Mary Jane Graves


Mary Jane Graves, 81, of Northeast Harbor and Ellsworth, died Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, from metastatic breast cancer at Seaport Village nursing home in Ellsworth. She was born in Pembroke to Lester and Lettie Hilton Blackwood on Dec. 29, 1937. She was married to Richard E. Graves of Northeast Harbor, who died in 2012.

Mary Jane’s younger years were spent in Pembroke and she graduated from Pembroke High School in 1955 as part of a small class of nine kids. She enjoyed the simple rural life, her cow and numerous cats, and playing trombone in the school band. Upon graduation, she attended the University of Maine at Machias, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.

One of her first teaching jobs took her to Northeast Harbor, where she taught for many years. Initially she taught at the Gilman School and then later at Mount Desert Elementary School, from which she retired after 30 years in teaching.

It was in Northeast where she met the love of her life, Richard (Dick) Graves, in 1959. His mischievous smile and infectious laugh were a perfect match for her understated wit. They were wed on Christmas Eve in 1960 and loved each other for 52 years of marriage. Ever the pragmatist, Mom explained that “I was on break from school and the church was already decorated!” as her reason for the wedding date.

Soon after their marriage, Mary Jane and Dick embarked on the duel journeys of parenthood and small business owners, with Mary Jane continuing to teach during the three seasons and juggle kids and Dick’s bookkeeping and customers in the auto body business during the summer.

Additionally in the summer, she would do laundry and ironing for some of the large private yachts that were moored in Northeast Harbor. She worked tirelessly at whatever task she threw herself into.

One favorite memory of Mary Jane was summer trips to Seal Harbor beach. She would settle in with a favorite book while we swam and played in the sand. She was a voracious reader and it was her most beloved hobby.

Her other hobby was following stock car racing, and summer weekends were often spent traveling around New England to cheer on their favorite drivers at various race tracks.

Mary Jane and Dick enjoyed camping with their family immensely and they spent countless summer weekends exploring the various campgrounds in the state. They retired to Trenton in 1990, where they lived until 2011. Mary Jane worked at Mr. Paperback part time, which was truly like being a kid in a candy store to her.

Mary Jane was a wonderful mom, grandmother, wife and teacher. Kids were her life, and nothing made her light up more than her grandkids coming to visit. Her rewarding and cherished career as an elementary school teacher was formative as she followed the paths and accomplishments of her many former students through the local newspapers.

Toward the end of her life, she was characteristically valiant and brave. She never whined or complained or said much. When she did speak, she spoke with purpose. She was very direct and didn’t mince words. You knew instantly if you’d done something she didn’t like. Her selflessness with her family and in life in general was incredible to behold and a true gift to all who knew her.

Mary Jane is survived by her daughter Beth (Partridge) of Ellsworth, and sons Richard of Whitefish, Mont., and Keith of Somesville; grandchildren Jensen Rich of Sabattus, Jordan Rich of Deltona, Fla., Oksana Graves of Ellsworth, Eric and South Graves of Somesville, and Bohdan Graves of Whitefish, Mont.; and great grandchildren Kasen and Kensley Rich of Sabattus.

Many thanks to the staff at Seaport Village Healthcare, where Mary Jane lived out the last few years of her life. Their care and compassion made a huge difference to her and her family.

Services will be held in May at Forest Hill Cemetery in Northeast Harbor; date to be determined.

Arrangements by Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes, Ellsworth.

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