Winslow’s Mary Morrison

Mary Newell Morrison

Mary Newell Morrison

by Terri Hibbard

(Reprinted from The Town Line)

Mary Morrison has something that many of us wish we possessed. Her quiet, dignified exterior surrounds a core of strength and determination that gets things done. Good things. For her many contributions to the community, Mary has been selected to be the recipient of this year’s annual REM Award.

Mary and her late husband, Edward, were part of the group that created a patriotic celebration that would have made our forefathers proud! Not just a town event, the Winslow Family Fourth of July Celebration is now a Central Maine happening, drawing in thousands for a week of activities recognizing our nation’s struggle for independence and the freedom and sense of community we enjoy.

Mary can’t stop smiling as she talks about how this massive event came to be: “It was the year the troops were returning from the Gulf War and the Republican Town Committee talked about how nice it would be to do something special to honor them. We knew we would have to get the whole community involved.” She agreed to serve as co-chair with Jeanne Pernice.

They began by contacting every community organization. Representatives from groups began to meet, plan and raise the money to do it right.

“The nice thing was when you got one, you got the other!”
—Bob Nixon, referring to Mary’s and Ed’s long-standing community volunteer status in Winslow.

“Starting from scratch, it was a tremendous amount of work,” she recalls. “Our first goal was 1 make it chem-free and completely family oriented. The biggest challenge, in addition to organizing, was fundraising. We wanted to make everything free so families of all income levels would participate. We involved the sports boosters organizations to do the concessions to keep food costs down.”

Planned only as a one-time event, it was so successful, so popular, that it has become a tradition. Committees are even now planning the eighth Winslow Fourth of July celebration for 1998!

“We learn something every year,” says Mary. “After the Fourth, we usually schedule a wrap-up dinner meeting at which time we hear reports on all activities, positive and negative. In October we start laying the groundwork for next year.”

It’s all worth it, according to Mary, because the outcome is community-building; linking people together, she believes, makes for a happier and stronger community. As an example, she recalls, “One of the most touching things I’ve seen happened at a street dance. People of all ages go to the dance—from grandparents to little babies. You see couples dancing, holding their baby between them. There was this older couple doing some wonderful country dancing sort of thing around the outside of the crowd while a teenage couple followed along near them trying to follow their steps. The older couple stopped—and they swapped partners!”

Mary is an avid gardener.

Mary is an avid gardener.

Many remember another touching moment a couple of years ago when Mary was without the man who had been by her side for 31 years. Ed had been involved in the planning of the 1995 celebration right up to the end. His illness took him on July 3. Nonetheless, a courageous Mary was at the celebration on the Fourth—not sitting on the sidelines drawing pity, but accepting an award intended for Ed and giving a little speech, thanking people for all they had given to her and her husband, including the outpouring of love and support their family had received during his illness.

Not surprisingly, the Fourth of July extravaganza is only a part of Mary’s involvement in her community. Besides working as human resources manager, office administrator and safety coordinator at Morrison-Jacques Whitford, she is active in the Winslow Congregational Church, serving on and chairing various committees and boards. She serves on the board of incorporators of the Kennebec Savings Bank, chairs the Winslow Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee and is a member and past president of the Winslow Historical Society.

Mary served on the Winslow School Committee from 1976 to 1994 (as its chair 1978-1987 and 1990-1991) and the Winslow Recreation Committee (past chair), as well as the Winslow School Building Committee, and she is involved with the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. Doing her part has always come naturally to Mary. One of seven children, she says, “My family is my inspiration and support in terms of community involvement.” The epitaph on her great-grandfather’s gravestone pretty much describes the family philosophy: “He lived for others.”

Mary at age 11.

Mary at age 11.

“My parents were involved in the Grange,” she begins. “My dad helped form, and was a strong supporter of, the volunteer fire department. Also a Mason, he was involved with the boys’ basketball teams and scholarships. Dad was interested in education for us and, as a result, was active in promoting and supporting the first school district in our area which improved the educational opportunities for children.

“Mom was involved right along with him in Grange and volunteer fire department activities, and in the Extension.”

The family lived on a farm in Newburgh where they grew their own food and kept a few animals. Mary remembers, “Convenience food for us was store-bought bread or canned soup!” All the children had chores—milking, haying—and Mary’s was tending the chickens. “But my dad believed in stopping to smell the roses. It never was all work, there was play involved. He made things fun.”

Since her father worked as a boiler inspector and was often away from home, Mary continues, “Mom had to be a strong woman and we all had to pitch in to help. We had to be responsible.”

Mary and her late husband Edward with their sons (left to right) Carl, David, and Andrew, after Easter Services at the Winslow Congregational Church. This picture was taken in the early 1990’s.

Mary and her late husband Edward with their sons (left to right) Carl, David, and Andrew, after Easter Services at the Winslow Congregational Church. This picture was taken in the early 1990’s.

Mary’s and Ed’s children, Carl, 30, David, 27, and Andrew, 26 (all engineers like their dad), were raised in the family tradition of strong support for each other and their community. Mary is especially proud of Carl’s current position in the Winslow Congregational Church. “He is chair of the board of trustees and has taken on Ed’s old job of serving Easter breakfast and the annual Blueberry Festival pancake breakfast.”

David is particularly interested in working with young people and encourages them to take an interest in math, science and engineering. He even worked with one group of young people building an airplane at a school near Washington, DC.

Andrew, says his mother, puts family first. During his father’s illness, he took time off from school to be as much help as possible. “He is the kind of person,” Mary says, “who is everybody’s best friend.”

Participation, whether it’s political or community service is the way to change things,” is Mary’s message. Single parents and working parents may think they don’t have the time to volunteer, she says, but, “A little time can accomplish a lot. People would be amazed—they can have a real impact. Whether it’s as a sports booster or as a member of a town board—the power of the individual is still there. Participation has always been the key to our democracy.”

Lucky for the rest of us, Mary Morrison has always understood that.

Mary has a passion and talent for photography. Her goal is to photograph as many Maine lighthouses as possible. So far, she has photographed ten, including Nubble Light in York.

Mary has a passion and talent for photography. Her goal is to photograph as many Maine lighthouses as possible. So far, she has photographed ten, including Nubble Light in York.

Mary's photo of  Pemaquid Point Light in Pemaquid .

Mary's photo of Pemaquid Point Light in Pemaquid .

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