BENTON - Mary Jane "MJ" Rinfret, 65, died suddenly June 30, 2013. She was born Nov. 25, 1947, in Skowhegan, daughter of Munroe and Esther (Boyington) Rinfret.
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MJ graduated from Skowhegan Area High School, SAHS, where she distinguished herself as an actress, starring in several award winning Maine state one-act play contests. After high school she earned a bachelor's degree in English and theater from the University of Maine, whereupon she returned to SAHS for four years to teach English and theater under the mentorship of her high school drama coach, Elizabeth Merrill. MJ's love of theater was nurtured from a young age through her relationship with Lakewood Theater where she worked for nearly three decades in many capacities ranging from ushering to box office manager. While at Lakewood she formed lifelong friendships with stage and film stars including Betsy Palmer, Kitty Carlisle, Peggy Cass, John Travolta and Maureen O'Sullivan, among others. In 1975 MJ was awarded a master's degree in theater from the University of Maine. She then relocated to New York City for two years where she worked for theatre and film director, Lee Strasberg, while auditioning for acting parts. Her efforts resulted in a role which was so far off Broadway that she decided to return home where she participated in productions at the Waterville Opera House, Lakewood Theater, and Park Street Players. She particularly relished playing the characters of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and that of Madam Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, a role that she was reprising for the third time with ACAT, Waterville, when she was taken ill. In 1977 MJ joined the faculty at Messalonskee High School, MHS, Oakland, to teach English, a position that she held for 33 years. During her early years at MHS she directed plays and organized the annual Ripple Dipple talent show. She also enjoyed traveling with students on three trips to England and one to Greece. Respected by her students as a strict taskmaster of English grammar and usage, she was frequently cited by them as the teacher who best instilled these skills. During her two years of retirement she spent many hours tracing her family's genealogy and joining her former colleagues in their monthly book club.
MJ was predeceased by her parents; beloved aunts and uncles; and her best friend and partner of 28 years, Judith Maunder Curran. She is survived by numerous cousins and close friends who will miss her.
A celebration of MJ's life with committal prayers will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Benton Falls Congregational Church, 79 Benton Falls Road, Benton, with the Rev. John Quigg officiating. Interment will be after at Robinson Memorial Cemetery, Moscow. In lieu of flowers, donations in MJ's memory may be made to Good Shepherd Food Bank, 3121 Hotel Road, P.O. Box 1807, Auburn, ME 04211; or to a charity of one's choice. Cremation and service arrangements are in the care of Giberson Funeral Home, 40 Maple St., Madison.
Published in BDN Maine on July 10, 2013