11/28/1933 – 4/2/2021
Helen Douglas, artist and healer extraordinaire, left her earthly vessel that she had the pleasure of dancing around life in at 5:05 p.m. on April 2, 2021, at the age of 87, surrounded by loved ones and her art, in the same house she was born in. As she drifted off to the music of her choosing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Hallelujah,” she was surely dancing her way through fields of black-eyed Susans with her grandson Marty Douglas, on to her next journey.
All of her final dreams came true, all of her final promises met — from her “celebration of living” only three days earlier, complete with music and singing bowls, to the music she wanted to play as she departed this realm, and her loved ones to be by her side as she transitioned — daughter Laura Johnson and her husband, Erik, son Ed Douglas, daughter-in-law Susan Douglas, niece Jocelyn Sharp and cousin Janice Strout. All of her children held vigil for her the evening before, telling stories, playing music and sharing laughter as she would have wanted. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces and many friends were able to have special visits with her in the last few months. Those who were not able to visit in the last days were still very much with her in spirit. Helen lived her life on her own terms — and she exited that way as well, in true Helen style.
Those who knew her can undoubtedly close their eyes and hear her signature laughter and voice and see her smile. If you knew her, you loved her.
As we remember her many accomplishments, in her eyes, her greatest were her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; she was so proud of them all.
Helen was an artist, a Reiki Master, a healer, a caretaker, a visionary, an inspiration, a storyteller, a bohemian, a creator of love, joy, and laughter, a mover, a shaker, mentor, teacher, a beautiful soul and beloved friend, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, cousin and aunt. She had the ability to see in others what they could sometimes not see in themselves and encouraged them to flourish, uplifting them with laughter and lightness.
Helen lit up her canvas with the stroke of her paintbrush. She had a way with light, illuminating not only the beauty that emerged from the shadows but the beauty that shined from within each of us. And this of course was also the story of her life, finding a bright light in the midst of angst. Her grandson, Marty Lee Douglas, was only 10 years old when he was killed by gun violence while staying with her for the summer. Helen chose a brave path through this utter devastation, choosing forgiveness and a path of love in order to free herself from what could have become a cage of anger, activism to lobby for and pass laws to thwart gun violence, running for and nearly winning a position in the state legislature as a state representative with a platform for gun control, and again illuminating the light from the darkness by talking to her daughter Laura, Marty’s mother, and others, daily about her grandson, keeping him so very much alive in their memories. Marty’s transition from this world became a glue for the family; he has been an ever-present force of love in the almost 33 years since his passing.
Helen was born on Nov. 28, 1933, and grew up in Hulls Cove in the house on the side of the road next to Hanscom’s Motel (built by her parents – she helped her father build the first cabin at age 17), where we so familiarly see the beautiful sunflower or Christmas-themed window shades she painted, most prominently viewed in the evening hours, illuminated by light. She was the youngest of three children to Emily and Hap Hanscom, but her mother, Emily, kept the house full, continually bringing others in who needed a place to stay, a spot for respite or a hot meal. Helen continued on this tradition, always welcoming friends and family into her house for a visit or a place to rest their heads.
In 1954, Helen and her now “former,” Paul A. Douglas, moved to Florida to start their family, having three sons and a daughter. In the ’60s, she started taking art classes at the Elliot McMurrough School of Art, where she met her mentor, the well-renowned artist Henry Hensche. She credited his influence to her pursuance of art, which became a pivotal part of her life. She moved back to Maine in the early ’70s, where she became a caregiver.
At the age of 50, she traveled across the country by herself, landing at the Grand Canyon, working in a hostel. She stayed in Florida for a few years with her artist friend Ellen Hett before moving back to Maine and returning to once again become a caregiver. Those who had the pleasure of having her care for their loved ones often became lifelong friends. In the last two years she carried on this role, caring for her sister Ginny until she passed last year, and then her brother-in-law Buddy Eaton until the day she was diagnosed with cancer on Jan. 20.
Even while being a caregiver, she achieved so much more. She opened many art galleries, taught art classes and was a founding member of the art co-op “The Flounder Society,” which had a beautiful art gallery in the old horse barn behind Reel Pizza. She created art in many different mediums and forms, always pursuing something new and innovative — in the late ’80s she had a patent on her one-of-a-kind lampshades, in 2012 she had a patent for her window shades she created with her dear friend Kit Hathaway — some of which found their home in the palliative care rooms at both MDI and Ellsworth hospitals.
In the early 1990s, she started community social gatherings known as “happenings” comprised of art, music and potluck food, bringing a sense of community in the off-season and the gully of winter. These gatherings of artists and community members were packed and would occur at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor or the Hulls Cove Schoolhouse where there might be installed art, performance art, open-mic performances, music, bands, dancing and poetry written on the chalkboard walls. Her 75th birthday was another such “happening,” complete with tents, a dance floor and three bands. One thing was for certain at these happenings: an abundance of laughter, joy and dancing.
Her last gift to us all was becoming a healer, where she touched and healed innumerable people around the world, still sending healing in her last days here with us and beyond. On May 8, 2016, she became a Reiki Master after traveling to Florida to attend a Reiki training by the acclaimed Reiki practitioner Diane Stein. She pursued her passion for the art of healing with limitless energy. She taught the ancient art of energy healing through Reiki to many friends and family members, giving many of them attunements for Reiki I, II and III, and meeting new friends with similar interests along the way. She was continually reading and teaching, and this work was extremely important to her. She would hold gatherings of people at her house weekly, to practice Reiki, karmic release, and to play the singing bowls together in an effort to not only heal each other but to pass this healing on to others, and eventually extend this healing into the world. She loved her singing bowls, acquiring seven crystal bowls attuned to each of the seven chakras and dreamed of having larger social gatherings to play the bowls to promote healing. Later, she moved these healings onto live video feeds, holding many group and individual healings over the past few years. She always had something new up her sleeve and always had words of wisdom mixed with laughter to impart to her students. In whatever passion she was pursuing, Helen was a lifelong learner.
She was preceded by so many including her parents, Emily (McKay) and Hap Hanscom, brother Robert “Bobbie” Hanscome, sister Virginia Eaton, sister-in-law Jeanette Hanscome, nephew Robert E. Hanscome, grandson Willie Mcwhinney, as well as her biggest love and loss, her grandson Marty Lee Douglas in 1988, who was there to dance her way to the others.
She is also survived by so many cherished friends and family — we only wish we could name them all, each and every one so special to her: Andrea Gerrish, Rob McDonald, Matt Gerald, Joseph Wadman, Linda Kelley, Liz Mead, Patty Walsh, Jackie Carroll, Charlotte Bordeaux, Jackie Agnese, the Hazelton family, just to name a few that she mentioned so often in the last few weeks, wanting to make sure they were OK.
As for her family, Helen never liked the word stepchildren or step-grandchildren— she loved their parents and that made them hers as well. She is survived by a large and loving family whom she loved dearly: her son Paul A. Douglas Jr. and wife, Susan, grandchildren Carl, Kris and wife, Megan, Max, Marie and husband, Chris, Maxine, Peter and Brennan, great-grandkids Liam, Garrett and Athena, son Edward Douglas and wife, Peggy, grandchildren Dana and husband, Tim Rankin, Ethan and Eric, great-grandchildren Sophie and Drew, son Tim Douglas and wife, Neve, grandchildren Richie, Tony and Caroline, daughter Laura Johnson and husband, Erik, grandchildren Christian, Jordan and wife, Monica Vandiver, and Liam and Aidan Johnson. Helen was also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, cousins and special friends whom she adored as well.
Helen’s last “happening” and celebration of life will be announced this summer following her wishes. We know she will be there with us as she did not believe in death, but rather a continuation on this journey of spirit. Truly, she was larger than life. In lieu of flowers, we will re-establish the Marty Douglas Scholarship Fund at the Bar Harbor YMCA or Common Good Soup Kitchen.