Connee Jellison, who passed away in June, was born in Bar Harbor in the midst of the Great Depression. But the deprivations of that hardscrabble era did nothing to dampen the irrepressible spirits of this bright and gregarious girl.
“For one thing, we were all in the same boat,” says her older sister, Ada Hatch. “Everyone helped each other where they could and having to make do with what little we had just seemed normal.”
Mrs. Hatch recalls how her father had to send her and Connee to a neighbor’s house to get their hair braided every time their mother went to the hospital to have a new baby, and how one day he got fed up with that routine and just cut off their long braids.
“Connee and I laughed at how strange it was to feel the air on the backs of our necks.”
In the summers, she and Connee and their other siblings helped out in the family’s big Victory Garden their parents, Albert and Dorothy Hanscom, cultivated. Not having many toys to play with, they made up games to play in the woods out behind the house.
“Connee was outgoing and talented,” Ms. Hatch recalled. “She could draw all our favorite cartoon characters, without tracing, and everyone knew better than to start an argument with her, because she’d always win.”
On her first day riding in her new bus after moving following the Great Fire of 1947, a gangly red-haired boy named Jeremiah Jellison offered to carry Connee’s books. She said yes, and they soon become sweethearts.
Connee graduated high school in 1950 and she and Jere were married the following January.
While Jere went to work for the family’s Five and Ten store on Mount Desert Street, Connee started raising their family, which eventually included five children.
In 1960, the couple was able to build their own home in Salisbury Cove. A major feature of “the clearing,” as Connee called their land, was a marshy pond where all manner of birds and other wildlife could be spotted in all seasons.
Eventually, she started sharing her nature observations with the readers of the Bar Harbor Times in her “Junior Naturalist” column.
When the old Ethel Conners school underwent renovations, Connee got a big old chalkboard and school desk, which she placed in her kitchen to become office space for these columns and her many future writing projects. She would jot down notes on the chalkboard and later write it all out on her big old Smith Corona typewriter.
The column was just the beginning of Connee’s writing career. When the town of Amherst – one of her girlhood homes – paved over an old cemetery for a new parking lot, she was so incensed she started gathering photos and historical information about the town, which was published as “Amherst, Maine, Her Settlement and People 1790 -1975.” She later wrote “Along the Union River,” a pictorial history of Ellsworth. She contributed to Loretta M. Turner’s “When Bar Harbor was Eden” and, finally, in 1990 Connee produced “Hancock County: a Rock-bound Paradise,” for the county’s bicentennial.
Another passion Connee somehow found time for was genealogy, which she pursued in a column for the Bangor Daily News called “Family Ties.”
Having traced her own ancestry back to a Capt. John Bracket, a Revolutionary War soldier, she organized the first local chapter of the Daughters or the American Revolution.
In middle age, Connee returned to the art she had loved as a schoolgirl, painting charming landscapes, in watercolor and oil, one of which became the cover art for an issue of “Down East Magazine.”
An active church-goer and Sunday school teacher, many also might recall Connee’s popular “Country Store” booth at the annual Church of Our Fathers Fair in Hulls Cove, where kids bought penny candy by the fistful and other affordable goodies Connee brought over from the Five and Ten.
When Connee Jellison died on June 13, her family believes she was ready spiritually and emotionally to become part of the rich history she had spent a lifetime gathering and sharing with others.