Obituary for Mary Ellen Wilson (Long)
SOUTH THOMASTON - Mary Ellen Wilson, 84, of South Thomaston, passed away after a brief illness at Pen Bay Medical Center on Thursday, September 14, 2017 with her loving children by her side.
Mary Ellen was born in Tacoma, Washington on August 13, 1933, the daughter of Harold Bash Long and Ellen Louisa Ewing Long, and older sister of David Ewing Long. Growing up in Tacoma, Mary Ellen was a true daughter of the Pacific Northwest, dividing her time between the hills of Tacoma and the beaches of Puget Sound and attending Lowell Elementary School, Annie Wright Seminary, and Stadium High School. As a student government officer, three letter athlete, and valedictorian, Mary Ellen won numerous academic and athletic awards and formed close bonds with classmates that would last throughout her life. Spending summers hiking the slopes of Mount Rainier with her father and working on the cattle ranches of Eastern Washington with friends, Mary Ellen developed her love of the outdoors, riding horses, and caring for all animals.
Torn between a possible career in veterinary medicine and attending college, Mary Ellen matriculated at Stanford University where she majored in education and lettered in synchronized swimming. While at Stanford, Mary Ellen met her future husband, Kennedy L. Wilson (Ken) during a tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, where he worked on a team pioneering advances in particle physics. Mary Ellen graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor of Arts in Education in 1954 and returned to earn her Master of Arts in Education in 1955.
Mary Ellen and Ken were married by her father, Reverend Harold B. Long, in Tacoma, Washington on May 8, 1955 at his beloved Immanuel Presbyterian Church. After Ken completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy, the couple honeymooned on the beaches of Cuba. Mary Ellen taught elementary school and high school English as Ken’s career took them from Honolulu to Seattle and eventually to the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington DC. Five children were born as their burgeoning family moved about the country. Volunteering for the Junior League of Seattle stirred Mary Ellen’s interest in art that she subsequently pursued as a docent at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum when the family settled in Northern Virginia. While Ken worked at the Agency and she cared for their children, Mary Ellen took courses at Marymount University and earned her third college degree, a Masters in Art History. When the second of her five children entered college Mary Ellen went back to work full time, taking a position at the National Gallery of Art as the Docent Coordinator, later rising to become the Director of Education.
Over the next twenty years, Mary Ellen’s love of art and talent for communicating with all ages and types of people led her to design and implement a wide range of tours, exhibits, written works, and unique educational art experiences at the National Gallery. She managed over 150 education staff and docents and was beloved by all for her personal interest in each and every coworker, from the senior most staff to the gallery guards to her volunteer tour guides. Her generous nature was often on display, as Mary Ellen took time after hours to help guards who aspired to advance their education and baked, decorated, and delivered hundreds of Valentine’s cookies to the NGA’s employees and docents every year.
During Mary Ellen and Ken’s thirty-five years living in Falls Church, Virginia, she was also known for her quick wit and sense of humor as she rotated between a variety of roles: the Player Agent and de facto Commissioner of the Falls Church National Little League, dressing as the big bad wolf for National Gallery Halloween tours, the executive editor of Russian stamp journals, covert graduate of the National War College, substitute Washington Post paperboy… driver of children, first to the game, the unbounded, queen of the collies, shaper of brains, mother of five!
Many summers Mary Ellen and Ken drove their family across the country to visit relatives on the West Coast, taking in as many National Parks and Monuments as they could along the way. On alternate years, they would visit Maine, where they hiked and camped in Baxter State Park and Acadia, and visited the people and places of Ken’s youth along the coast. Seeing the many sailboats just offshore, Mary Ellen and Ken decided they, too, wanted to see Maine from the water. Happening upon a schooner with co-captains also named Ken and Ellen, they knew they had found their ship. They so enjoyed their weeklong sail that in later years they brought all their children, and eventually grandchildren, along with them, and sailing weeks on the Stephen Taber became a family tradition.
Mary Ellen retired from the National Gallery in 1996, a few years after Ken had retired from the CIA. With the design help of a lifelong friend, Mary Ellen and Ken set to building their dream home in South Thomaston near her Ken’s childhood family summer house, where they would eventually reside full time. Upon moving to Maine, her work as an educator and art lover continued as she led tours at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. Mary Ellen also worked with the American Association of University Women to organize the annual Maine artists studio tour and use its proceeds to award scholarships to local students attending college. Mary Ellen was asked to join the board of the Maine School Administrative District 5 and worked for nearly a decade to improve the educational experience of midcoast Maine children, serving for the last three years as Board Chairman. Mary Ellen and her husband were active members of the Weskeag Historical Society and the Georges River Tidewater Association, learning about local history and helping with conservation efforts to preserve area’s natural resources and beauty.
Mary Ellen’s lifelong love of animals came to the fore in 1997, when she and Ken established the Therapy Dog Program at Pen Bay Medical Center. Each week for more than ten years, she and Ken and their beautiful blue merle collies - Shadow, Misty, Merlin, Morgan, and Jennie - visited the Pen Bay patients who needed the special attention, friendship, and love that therapy dogs provide. The program was so successful that it was later expanded to include therapy dog reading days with special needs children at local schools. Mary Ellen and Ken also helped to grow the area’s cadre of therapy dogs beyond their own collies by certifying new canines and their handlers for Therapy Dogs International.
Ken passed into God’s loving hands in late 2013. Mary Ellen mourned his passing and celebrated his life and legacy with her family and many friends, and continued their volunteer work in the local community. Mary Ellen loved her many years living in Maine, enjoying an active and fulfilling retirement with her husband and celebrating visits from her five children and their families. She indulged her passion for gardening by growing flowers and strawberries in places and ways many thought impossible, and delighted in reading and discussing books with her book club or kibitzing with friends and neighbors about politics and current events. Mary Ellen cherished attending the Rockland Congregational Church and the memories of her father’s sermons that services there could evoke. But most of all she savored simply watching the ebb and flow of the tides and a life well-lived along the banks of the Weskeag River.
Mary Ellen will be dearly missed by her daughter Tiare Ann Messing and husband Brian of Rockland, ME; her son Keith Ross Wilson and wife Heather of Novato, CA; her son Mark Kennedy Wilson of Alexandria, VA; her son Bruce Long Wilson and wife Lynne of Denver, CO; her daughter Melinda Ellen Bäumle and husband Wolfgang of Pasadena, CA; and her nine grandchildren, Katherine Ellen Messing, Collette Marie Messing, Katelyn Marie Wilson, Erin Hillary Wilson, Bryn Elise Wilson, Christopher Ross Wilson, Michaela Ann Wilson, and the twins, Adrianna Ellen Bäumle and Devin Mark Bäumle.
A memorial service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Friday, September 22nd at the Rockland Congregational Church, 180 Limerock Street, Rockland, ME. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages those who wish to a make donation in Mary Ellen’s name to consider two of her favorite charitable efforts: the Georges River Land Trust, 8 Main Street, Rockland, ME 04841 https://www.georgesriver.org/donate/ or to the Pastor’s Fund, c/o Reverend Seth D. Jones, Rockland Congregational Church, P.O. Box 554, Rockland, ME 04841.
Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland.