HAMPDEN - Mary Phillips was a loving and courageous woman whose kind smile and tender touch filled the hearts of her family and the many people who considered her their closest friend. She passed away August 1, 2016, at her home with her daughters at her side, following a brave fight with cancer and the effects of Alzheimer's. She was 73.
Mary was born and raised in Pittsfield, Mass., daughter of the late George and Eugenie (Formel) Phillips. She was the oldest of seven, with five brothers and one younger sister. Though she loved her brothers dearly, she never quite recovered from the fake snakes and other mischief they devised to taunt her.
Mary and her daughters made Maine their home in 1978, moving from Connecticut to fulfill Mary's dream of a "simpler life." Though life was far from simple at times, they built a lasting bond with each other and the area. Mary held many jobs to support her family, including several years as co-owner of the Freedom Bakery in Belfast, which she proudly recalled "made the best bread in Maine at the time." For 20 years, she worked as a cancer unit secretary at Eastern Maine Medical Center. In later years, she was a Life Skills teacher at Hampden Academy.
Mary loved the outdoors, and together with the great love of her life, Thornton Merriam, MD, whom she married in 1989, she led an active life. They hiked mountains, climbed rock faces, skied trails and swam, canoed and kayaked on lakes, rivers and ocean inlets. Even as those years younger than her struggled behind, she saw all that activity as "a piece of cake."
Perhaps their most glorious days were the weeks they spent each summer at Toddy Pond where they stayed at a lodge that was large enough to accommodate the many family members and friends who felt blessed to share those precious moments, even if it was as simple as a board game on a rainy day.
Mary's love and talent for cooking was legendary. The kitchen was her center stage. A meal prepared by Mary was a culinary and conversational feast, a time to savor the flavors of the world and the company of others. She also was a passionate gardener of flowers and organic vegetables.
Mary was a voracious reader and worked each day to hone her own writing skills, producing poems, a personal journal and other reflections. In 1995, she earned a creative writing degree from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass., and continued to stay involved in women's writing groups.
She was a free spirit with a firm spiritual grounding. She practiced yoga and mindful meditation daily. With husband Thorny, she adopted a strong Buddhist practice that gave her great peace and comfort.
Mary's maternal instincts reached far beyond her own family, and the love she shared with her four daughters, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren was boundless. Every child, sibling, cousin and friend or relative in Mary's life felt uniquely, completely loved by her.
She was predeceased by her husband Thorny; her youngest daughter, Alison Dumont; a brother, Paul Phillips; and an infant grandson, Tyler Hopkins.
She is survived by daughters Jeannie (and husband Fred) Hopkins of Plymouth, Christine Bowman of Hampden, Bridget Stanton of Dixmont, and the husband of her late daughter Alison, Scott Dumont of Sabattus; four grandchildren, Sarah (and husband Nick) Andrei of Hermon, Nick (and wife Breanna) Bowman of Dexter, Brittany Hopkins of Plymouth, and Silas Dumont of Sabattus; and five great-grandsons, Caden, Cole, Cooper, Caleb and Chase; and many nieces and nephews.
She also leaves five siblings in Massachusetts, Anthony (and wife Maureen) of Medford, Rosanne (and husband Michel Rodman) of Wakefield, and George, Martin (and wife Ann) and Christopher, all of Pittsfield; the children of her late husband, Lucinda Leveille of Arlington, Mass., Dave Merriam of Elmore, Vt., Nan Thompson of Framingham, Mass., Liz Kyle of Narragansett, R.I., and Jane Spina of Warren, Vt.; and many friends. And her beloved dog, Alfy, and grand-dog, Marley.
The family extends heartfelt appreciation to Niamh Houlihan, M.D., Cindy Milles, NP, and the New Hope Hospice Team, including Karin McDonald, RN.
Donations in Mary's memory can be made to the Lafayette Family Cancer Center C/O EMHS Foundation, P.O. Box 931, Bangor, Maine 04402-0931 or the Alzheimer's Association 383 US Route One, Suite 2C Scarborough, Maine 04074.
Everyone who knew Mary is invited to a Celebration of Life on Saturday, August 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Eagles Club of Brewer, 22 Atlantic Ave., Brewer. Condolences to the family can be expressed at wwww.BrookingsSmith.com