Maria Benoit Hanley, 92: Leading advocate for Maine dairy farmers

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FALMOUTH — Maria Benoit Hanley, 92, died peacefully with her family by her side on Dec. 6, after a brief illness.

Hanley lived a remarkable life dedicated to family, faith and community. The oldest daughter of Henri and Katherine Benoit, she grew up in Portland and graduated from Waynflete School in 1939. She was proud of her French and Irish heritage and of her family’s commitments to community service.

She attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Smith College in 1943 with a degree in zoology. Following graduation, she worked at New York Hospital, Cornell Medical School where she was involved in the early research and development of oral penicillin with Dr. Walsh McDermott.

After several years in New York, she returned to Portland where she worked as a medical assistant and was introduced to Dr. Dan Hanley, Bowdoin College physician. They fell in love and were married at Holy Cross Church in South Portland in 1948. They lived in Brunswick for the next 53 years where they raised their four children. She lived her life as a “full-time spouse, mother and community advocate.” Organizations she served included, Brunswick schools PTA, Davis Fund, Regional Memorial Hospital, Maine Pine Tree Crippled Children’s Society, Maine TB & Maine Lung Associations, Maine Milk Commission and St. Charles Boromeo and Holy Martyrs. She was a great partner to her husband throughout his remarkable career as college physician, U.S. Olympic physician, executive director of the Maine Medical Association and devoted family doctor to countless patients in the Brunswick area.

She enjoyed traveling to the Olympics with her husband and cheering for the U.S. athletes. She was a ferocious tennis player and an avid sports fan who loved cheering on her grandchildren, including attending Bowdoin hockey and football games.

She was an active member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Brunswick and in more recent years Holy Martyrs Parish in Falmouth.

Her involvement in community service extended beyond Brunswick to the state. She was appointed to the Maine Milk Commission in 1975 by Gov. James Longley. She was a strong advocate for Maine dairy farmers and ultimately was appointed chairman of the commission. Typical of her community interest, this effort required difficult state-wide advocacy for a sustainable model for the local milk supply chain and for the Maine consumer. She was an advocate for local businesses as quality producers.

After the death of her husband in 2001, she carried on his public commitment to innovation in health care. Her forward thinking and sense of community values led her to an instrumental role in the founding of the Dan Hanley Center for Health Leadership, an organization dedicated to improving the health and health care for the citizens of Maine. After playing key leadership roles, she then served as chair emerita of the Center. With her guidance, it has become a national role model for developing local health care leadership capabilities.

In 2002, Hanley moved to Oceanview in Falmouth where she began a new phase of her life with many new and old friends. She was an active member of the Oceanview community. She was a quiet but forceful role model in the medical community.

During her recent illness she was deeply thankful for the compassionate care she received from her many kind caregivers that allowed her to remain in her home.

She was predeceased by her brothers, Arthur and Louis Benoit, and her grandson, Joshua Kubetz.

She is survived by her sisters, Katherine Gibbons and Patricia Quinlan; children, Daniel, Sheila, Sharon and Sean; grandchildren, Jacob and Joseph Kubetz, Christina, Margaret, Henry and William Hanley, Sean, Michael and Malia Vitousek,  and Dan and Tim Hanley; and great-grandchildren, Rachel and Julia Kubetz.

Visiting hours were held Tuesday at Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, Portland. A Mass of Christian burial celebrated Wednesday at Holy Martyrs Church, Falmouth. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery, South Portland.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made, in Hanley’s memory, to, The Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership, 217 Commercial St., Suite 201 Portland ME 04101.

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