Portland, Maine, shows love for late Valentine’s Day Bandit by continuing tradition of paper hearts

Feb 14, 2024, 7:39 AM

Valentine's Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portl...

Valentine's Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portland, Maine. The public has helped honor the memory of Kevin Fahrman, the Valentine's Day Bandit who secretly hung hundreds of red paper hearts throughout the city every February 14th. Farman died last year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — With the death last spring of Portland’s beloved Valentine’s Day bandit, some wondered if the mysterious appearance of red hearts around Maine’s largest city would continue. His admirers responded with plenty of heart.

Hundreds of red hearts appeared on storefronts, mailboxes and even trash bins on Wednesday, with giant banners defying gusty winds at DiMillo’s floating restaurant and on construction scaffolding in the Old Port. Another heart festooned the Portland Public Library.

“Long live the Valentine’s Day Bandit,” said Cary Tyson, executive director of Portland Downtown.

For more than four decades, Kevin Fahrman, of neighboring Falmouth, led a group of pranksters who always struck early on Feb. 14. His identity wasn’t revealed until after his death in April at age 67.

There was a revolving cast of helpers, but the one constant was Fahrman.

“It wasn’t for recognition, it was completely selfless. And that’s what made it feel so magical,” said his daughter, Sierra Fahrman, who found beauty in the “simplicity and sincerity” of his gesture.

After his death, a foundation was created and a website, BeAKevin.com, was launched. On the website, people can download and print the simple, red hearts and become a bandit.

The tradition had its roots in the 1970s when Fahrman moved to the city. He loved the red hearts and was bummed when they stopped, his daughter said. So he decided to take it on himself in 1979.

Fahrman was a musician, a photographer and an artist, among other things. He used to play in a band called The Van Gogh-Gos and showed his humor in the band’s slogan, “Lend us an ear.”

“He was so funny, kind and generous,” his daughter said. “He was caring and funny, and in a way flawed, but people adored him for his quirkiness.”

For all the fun and frivolity, the bandit’s wife, Patti Urban, dubbed herself a Valentine’s Day widow. She said her husband was usually too exhausted from his late-night shenanigans to enjoy the day.

But Sierra said her dad always made sure to decorate their home with hearts, and usually had a basket of goodies for her — similar to the way other families get visits from the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. It wasn’t until she started school, she said, that she learned that other people didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with the same fervor.

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Portland, Maine, shows love for late Valentine’s Day Bandit by continuing tradition of paper hearts