October 17, 1948 – January 22, 2021
Mary Frances (Erwin) Johnson married her high school sweetheart, Marty, in 1970 in Woburn, Mass. Many weekends they would pack their camping gear and venture north to enjoy the solitude they both loved. When their young children, Renée and Wayne, came on the scene a decade later, they planned their permanent escape from the “hubbub” and crime of the Boston suburbs to Maine.
In 1984, Mary stepped one foot into the historic Captain Handy house with a view of the Prospect Harbor lighthouse and Stinson’s Canning and asked the Realtor, “Where do we sign?” She knew instantly this house was home.
While Marty launched his plumbing business, Mary went to work tearing down drop ceilings to expose original beams, removing wallpaper, painting, endlessly rearranging furniture and cooking incredible family meals on the antique wood stove that was the centerpiece of the kitchen. A steady production of breads, cookies, fresh pasta and homemade pizza flowed out of that kitchen to feed not just her family, but her friends, her children’s friends and her community.
For many years she was an active member of the Prospect Harbor Methodist Church, Woman’s Club, Hancock Congregational Church and a leader in both her kids’ Scout troops. Despite never getting her driver’s license, she managed to attend nearly every school and extracurricular activity her children took part in. Once they had grown and moved out, Mary enjoyed walking to her part-time summer job at US Bells, playing alongside Marty in the Schoodic Steel Band and sharing coffee or a meal with dear friends.
When signs of Alzheimer’s started appearing in 2016, she slowly turned over the cooking, finances and housework to Marty, a very dedicated and patient student. Even as her cognition rapidly declined over the past year, her wit and sass remained sharp, much to her family’s amusement and joy.
Despite the best efforts of the nuns at St. Charles School in Woburn, Mass., where Mary attended through eighth grade, the comedic influence of her four older Italian brothers was strong. Mary had a well-developed repertoire of one-liners and wisecracks. She enjoyed a good April Fool’s prank and didn’t mind embarrassing her children dressed as Sparky the Firedog at school functions or friends with her infamous “naked lady” cakes.
Long before her illness, Mary always welcomed the spirit world around her, so naturally her Alzheimer’s hallucinations included a cast of characters that her family came to know. She would regularly, and happily, engage with friendly ghosts, playing children, long-deceased relatives and hungry stray cats. A vegetarian for more than 30 years, her love and concern for animals was a beloved trait that transcended her dementia. Taking count since childhood, she showered her love on a total of 19 pets in the family.
She met her final months with strength, grace and unsurprising command, helping her family prepare for her inevitable transition. Mary’s peaceful passing was exactly where she most wanted to be in the world — in her cherished sea captain’s home overlooking the harbor, surrounded by Marty, her loving husband of 51 years, her now-adult children Renée and Wayne, photos of special people and places and treasures gathered over her lifetime. And her wish to leave this life wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt ensured that she got one last chuckle on her way out.
No services are planned at this time due to COVID, but at her request, the family will have a homemade pizza party outside when the weather warms. Donations in memoriam for Mary Johnson may be made to the SPCA of Hancock County or Kindred Home Hospice.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Home, Milbridge, where online condolences may be shared: www.bragdonkelley.com.