Edith Hary

Jul 15, 2013

Camden — Edith Hary's long and distinguished life came to an end on March 26, 2013, within sight and sound of the Atlantic Ocean, at her beloved Pemaquid Point. Edith's zest for living and her avid interest in people were her hallmark; even for the 10 years of her failing health, Edith lived with wit and fortitude, and her lovely smile, down to the last ounce and breath of her physical being. Shining over the porch of the cottage, the full moon, with its luminous wake and star, heralded her passage on the day of her death.

Edith was the great-granddaughter of Judge Oliver G. Hall, who built the Hall Cottage near the Pemaquid Lighthouse in 1885, for his daughter Edith and her descendants of the Rockland Perry family. Judge Hall bequeathed to great-granddaughter Edith both his love of Pemaquid, and his love of the law in Maine. Their paired photos hang in the Rockland County Courthouse.

While Edith's most vivid childhood memories are of summers at Pemaquid Point, she grew up in Camden, the daughter of Louis J. and Lucile (Perry) Hary. Edith was educated in the Camden schools; even as a child there the Camden Public Library beckoned her into the world of books and learning and she was proud to work there as a young girl. Unable to afford college, she first spent a year in an apprentice course at the Maine State Library before entering Bates College, where she earned her way by working in the Bates College Library and, in summers, the State Law Library. In 1947, with a Bates degree in Government and History, Edith returned to Augusta to become Law Librarian of the State of Maine. A master's degree in Library Science (Simmons) followed, and in 1975 an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Maine, Portland-Gorham (now USM).

As she was the soul of life at Pemaquid Point for earlier generations, so was she the soul of the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, serving with distinction as State Law Librarian for 35 years. Under her leadership, in addition to fielding countless inquiries covering vast areas of law, she built the Law Library into a circulating library for citizens of Maine as well as lawyers and legislators. Among many organizations, she served on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as first Chairman of the Legislative Reference Librarians of the country and as President of the New England Law Librarian Group. She was appointed to the Board of Bar Examiners, the Maine Criminal Law Revision Commission, and the Judicial Council, serving those groups as the only lay member. She helped establish the Maine State Archives and served on its Advisory Board. She served on the boards of the Maine Historical Society and the Maine Community Foundation. It was said by her colleagues that 'her knowledge of Maine law and the nuances of the judiciary and the Legislature is encyclopedic' and that 'over the years she has saved countless lawyers, legislators, judges and reporters from innumerable errors, and she has done so with a grace and warmth beyond description.' It was this focused engagement with those she assisted, in addition to her astonishing knowledge and history of the law, that won her great respect and countless accolades.

At her retirement dinner attended by an estimated 280 guests, justices, legislators, lawyers and then Governor Joseph E. Brennan — who proclaimed Oct. 22, 1982 'Edith Hary Day' in Maine — gave testimony to her unique gifts. Supreme Court Chief Justice Vincent L. McKusick observed that, 'apart from being a storehouse of unique knowledge on matters pertaining to the Legislature, Edith Hary is, fundamentally, a remarkable human being.' That she served for 35 years with efficiency, grace and humor was noted by the Portland Press Herald: 'She was capable of searching out the most elusive and complex legal fact while simultaneously agonizing over the annual decline and fall of the Red Sox.'

Edith retired from the Law Library as it entered the IT era, but continued to serve on various state and local boards. She moderated Town Meetings in Appleton and Camden, and volunteered at the Pemaquid Point Fisherman's Museum.

Travel was a passion shared with close friend Mary Irvine as they explored the United States by camper with Siamese cat Hildegarde, later traveling to Europe several times a year until 2002.

All her life Edith immersed herself in literature and poetry — particularly works by Maine authors — and she collected an impressive personal library; she easily recited poems and literature and she sang with joy pieces of song and hymn, even when communication became difficult.

A lover of cats, Edith cared deeply for Hildegarde, then for her three Burmese, Joly, Pluffy, and her great trucking pal Willie -- he and she were a familiar duo at the New Harbor Post Office, Reilly's grocery store, and the Transfer Station.

She was fond of children and lovingly entertained the children of her family and friends, entrancing them with the stories she cunningly told, and with the miniature animals and household items they set up together for imaginary parades and teas. Several of her Pemaquid 'children' later brought new generations to meet her.

Edith was predeceased by her sister Evelyn and Col. W.G. Schmid, her brother Louis J. Hary and Winona, and her sister Sara. Edith is survived by her dear friend of 43 years Mary Irvine; her dear sister Marion Abramo and husband Vincent of Brunswick; nieces Edith Taylor, Suzanne Crivelli, Marion Abramo-Baumeister; nephews Vincent C. Abramo Jr. and John L. Abramo; great-nieces and nephews Halley and Andrew Taylor, Jasmine and Ethan Baumeister, and Danielle Abramo; by her Californian cousins, Colville Smythe and Sylvia, and Jon Goll and Kim, Robert, Emery and Nolan, Daniel Johnston and his family; and by the many friends who knew and loved her well, including the dedicated Hospice Aides and Nurses who cared for her for so long, and whom she loved in turn.

A celebration of Edith's life will be held in the summer. Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home, 612 Main St., Damariscotta. Condolences, and messages for the family, may be expressed by visiting: stronghancock.com.

'And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!' And he replied: 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.' — From The Gate of the Year (God Knows) by Minnie Louise Haskins.

In thanksgiving for Edith's life, gifts may be made to C.H.I.P., the Bristol Area Library, the Miles Home Health and Hospice, or the Maine Charity Foundation.

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