Miriam's Story

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BLUE HILL - Miriam Alice Colwell, Maine author, died peacefully on December 14, 2014. She leaves many cousins (Colwells and Coles) and close friends whose lives were touched by her indomitable spirit, sharp wit, and enthusiasm for literature, the arts, nature and animals.

In her own words: I was born in 1917 in Prospect Harbor, Maine, and lived there most of my life, in the lovely old farmhouse built by my great, great grandfather early in 1800. When I was a year old, my mother, Genevieve, died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic that swept the country. My father, Clarence, became invalided from tuberculosis, leaving my maternal grandparents to raise me. I remember my childhood as a long happy playtime, with both sides of the family providing warmth and support. After nine grades in the one room schoolhouse in Prospect Harbor, it was over the five miles to Winter Harbor High School. There, though very shy, I finally raised my voice and won prizes in public speaking contests, of all things, and began to write poetry. In 1935 I graduated as Class Valedictorian. After a year at the University of Maine, I decided it was not for me and returned home to work in my grandfather Cole's general store.

A year or so later I was introduced to three New York City visitors, including Chenoweth Hall. Eventually, this led to my joining Chenoweth in New York - and to sharing the next fifty-plus years of a home, eventful lives and travel together. The early years in New York City were a delight and an education for a small town Maine girl! It was stepping into another world - Chenoweth's world of art and music. Through her contacts, I wrote some free lance advertising copy, did some consumer research jobs, took a WPA photography course, and generally enjoyed the city.

After several happy city years, my grandfather Cole reached the mandatory postmaster's retirement age, and there was strong pressure for my return - with the possibility of replacing him as incentive, my great, great grandfather having been the first postmaster. Reluctantly, I took the Civil Service exam and was appointed. Chenoweth, unlike me, was quite ready to leave the city for a Maine life and give her time to writing, painting and carving stone. At the time of our move and appointment, I became one of the youngest postmasters in the country! And, along with my less than arduous job, I began to write.

My first novel was published by Random House in 1945 - Wind Off The Water. Day of the Trumpet came along in 1947. And Young in 1955. Contentment Cove came along much later in 2006. My novels attempt to portray the changing demographics and social culture of coastal village life, with Wind Off The Water giving a picture of a simple, fairly isolated small community centered on its fishing. With Young, there is the beginning of definite change, and with Contentment Cove, a new era has begun.

After I retired from the Postal Service and Chenoweth from the Art Department at the University of Maine, we began in the late 70's to spend winters in Jekyll Island, Georgia. It became a second home. This idyllic life ended as Chenoweth began to have the onset of Alzheimer's which she endured for ten years. In 2013, I moved to Parker Ridge Community in Blue Hill, Maine.

Per Miriam's request, there will be no funeral service. Celebrations of her life will be held at Dorcas Library, Prospect Harbor, in the spring and Parker Ridge, Blue Hill, in January. Memorial contributions can be sent to The Ark Animal Shelter, PO Box 276, Cherryfield, ME 04622. Arrangements by Bradgon Kelley Funeral Home, Ellsworth.
Published on  December 17, 2014
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