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Donn Fendler, 'Lost On A Mountain In Maine' Author, Dies


When Donn Fendler was 12, he endured nine days alone in the Maine wilderness. He later wrote a book about the ordeal titled "Lost On A Mountain In Maine." It became a classic for grade school kids. Donn Fendler died over the weekend at the age of 90. Susan Sharon of Maine Public Radio reports his legacy lives on in the imaginations of thousands of children.

SUSAN SHARON, BYLINE: Donn Fendler's epic journey began near the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine's tallest mountain. It was July 1939. It was foggy. It was raining. And young Donn was impatient. This is the description from his book.


DONN FENDLER: I was cold and shivering, and I never was good at standing cold anyway. Nights when Ryan and Tom slept with only a sheet over them, Dad always came in with a blanket for me.

SHARON: Instead of waiting for his father and the rest of his hiking party to catch up, Fendler took off down the mountain. And for the next nine days, he was lost.


D. FENDLER: There were plenty of times I wanted to give up and just say, to heck with it, like those last few days. But you just keep going. I don't know what it - like I told you, it's your will to live.

SHARON: In the documentary "Finding Donn Fendler," Fendler describes nearly passing out from exhaustion on the day he was found more than 35 miles away. He'd lost his jeans and his shoes, was covered in mosquito bites and survived a tumble down an embankment and an encounter with black bears. But his twin brother, Ryan, says Donn remembered something he'd learned in the Boy Scouts - to follow a stream, which he did.


RYAN FENDLER: He then came across an old cabin, and there was a potato sack in there and a few other little things that he could us. But he ate berries and drank water and really didn't have anything to eat. And he was, you know, below 70 pounds when they found him.

SHARON: hundreds of people searched for Fendler. The story of the boy lost in the Maine woods captured newspaper headlines around the country. Ryan Fendler says at around day 5, many gave up hope his brother would be found alive. Days later, Fendler stumbled upon a hunting camp and flagged down the occupants. The book about his ordeal was published in 1978, and friends and family members say sharing that story with schoolchildren was one of his greatest joys.

LYNN PLOURDE: I loved the man, and I loved the hero. He was a hero and an inspiration and an icon to so many people.

SHARON: Children's book author Lynn Plourde says her friend Don Fendler inspired kids because he could make them believe that they, too, could survive a perilous adventure with a little bit of luck and by never, ever giving up. "Lost On A Mountain In Maine" has long been required reading for many fourth graders in Maine and beyond. For NPR News, I'm Susan Sharon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deputy News Director Susan Sharon is a reporter and editor whose on-air career in public radio began as a student at the University of Montana. Early on, she also worked in commercial television doing a variety of jobs. Susan first came to Maine Public Radio as a State House reporter whose reporting focused on politics, labor and the environment. More recently she's been covering corrections, social justice and human interest stories. Her work, which has been recognized by SPJ, SEJ, PRNDI and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, has taken her all around the state — deep into the woods, to remote lakes and ponds, to farms and factories and to the Maine State Prison. Over the past two decades, she's contributed more than 100 stories to NPR.