- Karlene Kelley Hale, 74, beloved journalist, author, and extraordinary friend to neighborhood children, died peacefully on Nov. 22, 2017, at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston after a long fight with COPD.
She was born in Machias on March 11, 1943, the daughter of Karl F. Kelley and Dorothy (Burnham) Kelley.
Karlene attended Machias schools, graduated from Machias High School and spent the first two years of college at the University of Maine at Machias. Then she transferred to the University of Maine at Orono, where she graduated in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in English and teaching. She went on to earn a master of arts in teaching degree at Tufts University while her first husband, Charles Washburn, was earning a law degree at Boston University.
While she was in college, Karlene worked several summers as a camp counselor at Girl Scout wilderness camps, including Camp Natarswe, just outside the boundaries of Baxter State Park, where she led small groups of girls up the steep slopes of Mount Katahdin.
Karlene taught high school English at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Shead High School in Eastport, Leavitt High School in Turner and Monmouth Academy before turning from education to a career in journalism.
Karlene was active in the Unitarian Church. She was proud of being elected secretary of the Northeast District Convention of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Albuquerque, NM.
She was a district correspondent for the Bangor Daily News, covering eastern Washington County for several years. After moving to Monmouth, she began a 12-year career at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, focusing mainly on statewide and local education stories. She also wrote personal opinion columns for the KJ that won a loyal following.
In 1995, Karlene left the KJ and began working as a full-time freelance reporter for Capital Weekly. Here, her work as a columnist really blossomed. With wit, compassion and a beautiful writing style she profiled people she had met and also people she had known while she was growing up. Her columns and news articles won many awards from the Maine Press Association.
She also won the Outstanding Media Award given by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 1992 for her stories about how mentally ill people were faring after they were turned out of mental hospitals in the "deinstitutionalization" movement.
During this time, Karlene wrote three books. They were a look at the private lives of the mentally ill, called "Being There;" the story of the highly successful Jonesport-Beals High School basketball team and their legendary coach, Ordie Alley, "Hometown Champs;" and a collection of essays about her growing up Down East, called "Tap Dancing and True Confessions."
In 1987, Karlene married John Hale, a reporter at the Bangor Daily News who had preceded her on the education beat at the Kennebec Journal. She brought her daughter, Elizabeth, then 13 to the marriage.
Karlene and John loved many of the same things - high school basketball, cats, movies from all eras and politics. Elizabeth liked photography, music and travel.
Karlene and John took some memorable trips, to Nova Scotia, to Quebec City, to Ottawa, and to the Charlevoix region on the north side of the St. Lawrence River. They also made several trips to Rhode Island where John's parents lived.
Karlene had a knack for getting along with young children. She first met Jenn and Josh Lola when Jenn was in second grade and they were in the Monmouth Dribblers group. Karlene later watched the Lola kids from the time their parents left for work and the time the school bus arrived to pick them up.
Jenn would come over for help with her homework and other frequent guests at the Hales were Edy Morin, Lillian Kaplan and Lilliane Verrill.
Every year on the first day of school, Karlene would drive down to the school bus stop and take pictures of the kids as a kind of record of their growing up. She then made scrapbooks for each child using a unique style of collage that she invented.
The Lola children liked the Hales so much they called their neighbors "surrogate grandparents."
When Karlene became interested in a topic, she dived into it with unbridled enthusiasm. She fell in love with the silent films of Charlie Chaplin and eventually we watched all of them on DVDs and she read a 700-page biography of Chaplin. She wanted to teach a course on Chaplin for UMA Senior College but her illness intervened.
Karlene was predeceased by her parents and her first husband.
Survivors include her husband, John Hale, of North Monmouth; her daughter, Elizabeth Washburn, of Boston; her sister, Elaine Dunton, and her husband, Gary Dunton, of Standish; her nephew, Toby Brown, of Nantucket, Mass. and his wife, Suzette Corkish Brown, and their children, Eliza and Shaun; another nephew, Warren Brown, of Livermore; and a stepson, Jonathan Hale, of Washington, D.C.
There will be a celebration of life for Karlene at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, at North Monmouth Community Church with a social time to follow. Snow date will be Saturday, Jan. 6.
Spring burial will be in Pleasant Point Cemetery in North Monmouth.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family may donate in Karlene's memory to the Activities Fund at Heritage Rehabilitation and Living Center, 457 Old Lewiston Road, Winthrop, ME 04364 or to the Food Bank at North Monmouth Community Church, P.O. Box 35, North Monmouth, ME 04265.
Karlene's full obituary may be viewed and those who wish may share memories, condolences, photos or videos with the family on the obituary page at the website of Knowlton Hewins Roberts Funeral Homes at www.khrfuneralhomes.com
Published on  November 27, 2017