SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Lurline Frances Soukup Tuttle, 92 years 10 months, died Sept. 11, 2013, at her home in Southwest Harbor. Born Nov 14, 1920, in Northeast Harbor, she was the daughter of the late Elizabeth Stanley and William Theodore Soukup of Southwest Harbor and the granddaughter of the late Ulrica Birlem and Herbert A. Stanley of Northeast Harbor and the late Antonia Soukup of Austria.
Her ancestors settled Great Gott Island and Mount Desert Island, Maine, in the early 1700s. She attended Stetson Grammar School in Northeast Harbor and then Freeman Grammar and Pemetic High School in Southwest Harbor, where she played on the girls’ basketball team that qualified for the 1937 state championship. Following the death of her grandmother Ulrica, Lurline moved to Northeast Harbor to care for her grandfather, Herbert A. Stanley, where she graduated from Gilman High School in 1940. The Women’s Club of Seal Harbor selected Lurline as their scholarship recipient, allowing her to attend Washington State Normal School, where she excelled in the classroom and was known for her beautiful singing voice. During her senior year, and without any student teaching experience, Lurline was sent to a one-room schoolhouse to teach eight grades. She was selected as the college’s commencement speaker for the Class of 1943. Following graduation, she was assigned to another rural one-room schoolhouse, where she taught six grades. Her contract provided a $900 salary for the school year and forbade her to marry or smoke.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s aide spent time in a Southwest Harbor cottage that had no phone. Calls from his Washington office came to the Soukup home, from which Lurline delivered the messages. When the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) arrived in Southwest Harbor during the 1930s, Lurline met George Francis Tuttle Jr. They were married in New York City after his return from the Pacific Theater in 1945. During the massive Bar Harbor fire of 1947, Lurline and her newborn daughter were evacuated to the mainland by the Coast Guard. Since George had remained in the Navy, Lurline left her beloved Mount Desert Island to follow her husband to numerous duty stations including Washington State; Washington, D.C.; Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Newport, R.I.; and San Diego, Calif. The couple finally settled in Virginia Beach, Va., in 1953. George developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1960. Though he became completely paralyzed within six months, Lurline cared for him at home until his death that same year. As an independent and self-sufficient Mainer and Navy wife, Lurline simultaneously played car mechanic to two old Packards, raised three daughters, worked full time and earned a second college degree in a time when single mothers were rare. She never missed a school activity. The childhood she provided to her three girls was unparalleled. She brought them home to Southwest Harbor for the summer and took them camping in Acadia National Park every year. She helped them to write a “budget” upon which their weekly allowance was based. Dinner was home-cooked and a family affair around the kitchen table. She set an example of open-mindedness by watching both political parties’ conventions before deciding how she would vote. She encouraged her daughters to do the same. Her children’s “job” was to do their homework and study hard; Lurline set the example going to night school and summer school for 10 long years. Everyone in the neighborhood (including all of the fathers!) came to Lurline for tools and tips on home projects. She was clever, practical and equally good with a pen, a sewing machine, a hammer or a paintbrush. Her father taught her tailoring and she made many of her daughters’ clothes including last-minute Halloween costumes. The gifts of her love, her time and the resulting memories are irreplaceable. After her youngest daughter started school, Lurline became the librarian at Bayside Elementary in Virginia Beach, Va., where she instilled a love of reading and self-education in hundreds of children. One year, EACH of the more than 600 Bayside students received a felt bookmark hand-embroidered with the school name. Lurline retired from the Virginia Beach Public Schools in 1973 and returned to Maine full time. She put all three of her daughters through college at the University of Maine at Orono and then helped as best she could with their advanced degrees. She helped her daughter, Georgia hand-pick enough blueberries and raspberries to pay half of her first year tuition in medical school. A heart attack in 1988 left Lurline with new challenges. Not to be deterred, she followed the advice of her doctors and lived a full life. She made beautiful quilts for which she won ribbons at the Blue Hill Fair and taught herself the art of quilling (curling paper into three-dimensional objects). She was active in the Hancock County Extension and the Southwest Harbor American Legion Auxiliary. In 2001, her daughters convinced her to “go south for the winter.” Spending the snowy months at Harvest Hill in Lebanon, N.H., allowed her to be closer to her girls but she religiously returned to her home in Maine when the ground was thawed.
Lurline is survived by her three daughters, Lurline T. Buelow and husband, James, of Amsterdam, N.Y., Ellen E. Whitcomb and husband, Neil, of Fairfield, Georgia A. Tuttle Tonseth, MD of West Lebanon, N.H.; and one grandson, Pao D. Meader of Gorham. Lurline’s husband; her parents; and her brothers, Robert S. Soukup and Harold J. Soukup predeceased her.
A funeral service will take place 1:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 2013, at St. John the Divine, Southwest Harbor. A memorial service will be held at Harvest Hill in Lebanon, N.H., at a later date. Burial will take place in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 6, 2013, when Lurline will join her husband, George on their 68th wedding anniversary. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Lurline’s memory to the Southwest Harbor Ambulance Service, 24 Village Green, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 or the Southwest Harbor Library, P.O. Box 157, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679. A message of condolence can be shared with the family through an online guest book by visiting www.rickerfuneralhome.com.