and basketball. Manley served as editor of the Sokokis Warrior yearbook and was president of his graduating class of three in 1939. Around this time, Manley discovered the thrill of riding first a Henderson and later an Indian motorcycle.
At the University of Maine at Orono, Manley majored in Business. He also studied German, reasoning that “it might come in handy just in case I found myself deployed to Germany,” in World War II. At UMO, Manley was a member of the Phi Mu Delta fraternity and captain of the cross-country team that won a collegiate meet in Boston, qualifying for a national meet in New York City. During his college years, Manley drove a Model T Ford which on one trip from Limington to Orono had four consecutive flat tires.
In 1944 Manley enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marine. After training at Sheepshead Bay Maritime Service Training Station, Brooklyn, NY, and Boston Naval Hospital, MA, he served on several Liberty ships as ship’s purser and medical officer. During his tours of duty in the Pacific, Manley’s ships dropped anchor at several islands including Saipan and Tinian. When the war ended, his ship was ordered to Korea to drop off its surplus cargo. In his letters home, Manley was thrilled to see “the Orient,” but he called sailing home under the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of his service, “one of best sights in the world.”
After World War II, Manley and his brother Merton chose different paths. Merton went on to become a civil engineer while Manley returned to Brackett Orchards because, as he said, “my father needed me.” The farm is thought to be the oldest family-run orchard in Maine, having been started in 1783 by two Brackett brothers who were granted the land for their service in the Revolutionary War. Manley was an eighth-generation orchardist and a direct descendent of Anthony Brackett, a Scotsman, who came to the Colonies in 1629 and settled in Portsmouth, NH.
“In 1947,” Manley recounted, “I made the best decision of my life when I asked Marion Virginia Sawyer of Limington to marry me.” Ginnie, the love of his life, was a full partner in the family business for 66 years. Even most family vacations revolved around the apple business with annual trips to Quebec where Manley oversaw the recruitment of the apple picking crews. Many French Canadians worked for Manley before the New England apple industry turned to Jamaican pickers to harvest the crops.
In 1961, Manley and his father, Guy Brackett, took a calculated risk and built a cold storage which enabled them to pack their own apples, thus eliminating various middlemen. Around 1967 at the height of Manley’s success as an orchardist, he grew 50,000 bushels of apples annually. Working with individual bushels at that time was exponentially more difficult than using the 15-bushel bins that Manley introduced in 1970, along with fork lifts. Manley was again at the forefront of the apple industry when he built two controlled-atmosphere apple storages which kept apples crisp until spring. In 1975 Guy Paulin married Debra Brackett, Manley and Ginnie’s daughter, and began his apprenticeship in the apple business.
In 1979, Manley was awarded the York County Farmer of the Year designation for his innovative placement of miles of drainage in the orchards and “turning apple-raising into an art.” Manley worked hard in every aspect of the business. For decades, Manley stood shoulder to shoulder with his packing crew as they readied shipments for markets in Maine and beyond. He often delivered shipments to fruit brokers on Commercial Street in Portland, returning home late in the evening. He once remarked, “I think I’ve handled more apples than any other living person!”
Each day started at dawn with a doughnut and coffee as Manley meticulously planned each day’s work. Because an apple crop can be ruined by 15 minutes of bad weather, Manley sought to control those aspects of the business that he could. Growing apples is a balancing act of scientific knowledge, hard work, experience, good judgment, and luck. Near the end of his life, Manley remarked that he was proud “to have kept it [the orchard] going.” He was able to accomplish that through his own skill and determination, but also with the additional hard work and dedication of his son-in-law Guy and daughter Debra. After Ginnie died in 2013, Debra and Guy became Manley’s primary care providers which allowed him to stay in his home: his dearest wish.
Manley’s daughter Diane shared his keen interest in history and has written several books for the family: Manley Russell Brackett: 8th Generation Orchardist; May Garfield Russell Brackett; and Manley Russell Brackett, the Merchant Marine Years. She also kept Manley supplied with his favorite Italian sandwiches, baked a weekly apple pie for years, and planted the flower gardens that he enjoyed.
During his lifetime, Manley loved his dogs and enjoyed ice skating, golfing, swimming, salmon fishing in Nova Scotia, target practicing, card games, visiting friends, bird hunting with his English Setters, attending auctions, and reading. In the 1960s he bought a motor boat that he used to take the family mackerel fishing, often distributing the day’s catch around Limington. He also helped his daughters learn to waterski behind that boat on local lakes.
Manley is survived by his daughters, Diane Brackett (Eric Harrison) and Debra Paulin (Guy). His grandchildren are Jeremy Paulin (Kristy, children Oliver and Margaret), Joshua Paulin (children Virginia and Winston), and Abby Harrison (Anthony Dresser). Manley is also survived by his brother Merton Brackett and his children Mary Sullivan (Robert Sullivan, children Joshua, Bethany, and Hannah) and Jeffrey Brackett (Jennifer).
Services will be private. Remembrances can be made in Manley’s name to the Animal Rescue League of Greater Portland in memory of his beloved Black Labrador, Oscar, the official greeter at Brackett Orchards for many years.
Finally, as Manley would often say, “I’ll see you down the road.”
Online condolence messages can be submitted at the Poitras, Neal & York Funeral Home website, www.mainefuneral.com