Kenneth H. Eskelund
Kenneth H. Eskelund
  • February 13, 1924 - May 30, 2013
  • Winslow, Maine

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Winslow: Dr. Kenneth H. Eskelund, 89, passed away suddenly on May 30, 2013 as the result of a traumatic coronary event.

He was born February 13, 1924 in Winslow, the son of Carl and Idabel (Linten) Eskelund. He attended public schools and graduated from Winslow High School in 1941. After graduation, he attended the New England Aircraft School in Boston, Mass., studying aircraft mechanics. He then served 3 years in the U.S. Army Air Corp as an aircraft mechanic and propeller specialist serving in the USA, Okinawa and India.

After an honorable discharge, Ken enrolled at Michigan State University earning a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1951. During the summer vacation of 1949, while in veterinary school, Ken returned to Winslow where he was challenged by Donald Corbett to raise 20,000 baby broiler chicks (which was probably one of the largest flocks in the country at that time). This experience made him realize the great need for veterinarians in the poultry industry. After graduation, he chose poultry medicine as his career, one of the first veterinarians to do so.

While at Michigan State College, he met the love of his life, Shirley Ann Jedele. They were happily married in March of 1950 during his junior year.

In 1953, Donald Corbett convinced Ken to return to Winslow to manage CMT Company, the broiler growing division of Fort Halifax Packing Company, a move that he never regretted.

Ken and his family greatly enjoyed Maine and Shirley embraced her new home and became a true Mainer. The family particularly enjoyed their summers at their camp on Snow Pond with all of its summer fun, swimming, sailing, canoeing, boating and water skiing. At one point Ken enjoyed the status of having the "fastest boat on the lake", a 14' flat bottom, plywood runabout with a 30 HP Johnson outboard. The family also enjoyed snow skiing at Saddleback and Sugarloaf mountains, spending most weekends through the 1960's and 1970's at the Le Chalet Motel in Rangeley. The family also enjoyed Christmas and New Year's skiing trips to Kitsbuhl, Austria, and Breckenridge, Colorado.

In 1957, Dr. Eskelund saw the need to better protect chickens against infectious diseases. He founded and served as president of Maine Biological Laboratories (MBL) in partnership with Dr. Harold Chute, a poultry pathologist with the University of Maine, to produce poultry vaccines. During the next few years, he had to earn his living by doing poultry disease diagnostic work and consulting for two major Maine broiler producing companies. Maine had never vaccinated chickens, so in order to introduce his products, he set up services to go to the hundreds of farms and apply these vaccines to the chickens. As this service grew, he founded Maine Poultry Services with Tom Teague as his partner with crews to apply vaccines to these many farm flocks.

He also founded Maine Poultry Consultants (MPC) with Dr. William Gerencer (DVM) to diagnose poultry diseases. MPC went out of business with the demise of the broiler chicken business in Maine following the "Oil Crisis" of 1973.

He also founded Northeast Laboratory Services on the China Road, Winslow which still exists and employs about 65 people under the management of Beau Mears.

In 1966, Ken and Dr. Harold Chute sold the company to Norwich Pharmaceutical Company of Norwich, NY. Ken was replaced after five years but Norwich was not successful under the new management. In 1970, Ken repurchased MBL with John Osbourne (his original employee) as his partner.

Under his leadership, MBL built a laboratory on the China Road in Winslow in 1963 and over the years expanded it several times. During this time he developed and popularized the use of inactivated (killed virus) vaccines. Because of this, MBL developed national and international sales. In 1988 he sold the business to a Japanese firm but stayed on as president until his retirement in 1993. MBL (now known as Lohmann Animal Health) is still thriving, employing over 120 people.

After his retirement from Maine Biological Laboratories in 1993, Ken devoted much of his time to charitable organizations. He served on the Board of the Alfond Youth Center (Boys & Girls Club/YMCA) from1998 until 2009 and has been a major benefactor. He was honored with the naming of the Kenneth and Shirley Eskelund "KIDS ROOM", where some 200 kids from 4 to 8 years of age are served a hot meal after each school day.

He also served on the Advisory Council of the Muskie Center (now Spectrum Generations) where he also delivered Meals on Wheels for over 10 years. He personally conducted a capital campaign to build additional space which has been named the Kenneth and Shirley Eskelund Solarium.

He was a great financial supporter of practically all local charities. Many of these will benefit from Charitable Remainder Trusts which he established. This was his way of keeping what otherwise would be leaving Maine as tax dollars would be kept here, to benefit local charities.

Dr. Eskelund has received many honors. Most cherished was the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University in 2005. It reads as follows: "This honor is awarded by Michigan State University Alumni Association to alumni that have attained the highest level of professional accomplishments, demonstrated exemplary voluntary service on a local, state, national or international level, and possess the highest standards of integrity and character to positively reflect and enhance the prestige of Michigan State University."

In 2000, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), he was awarded their Special Service Award. This was awarded to one person annually, "''' for the lifetime service to the organization and for accomplishments that benefit the poultry health industry." This is AAAP's highest award.

In 2001, he was awarded the Philanthropy Day Award for "Outstanding Philanthropist of the State of Maine", presented by the Northern