Although her academic career took her to the Canadian prairie provinces, Mary Blackstone never strayed far from Ellsworth, her hometown.
She and her husband, Cameron Louis, live the Ellsworth house where “I was born and raised,” Blackstone said. “Involved in all the dramatic productions” held during her middle- and high-school years, she lettered in basketball, played softball and sang in the chorus at Ellsworth High School.
Initially a chemistry major at the University of Maine, Blackstone switched to a double major in English and theater. A Maine Masque participant for three years, she spent a year at the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton as an exchange student.
The experience changed her life. “I had never really gone anywhere outside of New England” before attending UNB-Fredericton, “a very cosmopolitan campus” where she could speak French with friends, Blackstone said. Pursuing her graduate studies there, she earned a doctorate in English. “My area of expertise was early modern theater history, particularly Shakespeare,” she said.
Blackstone met Cameron while a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. There she taught classes and traveled to England to research the Records of Early English Drama, “original records and manuscripts from the very beginnings” of English drama “up to 1642,” she recalled.
Blackstone took a position at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Teaching seven courses a year, she “fitted out a theater,” supervised student one-acts, and directed three other theater productions, she said. Her academic career returned her to Canadian universities and her appointment as the first dean of fine arts at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan.
Throughout her academic career, “I’ve always spent a lot of time in Maine,” Blackstone said. Retiring from the University of Regina several years ago, she came east.
“Ellsworth has been home” all her life, Blackstone explained. “Home is where your heart is. My heart is here,” in “this house and the area. The city is where my heart is.”
Blackstone has research responsibilities in Canada, so she and Cameron spend time there in fall and winter. By spring they return to Ellsworth. Their land reflects another of Mary’s passions.
“I am an avid gardener,” Blackstone said. “My life here revolves around the growing season. Our property is pretty evenly divided between” flowers and vegetables, all grown organically. Eschewing pesticides, she grows flowering plants “that are attractive to pollinators,” which in turn draw birds that eat insect pests, she said.
Water quietly murmurs in a small pond sited between the house and traffic-busy Route 1. Blackstone expressed her pleasant surprise that frogs unexpectedly appeared in the pond soon after its construction. Elsewhere amidst the gardens, tall sunflowers attract birds, milkweed provides food for monarch-butterfly caterpillars, and native plants thrive.
An Ellsworth Garden Club member, Blackstone helped launch the Ellsworth Green Plan. The garden club held an open forum in January 2017 to determine public interest in the green plan and its goal of making “Ellsworth a model green community,” she said.