Linda Bean, an L.L. Bean Heir and a Conservative Donor, Dies at 82

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Linda Bean, an heir to the Maine outdoor retailer L.L. Bean who created a company of her own to market other famous Maine products, chiefly lobster rolls and seaside rentals, and who was an outspoken conservative in a state with a tradition of favoring political independents, died on Saturday. She was 82.

An obituary, which did not cite a cause or say where she died, was posted by the funeral home handling her burial.

Ms. Bean was a granddaughter of Leon Leonwood Bean, the purveyor of rubber-soled duck boots and plaid flannel shirts that crossed over from hunters to preppies, fueling the company’s growth into a national catalog behemoth and one of Maine’s largest employers.

As one of about 30 heirs, with a seat on the board of the privately owned company, Ms. Bean used her wealth to support right-wing causes and politicians, including former President Donald J. Trump; to amass paintings and properties associated with the Wyeth art family; and to set out as an entrepreneur in her mid-60s.

In January 2017, the Federal Election Commission said that a contribution of tens of thousands of dollars that Ms. Bean made to a group supporting Mr. Trump, Making America Great Again LLC, exceeded the individual donor limit of $5,000. An anti-Trump group threatened a boycott of L.L. Bean; the company distanced itself from Ms. Bean but did not remove her from the board.

A company Ms. Bean created in 2007, Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, began with the purchase of a commercial wharf that supplied bait to lobster boats and bought their catch in the picturesque village of Port Clyde, where she had a home. Her ambition was to mass-market lobster under her own name — as Frank Perdue had branded chicken — and to keep Maine lobster from being sent for processing to Canada, which Ms. Bean considered a socialist state.

She acknowledged that marketing, not lobstering, was her forte.

“I love to work with words,” she told The New York Times in 2009, musing about menu items such as Linda Bean’s Port Clyde Lobster Stew and Linda Bean’s Lobster Cuddlers — a name she preferred to describe lobster claws with butter. “Like chicken tenders — it tells you you’re eating something succulent, not scary,” she said.

Ms. Bean went on to acquire other lobster wharves in nearby Tenants Harbor and on the island of Vinalhaven. She also opened a lobster processing plant in Rockland and established a restaurant chain, with locations in Portland, Camden and Freeport, Maine (near the flagship L.L. Bean store), and in Delray Beach, Fla.

In 2016, Ms. Bean and others succeeded in having the Maine lobster fishery certified as sustainable by an independent group, the Marine Stewardship Council, in what was viewed as a consumer-friendly coup. (The certification was suspended in 2020 because of lobstering’s impact on whales.)

Less than a decade after starting her business, Ms. Bean single-handedly accounted for about 5.5 percent of Maine’s lobster catch, according to The Bangor Daily News. She had also, the newspaper said, become “one of the more controversial figures in the state.”

Ms. Bean’s conservative politics were well known from her two congressional races, her support of hard-right social policies and her feuds with the state’s Republican establishment, which she considered too moderate.

For many years, she was an officer of the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, a conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. Ms. Bean raised money for a successful campaign in 1984 to defeat a state Equal Rights Amendment banning discrimination based on sex. In 2005, she supported a campaign to repeal a state law that banned discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people — an effort that failed.

In February 2021, just after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Ms. Bean gave $150,000 to a committee supporting Mr. Trump, according to the F.E.C.

Linda Lorraine Bean was born on April 28, 1941, in Portland, Maine. Her father, Charles Warren Bean, was a designer of leather and canvas goods for his father’s company. Her mother, Hazel June (Turner) Bean, was in the typing pool at L.L. Bean when she met Charles Bean, and she later became a member of the L.L. Bean board.

Linda Bean graduated from Antioch College in 1963 with a degree in business and accounting. That year she married James Raymond Clark. A second marriage, to Verne E. Jones in 1975, ended with his death in 1985. She was married a third time, to Donald L. Folkers, from 1990 to 2007.

She is survived by a sister, Diana Bean; three sons from her first marriage, Nathan, Jason and Kevin Clark; and four grandchildren.

Ms. Bean was originally a Kennedy Democrat, she told The Times in 1992, but was pulled rightward by Mr. Jones, her second husband, a farmer almost four decades her senior who balked at the power of local government over his property.

In 1988, she ran in and lost the Republican primary for a congressional seat in Maine’s First District, which includes the state’s southeastern coast. Four years later, she won the primary for the seat but lost by a landslide in the general election to the Democratic incumbent, Thomas Andrews.

Ms. Bean’s love of Port Clyde extended beyond the lobster business. She bought up much of its waterfront, including the Port Clyde General Store, the Dip Net Restaurant and a pair of inns, as well as houses that she converted to vacation rentals.

Her enthusiasm extended to three generations of artists — N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth — whose realistic works are strongly linked to the people and landscapes of the St. George Peninsula, which includes Port Clyde, and to the lonely outlying islands. Besides collecting their art, at her death Ms. Bean was building a library in Port Clyde to house books about the clan, the Wyeth Reading Room. She even bought a townhouse in Wilmington, Del., where N.C. Wyeth lived after his marriage in 1906, complete with his honeymoon bed.

Ms. Bean’s aggressive acquisitions in Port Clyde did not always sit well with locals, nor did her corporate branding of Maine’s coastal lifestyle. Neighbors went to court to stop the library, complaining that it was too big for the site and would draw too much traffic, but she prevailed.

She defended her investments in Port Clyde and nearby villages as protecting a cherished way of life.

“Most people retire in their mid-60s, but I have continued that extra 10 years in St. George because I care about my community and want to help maintain lobstering, art and visitor hospitality that give this peninsula its particular vitality,” she said in an interview with The Bangor Daily News in 2017.

In recent years, though, she had stepped back from managing her businesses.

In September 2023, a fire at the Dip Net Restaurant destroyed it and two of her other waterfront businesses: the general store and an art gallery, where works by N.C. Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth were lost. The fire also damaged the office of the company that runs the Monhegan Island Boat Line.

Ms. Bean had called the damage a “devastating blow” and vowed to rebuild as soon as possible.



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