Frank C Perham passed away on January 31, 2023, at the age of 88. Frank was born and raised in Trap Corner, West Paris, Maine, in the house attached to the “mineral store” – formally known as Perham’s Maine Mineral Store. Frank wore many hats in his lifetime. When asked to describe himself by Karen Webber for the book Frank C. Perham, Adventures in Maine Pegmatite Mining, he said “I’m an undergraduate geologist by training, a miner by avocation, and a garage owner by necessity, right in that order.”
Pegmatite minerals and mining were always a part of Frank’s life. What made his heart go “pitter-patter” were the lithium-rich pegmatites that had the potential to produce tourmaline. Frank said, with respect to mining, he was very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time with the right equipment for some of Maine’s most important pegmatite pocket discoveries as either a miner or observer. The most famous of these discoveries was the series of pockets opened at the Dunton pegmatite, Newry, Maine, from 1972-1974. Frank was the contract miner for Plumbago Mining Corporation, so he had the thrill of drilling into the pockets, including the “Big Pocket” that produced over a ton of gem watermelon tourmaline. In 1977, a new mineral discovered at the Bell Pit and Dunton, Newry Hill, Newry, was named “Perhamite.” It was named for “Frank C. Perham, geologist and pegmatite miner of West Paris, Maine, in honor of his dedicated labors in the recovery of mineral specimens”, by Dunn and Appleman. Ironically, in 2006, Frank discovered the largest perhamites ever found during a mining season at Ski Pike.
Over his lifetime, Frank mined or “observed” other mines at numerous localities where pockets or collectible specimens were found, including the Albany Rose, Bennett, BB#7, Bumpus, Emmons, Harvard, Havey, Hayes, Lord Hill, Mt Apatite, Mt Marie, Mt Mica, Newry, Orchard, Ski Pike, Tamminen, Waisanen, and Whispering Pines. Frank had an amazing memory and could recollect what minerals were found at the various pegmatites and what specimens looked like. As a result, he was invaluable for identifying specimens and localities when MMGM was first organizing its collections. He was the first to admit that precisely when a pocket was opened or a mineral specimen was mined was not always at the tip of his tongue. But, if you showed him a photograph of a pocket or a mine site, he could tell you when it was taken based on the mining equipment or vehicles in the picture! When asked a question, if Frank’s response began with “well, the thing is” you knew you were in for a great story. If there was a “but I digress” it was even better.
When the Maine Pegmatite Workshop was held in Poland, Maine, for the first time in 2002, Frank was a treasured and permanent member of the organizing group. He particularly enjoyed working with students or folks new to pegmatites or collecting and would spend time at the pegmatites we visited, describing the history, previous discoveries, or current work. One of the annual events held at the Workshop was the Ugly Shirt Contest. Participants had to put together crazy costumes with great prizes as a reward. Frank always had a creative costume, acted as MC, and brought trash bags full of costumes and accessories “gifted” to him from previous participants for others to borrow.
Frank was a gifted storyteller. He would say “sit back and I’m going to take you on a little journey with me ” as he recounted mining adventures and discoveries. He had a photographic memory when it came to pockets and what was in them. One of his annual talks at the Maine Pegmatite Workshop was about the Newry discovery, and he had all of the participants right with him in the Big Pocket as he unearthed the “Jolly Green Giant” for the first time from its bed of cleavelandite.
When asked why he loved mining so much, particularly in a summer when little was found, he would say he mined for the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of reading the rocks to determine the best place to drill and blast, and the knowledge that when he opened a pocket for the first time, he was the first person on Earth to look inside and pull out minerals. He said when he opened a pocket and thought, “Oh, that’s JUST a quartz pocket,” that’s when he’d quit mining. He also mined because he loved using his “Yankee Ingenuity” to make equipment work, building roads to “obscure places that no one in their right minds would do,” and enjoying the camaraderie with his mining partners and crew. He maintained he was not a traditional or typical mineral collector. He loved to collect what he called oddities, the specimen that had an unusual morphology or color because they told a different story. Fortunately, Frank’s collection and that from Jane Perham, Perham Mineral Museum Collection, are now permanently housed at MMGM and available for others to enjoy.
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