Nancy Arnold (Ross) Whitman

Posted Oct. 17, 2012, at 7:49 p.m.

BROOKLIN AND YARMOUTH – Nancy Arnold (Ross) Whitman, 81, died peacefully at dawn Sept. 19, 2012, at her residence in Yarmouth. She was supported by the care of her children, Hospice of Southern Maine, the staff at Bay Square of Yarmouth and staff from Advantage Home Care. Her family is especially grateful to Nancy’s many care providers for their attentive care, kindness and love. It will not be forgotten. She was born Nancy Arnold Ross July 16, 1931, in Milwaukee, the only daughter and third child of Austin and Elizabeth McMynn (Greene) Ross.

Nancy loved picnics, puzzles, Christmas carols, fireflies, kite flying and exposing people to new ideas. Her varied interests included, but were not limited to, gardening, knitting, traveling, art and art history, current world events, politics, astrology, religion and spirituality. Although her religious roots remained in the Episcopal tradition, later in life she described her religious affiliation as an “eclectic smorgasbord.” She used these interests to engage others and serve in her community every place she lived. Nancy struck up conversations and made friends wherever she went. She enlivened any conversation that she joined and was the epitome of a lifelong learner. She taught her children the importance of cultivating a spiritual life, to serve their communities, to love nature and the outdoors and to appreciate art. She taught them to garden and cook. She encouraged their curiosity and love of learning, and to hold a broadminded view of other people and cultures. Nancy spent her childhood in Wisconsin and upstate New York, often outdoors with her brothers. She moved west with her family as a teen to Oakland, Calif., where she graduated from Anna Heads School for Girls in 1949 and grew in her faith in the Episcopal tradition. She married Russell A. Whitman in 1951 in Oakland, Calif., and had four children between 1952 and 1960. When her husband received a teaching position in Salem, Ore., in 1958, Nancy and her growing family moved to Salem, Ore., where she pursued her creative interests in music and art. Self taught as a painter, she established her career as an artist. She was a founding member of a collective art gallery. She also taught herself to play guitar and lute. After acquiring these skills, she enjoyed teaching children to play guitar and teaching adults to paint. In 1964 Nancy moved with her family to East Lansing, Mich., where her husband enrolled in a doctorate program at Michigan State University. Here, she took classes and taught undergraduate art classes, painting to faculty wives and Sunday school at All Saints Episcopal Church. Nancy began a two-decade long tradition of introducing foreign college students to American family life. This led to lifelong friendships spanning three continents. In 1968 Nancy moved again with her family to a farmhouse in Alton to live in the country when her husband took a position at the University of Maine’s Counseling Center. She was an active lay leader of the Orono Chapel and St. James Episcopal Church. She achieved a lifelong goal by taking her family and a niece on a three month summer tour of Europe. She began to study again, with the goal of obtaining her undergraduate degree. Moving once again in 1971, Nancy settled her family in Orono. She took courses at the University of Maine and Bangor Theological Seminary focusing on the New Testament and Eastern traditions. Nancy was on the board of Orono Health Center and was an active member and leader of Episcopal Church Women, Diocese of Maine for almost a decade. She was a university librarian and a researcher for Northeast Folklore Society. She conducted and archived interviews of retired mill workers who were dying out. Nancy also taught herself weaving and started a weaving business, the Goose Eyed Shuttle, and showed her work in galleries and juried art shows. She also taught weaving at the University of Maine and later at H.O.M.E., with her students now spread across the U.S. With her passion for research, she began to map her family lineages back to Europe and became the genealogy expert for family and distant relatives. In 1980 she went through the challenge of a difficult divorce after 30 years of marriage. Focusing on her studies, she received a bachelor’s degree in 1981 with distinction in philosophy from the University of Maine. In 1983 she ran for local state representative, advocating for small businesses and clean energy and winning 40 percent of the vote. She lived off the grid in an old farmhouse in Waldoboro for almost a year before embarking on a year’s adventure to Europe, where she visited Christian and pre-Christian religious sites and delightedly lived in Wales for seven months. Nancy returned to settle in Brooklin and Blue Hill, where she lived for 24 years, weaving, teaching weaving, researching and volunteering. Nancy held a special love for Brooklin, its history and its people, and felt that Brooklin was her home. She was a founding member of Brooklin Keeping Society and chairperson of their genealogy committee. Nancy took on researching over years and thousands of hours of time the local family lineages of founding forbearers of Brooklin, which resulted in a data base of more than 65,000 names that spanned four centuries. Her research was so extensive it eventually included families all over Hancock County. She hoped that her foundational research could be used for genetic studies through generations and was her legacy to the Keepers and Brooklin. In 2007 she moved into Parker Ridge Retirement Center, Blue Hill, where she continued to expand her Brooklin genealogical data base. She put together community lecture series on a diversity of subjects using her favorite Teaching Company materials. She also organized knitting finger puppets for a children’s medical mission in Africa. Her sense of whimsy, engagement and intellect was sorely missed after her move to Yarmouth in 2011, to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She spent the last year and a half of her life “consciously eldering” while continuing to explore all of her interests. With her passing, she remains in the hearts of all of her family and many friends.

She is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth “Betsy” L. Whitman and husband, Harro Jakel, of Portland and Clara G. Whitman-Parrett and husband, Lloyd, of Richmond, Ind.; by two sons, Franklin B. Whitman of Austin, Nev., and Andrew A. Whitman and wife, Cammy, of Bath; a brother, Austin Ross and his wife, Annette, of Issaquah, Wash.; four grandchildren, Annarosa Jakel Whitman, Katherine, Daniel and Emily Whitman; dear friend, William Joy; many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by a brother, Thomas Ross.

A community memorial service will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at First Congregational Church of Blue Hill with the Rev. Rob McCall officiating. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Brooklin Keeping Society, Nichols Day Camp or Tree of Life Island Pantry. Arrangements are by Jordan-Fernald, 141 South St., Blue Hill. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.

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