ROCKLAND — Florence Joy Newcomb Verrill, age 73, passed away June 15, 2022, in the company of her son, Gordon, and daughter, Sarah, while visiting her daughter in southern France.

Florence had fought a long, hard battle with cancer with grace and determination, but in the end, with God’s mercy, this old enemy of hers took her away from us quickly.

Florence grew up in Rockland with her younger brother Fred in the home of their beloved parents, Frederick “Ted” and Maizie Newcomb. The Newcomb children were blessed to also live close to their grandparents, Clarence and Florence Joy, who were the very definition of doting grandparents. Many, many trips and holidays were also shared with Florence’s and Fred’s other “brother” and “sister,” Parker and Clare Beverage, who with their parents, Uncle Gerald and Aunt Viola Beverage, visited frequently from their home in Augusta. Essentially, Florence was raised and nurtured in a family of ten. Perhaps Florence’s fondest memories of her childhood came from spending time at the Cushing summer home of her grandparents which the family referred to as the “Farm.”

Florence became an accomplished equestrian at an early age. She kept a horse at the Hillcrest Stables on West Meadow Road in Rockland, and she learned to ride English style under the instruction of the late Ethel Connon. Florence’s father, Ted, drove Florence all over Maine to various horseshows towing a horse trailer behind the family Chevy station-wagon. This effort was rewarded with many trophies and blue ribbons. For several years, the horseshow circuit even extended to the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass., which all the Newcombs, Joys and Beverages enjoyed attending — most of the time.

Florence attended Rockland schools. She was active in drama and speech activities at Rockland District High School under the dedicated coaching of the late Pauline Trafton. Florence enjoyed these activities as well as an active social life. She was a pretty girl.

Florence did not graduate from R.D.H.S. Instead, she went to prep school at Abbot Academy in Andover, Mass. Florence thrived at Abbot — socially if not necessarily academically. She met lifelong friends there, especially her soul sister, Karen Urie. Abbot Academy eventually merged with Phillips Academy Andover and Florence always enjoyed attending reunions there.

After graduating from Abbot, Florence attended Pine Manor Junior College for a year. Unfortunately, in the late summer after her freshman year in college, Florence received life-threatening injuries in a horrible car accident. The victims of this two-car crash were treated at the old Knox County General Hospital in Rockland. The blood bank at the hospital ran out of blood on that awful evening, and were it not for the volunteers who, in the middle of the night, answered the call to donate blood, Florence would have doubtless succumbed to her injuries.

It is remembered that Richard Fales rolled up his sleeve that night, but the other donors will have to remain anonymous, although not unremembered or unappreciated. The late Dr. Edward Morse performed successful surgery on Florence that night to stop the bleeding and repair her internal organs, and she always credited him with saving her life.

Florence’s recovery from her injuries was a long, arduous process that extended into the winter and spring of 1969. Believing that sunshine and fresh air would be the best medicine, Florence went to Tucson, Ariz., for an extended stay with the family of good friend Emily Rosenberg. The desert climate did the trick and, by that summer, Florence was back home in Maine getting ready for a return to college.

But life had different plans for her. In the summer of 1969, Florence started dating Ted Verrill, an old R.D.H.S. classmate who was home on vacation from his studies at Bowdoin College. Florence and Ted fell hard for each other. By the end of the summer, the marriage of this passionate young couple became a foregone conclusion. Thus began the relationship that defined the rest of their lives.

To say Florence and Ted had an interesting marriage would be an understatement and an oversimplification. Danielle Steele could not have thought up all the various passages and stages they negotiated with each other, but always they returned to the love, interests and goals they shared.

Things started with their summer marriage at the Congregational Church in Rockland, which was followed by a very spirited reception at the Farm in Cushing. The skies opened up that day and it poured, but a tent had been erected and the guests did not seem to notice it was a bit damp outside. It was the first of many glittering social occasions planned and hosted by Florence and Ted.

Next, Ted had to finish his senior year at Bowdoin, with he and Florence living in a small apartment near the campus. They both enjoyed watching Ted’s brother Dana play football for Bowdoin that fall. Dana played defensive back for the Polar Bears and led the nation in pass interceptions.

Following graduation, Ted and Florence went back to the Farm in Cushing to live for the summer while they were figuring out what to do next. They were driving an old blue Volvo sedan which they decided to point west and take to Arizona. Florence had always liked Tucson and that is where she decided to take Ted. They may or may not have had any idea of what to do when they got there, but life always seemed to have an interesting path for them to take.

For Ted, it was enlistment in the Tucson Fire Department, which required completing the rigorous training course at the Tucson Fire Academy. Ted was an athlete, as well as a scholar, so he was soon a full-time professional firefighter for the City of Tucson. Meanwhile, Florence became employed at a clothing store in one of the largest malls in Tucson. Florence always had good taste in clothes, a taste which she never hesitated to indulge, so it was with some relief to Ted she was now on the other side of the cash register. Florence enjoyed working in retail and she made good friends in the store, including Ann Ackman with whom she maintained a warm relationship for the rest of her life.

The paint on the old Volvo faded under the desert sun but the dreams and ambition of Florence and Ted never did. Florence and Ted prospered in Tucson. After a few years, they were able to purchase their own home in a subdivision carved out of the desert. Florence’s brother Fred paid an annual visit to the Verrills during his college spring breaks in March. There is no better time or place for all types of outdoor recreation than springtime in southern Arizona, and Fred, Florence and Ted took full advantage of those golden days.

These visits were also the occasion for good times, and many laughs, when the sun went down. But Florence and Ted were far from idle. The 24 hours on and 48 hours off fireman’s schedule allowed Ted to enroll in the master of business administration program at the University of Arizona. Florence became an undergraduate at Arizona and eventually earned her bachelor’s degree from U.A., majoring in English.

Ted and Florence probably could have lived happily ever after in Tucson. However, that was not to be. Upon receiving his M.B.A., Ted passed the certified public accountant exam and got a job offer from a big eight accounting firm. Accepting that opportunity brought the Verrills back east, first to Boston, and eventually to New York City — the Big Apple. Ted, with high academic ability and a work ethic to match, had completed law school at Fordham University and took a job with a Wall Street law firm. Florence’s career in fashion marketing had also advanced and she took a job as a trend forecaster with the Doneger Group at their Manhattan offices. Florence was always very proud to have held this position, which only becoming a mother could have caused her to relinquish.

Yes, not long after having purchased a nice Manhattan apartment, Ted and Florence welcomed their son Gordon to the family. Florence and Ted were happy to be parents, but it did not take long for them to realize that fitting a crib, not to mention a vocal baby, into their now cramped flat was not going to work. This led them to start shopping for a home in the suburbs. Diligence, a favorable real estate market and some luck led them to a spacious house located on a large lot on Hulls Highway (the address was later changed to 75 Sasco River Lane) in Southport, Conn. Fortunately, the seller, William Ruger Jr. of the Ruger Firearms family, was motivated and Florence and Ted closed on the house on May 16, 1990. Gordon and his parents became Connecticut residents.

Although Florence’s and Ted’s roots were in Maine, from the day they moved into their new home their hearts were transplanted to Southport, Conn. It was not long before Ted and Florence completed their family with the addition of daughter Sarah. Gordon and Sarah attended Greens Farms Academy in Greens Farms, and both children were able to take advantage of everything their hometown had to offer, including taking up their mother’s passion — horseback riding.

The Verrills became members of the Fairfield County Hunt Club, an elegant setting for riding, dining and socializing. Florence had the skills and savoir faire to become one of the doyennes of Southport. In addition to having impeccable taste in clothes, she was a talented home decorator and designer, of both exterior and interior living spaces. She transformed the rough and rugged former Ruger house into a showplace that would not have compared unfavorably to the home of fellow Fairfield County resident Martha Stewart.

Gardening was one of Florence’s passions and the grounds of her home displayed abundant evidence of her green thumb. Ted not only enjoyed working in the yard he also proceeded to fill (literally) various wall spaces with trophies from his big game hunting hobby, including a magnificent bull elk and a Cape buffalo head that scared everyone who looked at it. The house had ample room for family and the many friends, young and old, who frequently filled it, enjoying cheerful and elegant social occasions. Florence knew how to entertain guests. Of all the great friends the Verrills made in Southport, we remember especially Havilande and Jim Whitcomb and their daughter Christiana.

Florence and Ted were also very spiritual people. They became members of the Southport Congregational Church, and devoted parishioners under the Reverend Paul D. Whitmore and Reverend Laura Whitmore. Paul and Laura not only ministered to the Verrills in Southport, they also travelled to France to preside at the wedding of Sarah Verrill Refalo and her husband, Paul Refalo. Ted held offices in the church. Florence was also an active member and was one of the principal organizers of the annual “Rooms with a View” held at the church.

Life was not without its problems. About 20 years ago, Florence was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy were required. Once again, her life was in jeopardy, but under the care of another talented physician — Dr. Dickerman Hollister — an effective treatment was found. Although Florence was never again completely free of cancer, thanks to Dr. Hollister and the oncology staff at Greenwich Hospital she regained her physical strength and optimism. Despite requiring monthly chemotherapy treatments she was able to live quite normally. For that, she was truly grateful.

During the dark initial days of her first battle with cancer, Florence’s prayer was she be given enough time to see her children graduate from high school. That prayer was more than answered. Gordon graduated from Greens Farms Academy and went on to graduate from Cornell University. He then followed in his mother’s footsteps into careers first in fashion and then in the interior design field. He now lives and resides in New York City. His accomplishments gave Ted and Florence great pride.

Sarah also graduated from Greens Farms Academy and went on to get her degree from Emerson College in Boston. Sarah then took seminars on food and wine at Boston University. She prevailed on her parents to support a trip to New Zealand where she did an internship at a vineyard there. In New Zealand, she met another student, Paul Refalo, a serious young man from southern France, who caught Sarah’s eye and then stole her heart. Sarah and Paul were married in 2019 and together they are now the owners and operators of the Clos du Cers vineyard in Cruscades, France. Florence was immensely proud of her daughter and son-in-law.

As idyllic as Florence and Ted’s life in Southport may have been, tragedy intruded on this dream. On March 4, 2018, Ted unexpectedly passed away. Ted had always been a strong, healthy man, and his sudden death was a shock to everyone who knew him. For Florence, the loss of her husband and soulmate was devastating. Ted was a very successful businessman and he was actively engaged in various enterprises at the time of his death. It fell to Florence to not only tie up matters related to Ted’s estate, but she also had to bring his business interests to a close. This challenge revealed another side of Florence’s character and intellect. While still grieving her loss Florence worked with her legal and financial advisers and got this job done. Florence particularly appreciated the advice and support of her devoted brother-in-law, David Verrill.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent to Florence she would not be able to stay in her beloved home on Sasco River Lane. The house was too big and expensive for her to manage alone. This led Florence to make the very difficult decision to sell the home she and Ted had so lovingly and skillfully occupied, shaped and tended. As hard and sad as this decision seemed to be at the time, God was undoubtedly looking out for her, because in the process of finding a buyer for her old home, Florence heard about another, smaller house in Southport that might be for sale within her price range. How exactly Florence was able to finagle the purchase of that house before it went on the market is still a mystery, but she did it.

On Feb. 1, 2019, she closed on the sale of Sasco River Lane, and on Feb. 4, 2019, she closed on the purchase of her new home very nearby. The move, which involved enormous downsizing, was physically and emotionally difficult, but, again, Florence came through, applied herself and got the job done.

Although Florence’s new home was much smaller than what she had become accustomed to (she called it a “Grammy” house), it turned out to be a nearly ideal residence for her. The neighborhood of well-maintained homes was every bit as nice as Sasco River Lane, and her new neighbors welcomed her with open arms. Florence placed her lawn furniture in her new driveway where she often enjoyed a cocktail before her evening meal. Neighbors out for walks would stop by and chat, and Florence, never shy or at a loss for words, soon made many new friends.

The new house had plenty of room for Florence, her dog, Fiona, and her cat, Mowgli, plus she had two guest bedrooms to accommodate her children or other guests. The Grammy House was really an ideal place to have downsized to. But, no matter how well Florence adapted to this very nice house, the urn on the mantelpiece containing Ted’s ashes always tended to remind her the most important person in her life was no longer there. She missed Ted intensely.

Speaking of Fiona and Mowgli, no account of Florence’s life would be complete without mentioning her love for animals. She had many pets during her life including dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses — if you can call horses pets — but Fiona, Florence’s last dog, may have been her favorite. Fiona was Florence’s constant companion; she really loved that dog. It was another hard blow when Fiona died last year.

Florence’s final battle with cancer began around Thanksgiving 2020 in the middle of the COVID pandemic. With her characteristic determination, Florence joined her doctors in attempting to fight her old enemy, and for a time, if she was not winning the fight, she at least seemed to be holding her own. But, gradually, it became apparent the cancer would prevail. This spring, Gordon offered to escort his mother to France so Florence could visit Sarah and her husband in Cruscades and see the developing vineyard and winery. Not everyone would have dared to make such a trip while being as sick as Florence was, but Florence was determined to go. She and Gordon made the journey, and Florence was enjoying a wonderful visit with Sarah when Florence suffered a seizure. She was admitted to a hospital in Narbonne, France, but there was nothing that could be done. A week later, Florence was gone.

With all the things and events that filled Florence’s life her greatest joy was the love and company of friends and family. She is survived by her son, Gordon Verrill, and her daughter, Sarah Refalo, and Sarah’s husband, Paul Refalo. Also surviving are Florence’s brother, Frederick Newcomb, and his wife, Jane Philbrook Newcomb, and their children; cousins Parker Beverage and his wife, Ann, and their children, and Clare Warner and her husband, Tim, and their children.

Florence enormously enjoyed her in-laws including father-in-law, David Verrill, and mother-in-law, Anna Verrill, and brothers-in-law Dana, Tom, Jeff and David, their spouses and children. Florence would have loved to have attended one last Verrill family gathering at the Higgins Beach Inn. Florence also loved seeing cousins from the Newcomb side of the family including Jeanette Googins Morse and Karmo Sanders. Florence was always delighted to socialize with any and all friends and family members, who are fortunately too numerous to list. She was indeed well liked and loved, and she will be dearly missed by all.