SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Meredith Adelle (Rich) Hutchins, 76, died peacefully on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, of central nervous system lymphoma at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
She was born April 6, 1939, in Bar Harbor, the daughter of Roger Clifton and Lucile Arlene (Farnsworth) Rich of Tremont. In 1957, she graduated Pemetic High School and later attended Syracuse University before leaving to marry and raise a family.
She began working at the Southwest Harbor Public Library in 1951 shelving books for Miss Alma Hallenborg at 12 cents an hour. Miss Hallenborg was a mentor, helping nurture a lifelong love of literature, but her interest first began when Meredith taught herself to read at the age of 4, resolving to read every book in the library beginning with the A’s. Wit and reality soon forced her to modify her original goal and she quickly moved on to the rest of the alphabet. She accumulated a large personal library at home including “too many cookbooks” and spoke critically and enthusiastically about whatever books or articles she was reading at the time.
In 1985, Meredith retired from the library after 35 years of nearly constant service. During her last six years, she was the library’s director, a position she assumed after the retirement in 1979 of another mentor, Frances Hitchcock. In 1983-84, she oversaw the library’s fourth expansion, which included the restoration of the coffered ceiling in the original building. After her retirement, Meredith served on the library’s Board of Directors and for many years continued pricing books for the library’s annual used book sale.
As a librarian, she was most proud when she successfully matched the right book with a patron’s tastes and interests. Her goal as a professional was always to serve the patrons with the appropriate book, answer or resource. She also enjoyed recommending new titles to Mrs. Hitchcock, who gave her the authority to annually choose all the library’s new books.
From 1970 until 2001, Meredith and her husband operated Hutchins Cottages, summer housekeeping cottages in Southwest Harbor. Kenneth built and maintained the buildings while Meredith handled advertising, inquiries, cleaning and furnishings.
Meredith was a dedicated researcher of family genealogies and local history. She was born to a long line of fishermen and boat builders and traced her Mount Desert Island roots back to John Rich who settled in Bass Harbor in the late 1700s. She traced her family back to Hannah Dustin of Haverhill, Mass., and to the Mayflower but declined to join the Daughters of the American Revolution after they refused to permit Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall. In later years, she partnered with Charlotte Morrill (Southwest Harbor) curating the Southwest Harbor Public Library archive of historic photographs. She also wrote articles, essays, stories and poems, which were printed in local and regional publications.
She was a member of the Jane Austen Society, the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Bronte Society. Meredith was fond of good food and wine, classical music — particularly the organ, theatre, history and boating. She and her husband spent many happy weekends “gunkholing” up and down the Maine coast and once, memorably, travelled to Nova Scotia in their 35-foot sloop, Whisper. Later they took their cabin cruiser, Voyager, up the St. John River to Fredericton, New Brunswick. They traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, China, and especially to England.
Meredith is survived by her husband of 57 years, Kenneth Urban Hutchins; her daughter Kristin Rebecca Hutchins (Southwest Harbor); her daughter Anne Elizabeth Hutchins and son-in-law James Easton Kirschner (S. Hamilton, Mass.); her daughter Laura Claire Hutchins and son-in-law Stephen Harding Brookes (Burlington, Conn.); her brother Philip Clifton Rich (Southwest Harbor); and four grandchildren, Jonathan Carter Kirschner, Elizabeth Easton Kirschner, Evelyn Farnsworth Brookes and Ian Hutchins Brookes.
A memorial service for Meredith will be held later this summer. Donations in Meredith’s name may be made to the Southwest Harbor Public Library, P.O. Box 157, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679.