Gertrude's Story

HAMPDEN - Gertrude "Trudy" MacDonald died Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, after a month's long illness. She was born in Berlin, NH on January 4, 1929. She worked as a secretary first for the business manager and later as secretary to the superintendent at the Bangor Mental Health Institute (BMHI).

In 1953, she moved from Berlin to Portland with two former classmates. A year later, she completed her stenography course at the Northeastern Business College. Also in 1954, she met Clyde MacDonald of Old Orchard Beach, her future husband. Their happy marriage lasted 59 years, until her death.

Trudy cared little about money and gave generously to a number of liberal and humanistic causes. Two of her favorite charities were the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

She was appalled by violence in any of its forms and gave up viewing films in theaters and on television. She regarded so-called "hunters" as being hypocritical for refusing to call themselves what they are, "killers" of innocent animals. In her mind, "hunting" is and was a perversion.

Her husband knew from the first that she was unique and special. He recalls the day she had been at the window sill with a container that she carried out of doors. When asked, she replied there had been an ant at the sill and that she had safely placed it on the lawn.

Trudy also detested the National Institute of Mental Health and its Maine chapter for championing "deinstitutionalization." They, with misguided liberal politicians, and anti-government conservatives allied with the pharmaceutical industry, falsely claimed that state mental institutions merely were "warehousing' trapped mental patients and that the patients would appreciate being "free." But patients at BMHI were well cared for and enjoyed free movies, music and dances, the library, instruction in various arts and crafts, field trips, and other opportunities.

Trudy knew the names of the patients and when they were forced out, she would read in the newspapers of those who committed suicide, were arrested and jailed, or who died younger than expected. She knew the young woman who froze the death on a Bangor street. Her saddest days were realizing that many former patients were, for months, pounding on the locked doors at BMHI begging to be let in. The public did not know what was happening to former patients because the compliant Maine Legislature and the federal government had enacted confidentiality laws that prevented references to patients.

Despite her mild nature, Trudy could be forceful on occasions. When Governor James Longley, at the peak of his popularity, tried to close BMHI, she and her husband helped organize an Eastern Maine organization that arranged large turnouts at the Legislature which eventually failed to support Longley's bill.

Even before that, she had walked the picket lines in support of allowing State of Maine employees to become unionized and Governor Curtis finally gave in.

Most of her husband's career was working for Senator George Mitchell who was Trudy's idol, both as a human being and as one who has done more to benefit Maine and its people than any leader in its history. Trudy was a cover-to-cover reader of her beloved Bangor Daily News and a daily reader of the Boston Globe, as well as the Sunday edition of The New York Times and Maine Sunday Telegram. Whenever Senator Mitchell's name appeared, she would clip the item and add it to her large Mitchell collection.

Trudy was a skeptic and did not practice religion, but she was a true humanitarian, as attested to by her many contributions to charities, individuals, and to liberal Democrat politicians.

Trudy is survived by her sister, Margaret Berry of Durham, New Hampshire; her favorite niece, Sharon Berry and her husband Steve, now of Pennsylvania, whose visits at the Maine Veteran's Home shortly before her death revived her spirits and was greatly appreciated. She also wanted to be remembered to Nadine Hoyt of Hampden and Margaret Samways of Bangor. Margaret was her and her husband's best friend who was most attentive during the illness as well as throughout their lives in Hampden. Trudy and her husband are most grateful for the unbelievably able and caring attentions she received from EMMC and Veteran's Home personnel.

Trudy was cremated and there will be no service publicly to commemorate and honor the memory of this most wonderful, sweet, and generous woman. Messages and memories may be shared with the family at Arrangements by Kiley & Foley Funeral Service, 299 Union St., Bangor.
Published in Bangor Daily News
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