ELLSWORTH — “All our days are precious, live them one by one. Each day is a miracle, clouds or rain or sun. We won’t get this one back again, Hey! There goes another one! Seize the moment, seize the day before the sun goes down.”
Catherine Jacobs, “The Little Book of Rounds”
Catherine Anne Petersen Jacobs was born Oct. 16, 1944, in East Stroudsburg, Pa., to Jeannette and William Petersen. William was a German immigrant and Presbyterian minister, Jeannette a church leader and lifelong volunteer for progressive causes. Her parents’ spiritual values of kindness, simplicity and service endured in Cathy’s life, though the structure and mysticism of religion would fall away in adulthood. She studied religion and music at Wooster College, and was active in the civil rights movement. After graduating, Cathy worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s staff in Atlanta, Ga. She taught English at Miles College in Birmingham Ala., and elementary school on the Mississippi delta.
In 1968, on a deserted beach in Fort Bragg, Calif., Cathy met Jeff Jacobs. On March 15, 1969, they were married in San Francisco. In 1970, with their infant daughter, Polly, they made their way to the state of Maine, which was to be their home for 44 years. There, in the woods, they built a home, raised three daughters, and made a life. Robin and Frances were born in 1973 and 1977. Once her children were in school, Cathy earned two nursing degrees, and joined the night shift at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth. Soon, though, Cathy moved on to Downeast Health Services in Ellsworth, where she remained for many years as a visiting nurse and later director of Maine Families in Hancock County. More drawn to listening and supporting than weighing and measuring, Cathy had found the work she loved. During the ensuing years she found time to earn a master’s degree at the University of Maine at Orono, create the Ellsworth chapter of Parents are Teachers Too, conduct a weekly playgroup for infants and toddlers, host “Baby Talk” each month on WERU, and sit on the board of directors of the Maine Association for Infant Mental Health for many years. As a parenting mentor she was slow to proffer advice, preferring to model a loving presence, and to offer a genuinely nonjudgmental ear. She felt passionately that by attending to children’s needs in their first few years, we can transform our world.
Cathy attended many peace marches and spent many Sundays on the Union River Bridge holding signs on behalf of the children of war-torn nations. Cruelty and malice baffled her, and she never gave up hope that our species could be redeemed through kindness, patience and courage. Cathy lived her faith. She loved music in all forms, and especially loved to sing with others. She traveled many times to the Soviet Union and Japan with the Surry Opera Company. She sang with Voices for Peace, and was a dedicated member of Flash in the Pans, where she played tenor pan.
At home, growing flowers and vegetables delighted her, as did quiet evenings with Jeff collaborating on a crossword puzzle or philosophical debate. She cooked wholesome meals, sang folk songs with family and friends, made crafts with granddaughters, Clara and Sylva, and summited Katahdin twice in her 60s. In the final two years of her life she began composing music, and as one of her final gifts she compiled a collection of rounds to encourage everyone to get together and sing. She believed in music as an elemental source of joy and connection accessible to all.
All are invited to remember her by making music; to receive a copy of Cathy’s rounds please e-mail [email protected] Donations may be made in her name to the Maine Association for Infant Mental Health.