Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 24, 2019
Remembering David Unger, ‘Music Man’ and former selectman
‘We will miss him deeply’
Twelve years a selectman, and longer as a musician and supporter of local music, David Unger died on January 17, at age 86. Known as the “Music Man,” David Unger performs at a July 4 concert of the Castine Town Band.
by Anne Berleant
A selectman for 12 years, a charter member of the Castine Town Band, an avid trumpeter and music lover, and an active member of the Castine Arts Association, David G. Unger died in Castine on January 17. He was 86 years old.
“He was an honorable person and his love of the town was evident in all of the decisions we made together,” said Gus Basile, who served on the board of selectmen for over 10 years with Unger. “We will miss him deeply.”
Selectman Peter Vogell agreed. “He served well. Just about everything he did was great.”
In 2018, after David chose not to run for reelection the previous fall, Castine dedicated its Town Report to him in honor of his service. At his last selectmen’s meeting on November 6, 2017, Unger said, “I have done a great many things in the town of Castine, but nothing has given me a greater sense of pride or happiness than serving on this board.”
But while many knew Unger mainly as a selectman, his role as a musician and supporter of local music, and as companion to his poodle Lady Jane, also evoked strong memories.
“He was always there with the band,” Town Band Director Silas Yates remembered. “He made almost every rehearsal. He read his part and didn’t complain.”
And as an announcer at Town Band concerts, “he was priceless,” Yates said, adding, “Dave was a very private person but was always straightforward and didn’t have any hidden agendas. Because of that, he was easy to work with.”
Unger became known as the “Music Man” for his support of local musical events, whether a town band performance, a performance of Castine Brass, of which he was a charter member, the Castine Arts Association annual winter Just For Fun concert, or bands he played with outside of Castine.
“He got nicknamed the Music Man because he always gave music reports on what went on in the community,” Town Clerk Susan Macomber said. “He took pride in that. He was very involved and was always trying to get people to attend or participate.”
After David’s wife, Carolyn, died in 2009, he opened his home and heart to Lady Jane, a small, white poodle. Every Wednesday he brought her to Pampered Pets in Orland for a grooming, and became more than a customer to owner Christina Abbott, who helped David train Lady Jane and took the poodle in after David’s death.
“He was an amazing man,” Abbott said. “He became a part of our family. He came to my child’s first recital. He had a giant heart.”
David’s age, and even his hearing loss, didn’t stop him from performing, Abbott said. “He wanted to do his part in life. It blew my mind. At an age when most people drink tea and go to bed at eight—nope, not Dave.”
David and Carolyn Unger moved to Castine in 1998 after he retired as Associate Chief and Acting Chief of the USDA Forest Service, where he had served for 13 years, first as Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest Systems. Before joining the Forest Service, David was the Associate Chief of the Soil Conservation Service, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.
He was elected to the Castine Board of Selectmen in 2005 and re-elected three times, in races both contested and where he was the sole candidate.
“The one thing I found about David was he would always sit back and listen,” Town Financial Officer Karen Motycka remembered. “He would listen to all sides and take it in and then make decisions. He [was] able to pick out the things that were in the best interest of the town.”
A thread noting his death on the You Know You Are From Castine, Maine If… Facebook page brought sadness, warm memories and relief that Lady Jane had quickly found a home.
“Loved his witty comments and introductions at town concerts,” Donna Brophy wrote.
Remy Cyr posted, “So sad. Such a wonderful person. Glad to hear that his beloved dog is being well cared for. That would mean so much to him.”
David is survived by two sons, David, of Brooklyn, New York, and Christopher, of Hermon.
“He was proud to be a resident of Castine, and he loved the music element of the area,” Christopher Unger said. “He enjoyed being a public servant.”
A service for David will be held Saturday, January 26, at the Trinity Episcopal Church on Perkins Street at 2 p.m.