Reta  Severance


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TOPSFIELD - Dynamo, doughnut-maker, and woman-on-the-go, Reta Severance departed for her last adventure on July 2, 2019. The daughter of Newell and Ollie McLaughlin, Reta was born April 13, 1930 in Brookton, Maine. She married Raymond Severance on February 21, 1948. They made their home in Topsfield, Maine, where they raised three children and housed and fed many others.
An avid hobbiest, Reta dove into fly tying, beading, Ukrainian egg painting, quilting, teddy bear making, gardening, and backyard poultry farming with equal gusto. Her abiding passion was knitting. She was renowned for her ability to knit a pair of mittens in a day. Many residents of Washington county have been kept warm by her wool socks, hats, and mittens, including the students at the East Range II Elementary School in Topsfield where she knitted a pair of mittens for every student each winter. If you ever see someone wearing a fish hat in the Calais area, chances are better than average that Reta knitted it.
She hated sitting still, unless it was to share a cup of coffee or a drink with company at her kitchen table. She was on the road at every chance, taking classes, hitting the yard sales, looking for a good deal on yarn, or searching for fried clams with just the right amount of crispiness. After retiring from a career as a cook at the East Range II Elementary School and the Indian Township School in Peter Dana Point, she kept busy by continuing to work as a cook at schools and camps around Maine. Her dinner rolls were legendary, and she continued to receive catering requests for home-baked rolls from former students throughout her retirement.
Through her many jobs and travels, Reta knew virtually everyone between Houlton, Calais, and Bangor. A day out with her inevitably led meeting several new friends. She welcomed newcomers to her hometown with the same verve. New neighbors quickly became new friends and honorary family members. On Monday mornings she held court over her weekly knitting group, bringing together old and new friends over coffee and yarn.
Reta was predeceased by her husband Raymond; a daughter, Anne; and close friend Norman Gaylord. She is survived by her daughter Sharon and son-in-law James Bala; son Gordon and daughter-in-law Eva Severance; and son Glenn and daughter-in-law Denise Severance; grandchildren Jennifer McDonald, Carolyn Sullivan, James Bala Jr. and his wife Sarah, Michelle Isham, and Dennis Severance; great-children Matthew McDonald, Meagan MacDonald, Liam Bala, Ben Bala, Henry Bala, and Owen Isham; and dear friends Bob and Marge Chandler, Rose Jenkins, Jaynee McLellan, Eveonne White, and the Monday morning knitting ladies.
A graveside service will be held at Hunnewell Acres Cemetery in Topsfield on Monday, July 22 at 1:00 p.m. Friends are invited to join Reta's family at the East Range II School for snacks and stories of her exploits following the service.
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Published on July 9, 2019
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11 posts

LINDA Gouthro
Jul 13, 2019
Have wonderful memories I'm staying with Aunt Rita and Uncle Raymond when I was 12 years old for the summer they were my favorite aunt and uncle
Terry Viera
Jul 11, 2019
Keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers. I
Susan Cardente
Jul 11, 2019
Jen and were so lucky to have such an incredible grandmother. I am so sorry for your loss, and the great memories you have will live in your forever. Love and prayers to everyone missing her so much.
Ginny Bala Fastje
Jul 11, 2019
Always enjoyed/ drinking and conversation with her whenever we visited Topsfield. She is in the Lords hands and at Peace,
Bonnie (mcKinnon) Calkins
Jul 11, 2019
So sorry to hear of Reta's passing. She was an incredible woman & lots of fun to know & be around! She will be missed! Our thoughts & prayers are with her family!
Victoria Yarema
Jul 11, 2019
Very fond memories of this special cousin, she was such a great person and so very kind to me. She will be dearly missed by so many. The little town will not be the same without her. Love to her children.
Candy Clark-Lecher
Jul 10, 2019
So many memories with this wonderful woman. She took me to my first movie Bambi and was always like another Mom. Sharon, Gordon and Glenn it won't be the same without her. We were so lucky to have hard so many adventures with her. I am sad I can't be with you, but my heart will be. Love you.
Tracy Lyons Bergmann
Jul 10, 2019
Thank you for being a very important part of my life in a time I really needed some extra stability. You and Raymond opened up your home to me my junior and senior year so I could go to Lee Academy with the Topsfield kids I knew. You and Raymond were the absolute best, and losing him was so hard on you. You are back with him now and I am enclosing a picture I took that I treasure.
When I met you as a child, you knitted outfits for my doll, and I loved to have tea with you. Then as I lived with you, I got to enjoy the pleasures of your cooking... your shortbread was my favorite, and Raymond’s cheese biscuits were my favorite! I just wish your skill of knitting had rubbed off on me.
...ummingbirds and Chickadees became special to me because of you. I can’t see them without thinking of you.
I can still see you yelling at the TV and shaking your fist at JR Ewing when we would watch “Dallas” each week. And those hands of yours that just couldn’t sit idle... always knitting as we watched TV at night. Even as you would sit and daydream, looking out the big picture window, you would roll your coffee mug, and never spilled any! I wish now that I knew what you were daydreaming about back then. I was too young to realize back then.
I love you and Raymond dearly and have such great memories.
Until we meet again, much love and thanks,
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Mary Ann O'BrienWords
Jul 10, 2019
Words cannot begin to describe the void left by Reta's passing.
She was several ladies rolled into one. I loved her many stories of her experiences from her hiking to teaching men to knit when she was on the schooners .
I know she was amazed with how many wanted her famous fish hats.
She was so worried about getting the mittens to the school and to the others in her community.
I missed out nightly calls when we would talk for an hour after Jeopardy .....she was a wealth of knowledge and shared so many of her life experiences.
There will always be a place in my heart for this amazing friend.
Fly high my dear friend, you earned your wings long ago.
Susan McLaughlin
Jul 10, 2019
My sister Reta was the strongest woman I know. As was written, she was always doing something! I have fond memories of being at her house: picking strawberries, blueberries and catching fireflies and fishing. And yes, don’t forget those donuts!! I love and miss you Reta! Your baby sister, Susan XXOO
Ruth O’Connor
Jul 10, 2019
Such a beautiful and fitting tribute. I’m happy that I got to meet her a few years ago. Condolences to the family God bless 😘