CUSHING — The Reverend Deborah Adams McKean of Cushing, Maine, and Claremont, California, died April 23, 2022, after a joyful, productive life aboard “this fragile earth, our island home.” At Quarry Hill, Camden, Maine, she succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease and COVID-19, living to celebrate Easter and her 83rd birthday with family from California, Maine and England.

Deborah Ann Adams was born to Marie Louise Burton Adams and Thomas Davies Adams in Memphis, Tennessee on April 19, 1939, and grew up in Barrington and Bristol, Rhode Island, attending local schools into high school. She participated in youth ministries of the Bristol First Congregational Church, attending conferences of the Pilgrim Fellowship. The Girl Scout Camp Hoffman on Narragansett Bay encouraged a life-long appreciation for swimming and sailing. Deborah enrolled at The Northfield (Massachusetts) School for Girls, Northfield Mount Hermon School, with the Class of 1956. She sang in the Chancel Choir for the annual Christmas Vespers and Sacred Concert. Deborah embraced the school traditions of educating “The Head, the Hand and the Heart”, expressed through liberal arts studies and the Judeo-Christian heritage, music, worship and community work with friends. These became life-long foundations on which she built a career in philanthropic service and leadership. She returned to NMH to serve as Director of Alumni and Parent Programs, 1981-86. She was awarded the Alumni Lamplighter Award and was an Honorary Trustee.
As a B.A candidate in religion at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Deborah served as Chair of the Student Judicial Board and was instrumental in the development of interfaith and ecumenical inclusion for all students. Lifetime friendships in the Class of 1960 nourished her. In 2000 Mount Holyoke College awarded Deborah the Alumnae Medal of Honor.

In 1961 Deborah married Rev. Philip F. McKean. They were invited to participate in the Frontier Internship program, studied the Indonesian language, and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in 1962, working with the Central Board of the Student Christian Movement of Indonesia (GMKI). They participated in leadership workshops at Indonesian universities in Java, Sumatra, Bali and Sulawesi. Deborah became skilled at translating educational materials between English and Bahasa Indonesia. She honored the vision of Indonesian students seeking to create a nation which would be “just and prosperous.”

Returning to Providence Rhode Island, in 1964, Deborah participated in founding library programs that were incorporated into the Martin Luther King, Jr. School. Her master’s program in Library Science at the University of Rhode Island was completed in 1972. Two children, Thomas Adams McKean, April 25, 1966 and Susannah Elizabeth McKean, Feb. 14, 1969, were born at Providence Lying-In Hospital.

Deborah traveled again to Indonesia with the McKean family for anthropological research during 1970-71, studying the preservation of Balinese culture, focusing on religion and indigenous traditions challenged by globalization. She returned with her family to Amherst, Massachusetts, and worked at the Common School to assist the library programs and at the International Student Office of UMASS – Amherst. There she helped initiate a new community program for international students and their families called “Round the World Women.”

Deborah served as Managing Editor for Planning Review, subsequently as Director of Alumni and Parent Programs at Northfield Mount Hermon School, Major Gifts officer for the Mount Holyoke College Sesquicentennial Campaign, Director of Development at Dana Hall School, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Director of Major Gifts, UMASS-Amherst, and Centennial Campaign Director of the Worcester Art Museum. She achieved ambitious community goals by organizing dedicated philanthropic teams among supportive groups. Deborah also became increasingly committed to worship and study in the Episcopal tradition. Throughout her life she would note seasonal changes in plants and spoke of the nurture of spiritual life as a metaphor from the care of plants.

Deborah with Phil built a home in Cushing, Maine, in 2001 on a tidal estuary of Muscongus Bay. Inspired by her grandchildren, Deborah reveled in making Osprey Cottage a place of deep hospitality. Deborah loved to read to younger generations. Her animated smile and voice invited children and their friends to enter the stories and explore the characters in children’s literature. She initiated home gatherings for neighbors and parishioners that featured Sunday Soups and lively conversations. Deborah was an active member of the Cushing Historical Society, participating in Arts in the Barn, monthly programs, and worship at the historic South Cushing Church. She served on the Board of Directors for the Bay Chamber Concerts and championed its fledgling music school.

Deborah was called to a focused spiritual ministry, completing the Episcopal Deacon Formation Program culminating in a service of ordination at St. Luke’s Cathedral, Portland, Maine, June 23, 2007, Bishop Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen presiding. She became deeply involved in ministries across Maine while serving as Vocational Deacon at the Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist, Thomaston, Maine. She was recognized for skill in expressing practical love and outreach to others in need. She traveled to Haiti, an Episcopal Companion Diocese, then helped connect Maine parishes to participate in improving Haitian schools. Some churches chose to supply new roofs with solar energy to fuel computers at remote parish schools. Her connections led to offering home stays for Haitian pastors, students and leaders visiting with Maine churches and state leaders. Deborah also served residents at Quarry Hill, Camden, Maine, where she led a weekly spiritual program offering readings, music and liturgical prayer. Deborah sought to live out the mandate of Jesus to “love your neighbor,” and became an advocate for making Marriage Equality the law of the land in Maine, open to all citizens.

In 2011 Deborah became a resident of Pilgrim Place, a retirement community in Claremont, California, where she moved with Phil. Their trip west from Maine allowed them to explore sites important to them for family history and natural beauty. In California, Deborah became an active community member: singing alto parts in the Pilgrim Place Chorale, helping with the formation of Claremont Homeless Advocates Program, and working with seniors at the Claremont Colleges as a Mentor for the Napier Initiative to advance their visions for social justice and environmental sustainability. She led worship on campus and joined an international liturgical group: The Order of Saint Luke. She walked on the local college campuses with the Pilgrim Pacers and splashed with friends at water aerobics. The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and Maine assigned her to continuing Diaconal ministry at St. Ambrose Church, Claremont and worship at All Saints, Pasadena, until her 2018 retirement. She enjoyed writing all through her life, and wrote creative liturgies speaking to contemporary issues. She sent a multitude of letters, corresponding regularly with family and friends. One of her published poems probed the quest for a dignified old age.

Deborah experienced cognitive impairment, diagnosed in 2015 as Alzheimer’s Disease. She faced it openly as yet another spiritual and personal challenge. She initiated support programs at Pilgrim Place for memory care, especially support teams for those already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and volunteered for a national clinical trial which tested the effectiveness of a new medication.

She returned to Maine “for a visit” during 2020. When COVID-19 made travel impossible for her, she and Phil settled in their coastal home in Cushing, Maine, near family and friends. A splendid team of care companions assisted her in Maine as they had at Pilgrim Place. By May, 2021, Deborah required skilled nursing and hospice care at Quarry Hill in Camden where she lived four days into her 84th year.

May her memory be a blessing to all who will treasure it.

Deborah is survived by her husband of 61 years, Rev. Philip Frick McKean Ph.D., of Cushing, Maine, and Claremont Calif.; Thomas Adams McKean CFA (MarQ Taylor), Montecito, Calif. and grandson Jon Hampton Mandela McKean, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Susannah Elizabeth McKean Nicklin CFA (Capt. Paul Nicklin), Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England, and grandchildren Chloe Elizabeth Nicklin and Samuel Philip Nicklin, London, England. Her surviving sister, Susan Adams Campagna (Anthony Campagna) and nephew Peter Adams Campagna, Cushing, Maine; nieces Kimi Cubbage, Providence, R.I.; Kate Cubbage, Revere, Mass. and Amy Stevens Cubbage (Kurt S. Cubbage), parents of Marine 2nd Lt. Kyler Cubbage, Army Sergeant/Green Beret Charles Cubbage, and Emily Cubbage of Raleigh, N.C.; brother-in-law Moyne Cubbage, Ph.D. Barrington, R.I.

Deborah was predeceased by her parents, Marie Louise Burton Adams and Thomas Davies Adams, Bristol, R.I.; sister Mary Louise Adams Cubbage, Barrington, R.I.; aunts Elizabeth (Betty) Adams Daniels, Vassar College and Poughkeepsie N.Y. (John L. Daniels) and Mary Adams Harrison (Donald), Conn. as well as her cousin, the artist Eleanor Bradford Daniels, Vt. Surviving cousins include: John Lothrop Daniels, Jr. (Susan), Vero Beach, Fla; Sherwood Adams Daniels (Ted Yates), Richmond, Vt.; Ann Sheffield Daniels (Dave), Salina, Colo.; Deborah’s first cousins, twice and thrice removed include: Reuel Adams Daniels Coon, Calif.; Wilder Adams Daniels, Colo.; John (Jake) Daniels; Justin Saxon Braman (Eliza), Roslindale, Mass.; Carrie Adams Daniels (VJ Guarino) and son Calvin Quincy(Quinn) Guarino, Northport, Maine; Douglas Brownell Yates, Ketchum, Idaho; John Harrison, Santa Rosa, Calif.

The celebration of her life and memorial service is Saturday, Sept. 24, 2:30 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of Saint John Baptist, Thomaston, Maine. Presiding will be the Bishop of Maine, Rt. Rev. Thomas Brown with Rev. Peter Jenks, Rector, and guests. The committal of her aquatic dust will be Sept. 25, 13 Osprey Lane in Cushing, and Nov. 5, in the Penner Garden, Pilgrim Place, 730 Plymouth Road, Claremont, California.

Deborah’s family requests that we honor her requests for memorial gifts to be sent to the international Episcopal Relief and Development Fund c/o Episcopal Church of St John Baptist, 200 Main St. Thomaston, ME 04861 and to the Class of 1960 Scholarship Fund, Mount Holyoke College Office of Advancement, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA 01075-1485.