BLUE HILL, Maine — Helen Dudman, a leading Ellsworth businesswoman and pioneer of state freedom-of-information laws, died Monday.
Dudman succumbed to heart failure on Monday at Parker Ridge Retirement Community. She was 93 and predeceased by her husband, the journalist Richard Dudman, who died last August at age 99. They had been married for 69 years.
Friends and family described Dudman as a multifaceted and independent intellectual who led an adventurous life. Dudman owned three radio stations in Ellsworth and Bangor after working for many years in Washington, D.C., at Post Newsweek Stations and as executive women’s editor of the Washington Post.
“‘Formidable’ is a very good way to describe her. She was a very strong woman. She made things happen. She had a lot of ideas and she did an awful lot of things in her life,” said daughter Iris Dudman, a 67-year-old resident of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. “She liked to accomplish things and she accomplished a lot.”
“She was a big presence in a lot of people’s lives,” Iris Dudman added.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, praised Dudman, a family friend for many years, for her work on behalf of a variety of civic causes.
“She was extraordinarily intelligent, strong in her views, and committed to making Maine an even better place. I so valued her friendship over the years as did my mother with whom she became close friends,” Collins said in a statement.
An Ellsworth resident since the 1980s, Helen Dudman had her hand in everything from supporting Maine Public Broadcasting to reforming worker protections, to improving loan programs for businesses. She also helped expand the Ellsworth library, develop Ellsworth’s Knowlton Park and raised money to plant trees throughout downtown.
A president of the Maine Association of Broadcasters, Dudman helped open trial courts to camera and electronic news coverage. She was named Maine Broadcaster of the Year in 1991 and inducted into the Maine Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 1994, she received the Deborah Morton Award, which honors Maine women for distinguished civic service.
Business and civic service were probably Dudman’s greatest calling, said her daughter, Martha Dudman, a 66-year-old resident of the village of Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.
“An important thing to remember about my mom: She was really ahead of her time,” Dudman said. “She went back to work and became a very successful businesswoman at a time when very few women were in the business world and succeeding in it.”
Dudman encouraged her daughters to take risks in pursuing their own ambitions and was a warm, convivial host, down-to-earth enough to make friends of all ages, Martha Dudman said.
“We have been calling all her old friends today and they all say the same thing: That she and my dad were so much fun,” Martha Dudman said. “She loved to have people over for dinner parties. She really looked after her friends.”
Dudman was active through her final days. She mailed more than 400 holiday cards last December and received hundreds in return, Iris Dudman said.
And she really loved Maine for its open spaces and small communities.
“She thought of all of Maine as something she cared about,” Iris Dudman said. “She liked that in Maine you could know everybody and get things done.”
Besides her daughters, Dudman is survived by four grandchildren, Richard and Georgia Howland and Rosa and Lillian Mayer.
A memorial service is scheduled for March 17 at 11 a.m. at Jordan-Fernald Funeral Homes of Ellsworth.
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