Tributes are pouring in for Josh Seal, an ASL interpreter who served the Mills and Biden administrations.
LEWISTON, Maine — Maine’s tight-knit deaf community is reeling after several of its members died in the mass shooting rampage Wednesday. Among those who died at Schemengee’s Bar and Grille Restaurant was a beloved interpreter for the deaf.
During the pandemic, Josh Seal gained notoriety as one of the lead interpreters for Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Center for Disease Control and prevention. Because of those skills, he also served as an interpreter for the Biden administration.
But to family and friends, the 36-year-old is remembered as a fantastic father and tireless advocate who worked to improve the lives of deaf Mainers.
The American Sign Language interpreter was the voice and face of Maine’s deaf community during the pandemic. Because of those abilities, Josh had been tapped for distance interpreting for Vice President Kamala Harris over the past two years.
“Yesterday morning, we had to cancel an event for VP Harris because we were unavailable, and her team completely understood,” explained Noel Sullivan, the CEO of Pine Tree Society, where Josh served as director of interpreting services.
Josh led a team that provided interpreting services for deaf and hard-of-hearing Mainers throughout the state, from funerals to medical appointments. Sullivan said Josh had a passion for making a difference in his community.
“Josh did not lead with I want to be a good manager; he led with I want to be good for the deaf community,” Sullivan said between sobs.
Josh’s wife, Elizabeth Seal, posted to Facebook that her husband and father to their four children, ages 12 and under, was a fantastic dad.
“He loved his family and always put them first,” Elizabeth said. “This is what he will always be remembered for.”
Josh is also leaving behind a legacy to help break the isolation for deaf students at an early age.
Two years ago, he helped co-found Camp Dirigo. The week-long experience held at Pine Tree Camp in Rome brings together deaf youngsters from across the state, where they learn to communicate and trust each other through various activities. Josh explained his vision to News Center Maine just this past August.
“They are often the only ones in their school, in their town, and their family. This opportunity to spend time with, play with, and learn sign language from each other is an amazing experience,” Seal, an ASL interpreter, said.
Sulivan said Josh’s efforts to make life better for deaf kids will live on. Not only in the summer but possibly in the winter, too, teaching kids to ice fish, providing life-changing experiences and friendships they can turn to for the rest of their lives.
A GoFundMe Account has been set up to help the family with expenses.
Kevin Bohlin, who partnered with Josh to launch and grow Pine Tree Camp’s Dirigo experience and serves as the Camp’s program director, released a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine:
“The most important thing I can say about Josh is he was indeed a family man before he gave himself to the Deaf community. He was a fantastic father to four Deaf children and devoted to his wife, Liz– without his family, he would never be able to advocate for his community. We all need to remember Josh as the person who recognized that many Deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Maine aren’t as fortunate as his children by having full access to communication at their home and wanting to make a difference for them.
Before his work with Pine Tree Society, he worked for the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to support Deaf/Hard of Hearing children in the classroom by providing them access to sign language and making sure they thrive in the educational environment– this leads him to want to raise the bar for himself to expand his gift toward to the community. He became a Certified Deaf Interpreter, providing opportunities and access for the Deaf Community by conveying messages in their native language. Once he became Director of Interpreter at Pine Tree Society, he expanded the gates by ensuring that interpreters were qualified to work in the community and providing countless support to Hearing and Deaf interpreters statewide.
Two years ago, Josh envisioned establishing a camp program for Maine Deaf/Hard of Hearing children so they would have a place to thrive in their self-confidence/identity and develop leadership skills, including advocating for their access. I was honored to team up with him to make Camp Dirigo come true through countless donations and the support from Pine Tree Society/Pine Tree Camp/Deaf Community– we just completed our second summer program, which provided life-changing experiences and lifelong friendships among 32 Deaf/Hard of Hearing children from Maine.
With this senseless murder, which robbed his children, wife, and Maine Deaf Community– we need to look at the word “Dirigo,” which means “I lead.” This circles back to the vision that Josh had for Camp Dirigo– allowing Maine Deaf and hard-of-hearing youths to have a place to grow and lead; this is one of the best ways that we can continue to remember and honor Josh by continuing his vision to strengthen and bring together the Deaf Community.”