MELBA CARR WILSON

Posted Feb. 12, 2009, at 7:42 p.m.

BAR HARBOR – Melba Carr Wilson, 69, died peacefully Feb. 11, 2009, in Bar Harbor. She was born May 28, 1939, in Providence, R.I., daughter of Dorothy and Gordon Carr. Melba graduated from Classical High School, Providence, R.I., in 1956, where she excelled as a student and an athlete, competing on both the varsity basketball team and varsity cheerleading squad. After graduation, Melba attended Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa., majoring in botany and then went on to receive her Master of Arts in teaching and doctorate in biology at Brown University, Providence, R.I. She worked as a researcher at the University of Vermont, Case Western Reserve University and the University of New Mexico as her husband pursued medical school and his medical specialization. During this time, her two daughters were born. In 1973, the family moved to Bar Harbor, where Melba worked for several years as a researcher at Jackson Lab. Melba became increasingly involved in the Center for Human Genetics in Bar Harbor, taking over as the administrative director from 1975 until September 2006. Her role during this time was to find cases throughout the state of Maine and to develop pedigrees of various genetic illnesses. In 1978, she decided to pursue her certification as a genetic counselor and, after submitting the requisite case studies, she passed her oral boards in 1978. She was the only Certified Genetic Counselor in the state of Maine until 1994. During this time, she developed a close professional relationship with Victor McKusick, M.D., who was considered the leader in human genetics and headed the department at Johns Hopkins University. As a credit to Melba, Dr. McKusick would accept her phone calls anytime to discuss a case she was working on. Each summer, Melba would assist Dr. McKusick and his team during his two-week workshop at Jackson Lab. Melba was responsible for recruiting cases for in-depth work-ups by geneticists from Johns Hopkins and other universities, as well as providing space for physical exams. Starting in 1980, Melba concurrently took on the position as executive director for the Arcady Music Festival, working closely with artistic director, Masanobu Ikemiya. Under Melba’s supervision the Festival grew from modest beginnings in Blue Hill to a seven-week concert series, with regular performances in Bar Harbor, Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft and frequent appearances in Belfast, Bucksport, Bingham and Millinocket. After early successes, which included the Leningrad Boys’ Choir, prior to Glasnost, and the Russian Brass Quintet, the Festival became a permanent feature of the Down East Maine summer cultural scene. Audiences were treated to concerts from groups as diverse as the renowned St. Petersburg String Quartet, the 30 member Osaka Clarinet Choir, members of the New York Philharmonic and the freelance musicians who made up the Arcady Festival Orchestra. Melba’s skills at arranging visas, transportation, housing, meals and concert venues absorbed almost all of her waking hours, as well as those of dedicated volunteers in each community. In addition, she made sure that music continued in the winter by arranging for school programs and local concerts during the winter months. Outreach to young people was of great importance to her and she was instrumental in establishing the Arcady Youth Competition, later named the Melba Wilson Youth Competition, which enabled young musicians from schools in Maine to compete each spring for the opportunity to perform during the summer concert series. Many of the youth recognized in this competition went on to further careers in music. In 2002, Melba was honored with the Acadia Arts Achievement Award at Festival of the Arts week in Bar Harbor. Melba was recognized in the 1986 Mount Desert Island High School yearbook for her generous volunteering and investment in the school during the time in which her daughters attended. Melba was a wonderfully organized individual who was able to juggle both full-time jobs, raise her two daughters and help take care of the community in which she lived with grace and equanimity. In 2001, she began having neurological symptoms and was diagnosed as having a large tumor in the posterior part of her brain. After surgery and radiation, she was unable to pursue the active lifestyle she was accustomed to living, including running and cross-country skiing. Later, she discovered water aerobics at the YMCA and enjoyed participating in classes there when she was in town. It was no surprise to her family that she never complained about the increasing inability to do the things she enjoyed and she made the best of her new situation by focusing her attention on editing and getting books published. Her first such endeavor was transcribing her father’s reel-to-reel tapes filled with stories and poems he wrote for his grandchildren. As a result of her efforts, she published two books, capturing these wonderful stories and poetry for family and friends to enjoy. She went on to publish books of her mother-in-law’s poetry and a book of drawings and short stories by her oldest daughter, Diane. Because of progressing dementia, she lost her ability to use the computer and was unable to complete a similar book for her younger daughter, Cynthia. A constant joy for Melba was time spent with her two granddaughters, Emma and Sophie Majerske. Melba is survived by her loving husband of 45 years, Dr. Roger Wilson; her daughter, Diane Sare; son-in-law, Chris Sare; daughter, Dr. Cynthia Majerske; two granddaughters, Emma and Sophia Majerske; her mother-in-law, Eleanor Wilson; her sister, Lynne Feinberg; her sister-in-law, Fran Carr; several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, Dorothy and Gordon Carr; and her brother, David Carr. A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at Bar Harbor Congregational Church, Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor. In lieu of flowers, donations in Melba’s memory may be made to the Center for Human Genetics, P.O. Box 770, Bar Harbor, ME 04609. Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 48 Eden St., Bar Harbor. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.

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