Bangor educator and prosecutor killed in Waterville crash
By Eesha Pendharkar, Bangor Daily News Staff
A longtime Bangor educator and prosecutor were remembered fondly Thursday as news circulated that they’d died in a car crash in Waterville a day earlier.
Gary Capehart, 71, and Susan Pope, 62, of Sanford died after the truck Capehart was driving veered off Interstate 95 in Waterville during a snowstorm, went over two guardrails and burst into flames.
On Thursday, many Bangor residents remembered Capehart as a great teacher and mentor, and Pope as a dedicated lawyer who always fought for justice.
Capehart taught for the Bangor School Department for almost 40 years, and served as coach for much of that time. He also ran for local and state office three times, including two bids for state representative in 2016 and 2018, and Bangor City Council in 2015.
Pope worked for the Penobscot County district attorney’s office for several years as an assistant district attorney, and eventually became head of the appellate practice for the DA’s office. Five or six years ago, she started working at the York County district attorney’s office.
“All of us at the DA’s office in Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties who had the privilege of working alongside Suzy knew her to be an energetic and relentless fighter for justice,” said R. Christopher Almy, a former district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.“We in the legal community, her family, her friends and all her wonderful dogs, past and present, have lost a wonderful and warm ally.”
Defense attorney and state Sen.-elect Joe Baldacci first got to know Pope when she moved to Bangor to practice law, about 20 years ago. He interacted with her at court in Bangor often when she was an assistant district attorney, and always found her to be “a great all around prosecutor who wanted to make sure the system was fair, as well as just.”
Baldacci also knew Capehart, primarily as a teacher to his kids at James F. Doughty School in Bangor. Their interaction at parent-teacher conferences left a positive impression. As city councilor and later as a state representative, Baldacci knew Capehart was also politically active.
“We were in different [political] parties but I’ve always respected both of them very much,” Baldacci said. “I’m really saddened by this news. It’s a real loss for the community as a whole.”
Capehart was also remembered by a few of his former students, who knew him as a tough but fair track coach. Angel Matson of Bangor and Darrick Banda of Augusta said when Capehart always pushed them to do their best.
“His style may have seemed tough to me at that age, but the lesson, often delivered in his booming voice, carried me over the years. That lesson wasn’t limited to what happened at practice, but within Coach’s messages was one of inspiration and encouragement and the value of helping those around you,” Matson said. “Gary Capehart touched the lives of thousands of Bangor students and their families, as well as all the educators he worked alongside. He will be dearly missed.”