CHARLESTON — A Charleston couple who drowned Monday after being swept out to sea by a rogue wave at Schoodic Point loved the Maine coast and traveled there each spring and fall.
Every year, Robert Croteau, 51, and his wife, Margaret Croteau, 63, would go to the seashore before the tourists arrived and after they left.
“They liked the coast, where they would go to watch the waves roll in,” a neighbor said Tuesday.
On Monday, the couple had been standing on rocks along the water’s edge at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, when a large wave sucked them into the sea, according to Maine Marine Patrol officials.
Their deaths were the first ones in 20 years on the Schoodic Peninsula. The drownings are believed to have been an accident.
The Croteaus could not swim, but they were very cautious people, brother-in-law Walter Hish of Wellington said Tuesday. The fact that the couple were so cautious left him puzzled over how their deaths occurred. They wouldn’t take any chances, he said.
“Everybody loved them, and we’re all going to miss them,” Norma Hish of Wellington, Margaret Croteau’s younger sister, said Tuesday. “She was my sister and my best friend.”
Norma Hish said her sister had asked her to accompany them to the coast Monday, but she had declined because she and her husband had planned a trip there later this week.
Alan Talbot, the Marine Patrol sergeant handling the investigation of the drowning, said Tuesday that his agency had concluded its inquiry into the matter.
Talbot said that a friend of the Croteaus’, Kurt Hinrichs, also of Charleston, was preparing to take photos of the couple when the wave crashed onto shore.
A roll of film taken by Hinrichs is in the possession of the Marine Patrol. Talbot said that he wouldn’t release the pictures taken Monday by Hinrichs. The officer added that none of the photos depicted the massive wave or the couple being swept out to sea.
Messages left Tuesday at Hinrichs’ home were not returned.
Norma and Walter Hish were at the Croteaus’ Bacon Road home in Charleston on Tuesday to check the welfare of the couple’s animals, an elderly dog, a cat, a pig and some chickens. Norma Hish said Boomer the dog and a cat had been waiting by the door for their owners to return home.
The Croteaus’ brown bungalow, secluded by trees, is a short distance from the Bacon Road. An older red pickup truck was visible in the yard Tuesday behind a locked gate that bore a no-trespassing sign.
The retired couple, who had lived in Charleston for about 14 years, were well liked by neighbors, though considered somewhat reclusive. Margaret Croteau tended flower and vegetable gardens, according to her sister. Neighbors, who were on the receiving end, said she canned produce from her gardens and made jams.
Robert Croteau previously worked for the town of Charleston, tending the dump and cemeteries, according to Nancy Noyes, Charleston town clerk.
“It’s quite a shock,” she said Tuesday. “He was friendly with a lot of people; I used to buy eggs from him.”
Neighbors say the man especially enjoyed collecting odd pieces of furniture, which he took home and his wife then beautifully restored.
Sandra Grady, a next-door neighbor, said she was shocked at the news of the couple’s deaths.
“I’m heartsick over it,” she said. She said the couple lived off the land and kept to themselves, although they were friendly people and nice neighbors. Margaret Croteau enjoyed taking walks through the surrounding forests and fields, she said.
The Croteaus, formerly of Massachusetts, were married for about 14 years, according to Norma Hish. She said they had no children together, but her sister had three children from a previous marriage. The children are now adults, she said.
Norma Hish said the couple will be cremated. No details on funeral services for the couple were available Tuesday.
Bangor Daily News reporter Shawn O’Leary contributed to this report.