Mary (Henderson) Major, 84: Quick witted with an eye for the absurd

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Mary (Henderson) Major, 84, died at home on April 22 from complications following a stroke.

She was born Aug. 25, 1927, at the family home in Brooks, Ga., to Hugh Henderson and Lillian Jewel Henderson.

Major graduated from Fayetteville High School after three years, serving as the class salutatorian. She then went on to graduate in the first co-ed class from North Georgia College and received a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Tennessee.

After graduation she was employed at Oak Ridge National Lab in the Genetics Group, where she did genetic analysis of mice exposed to the Bikini Atomic Tests. She also served as assistant to L.B. Russell in studies of radiation sensitive periods in pregnancy and methods of screening for mutagens. She was later employed at the University of Maine where she directed the freshman zoology laboratories before retiring in 1992 after 25 years.

While at graduate school she met Charles W. Major, a fellow graduate student, and they were married in 1951 when he was recalled to the U.S. Navy for the Korean War. They lived in Orono until their retirement, when they moved to Lamoine. In 2010 they moved to North Yarmouth to be closer to their family.

Major will be missed for her quick wit, relentless courtesy and ever-present eye for the absurd, all of which helped make life enjoyable for her family and friends. She was a keen observer of backyard and seaside wildlife and greatly enjoyed watching them throughout the four seasons.

She is survived by her husband of 61 years, Charles W. Major; their children Nancy Marie French of North Yarmouth, Elizabeth Anne Rolfe and her husband, Brian Rolfe, of Phippsburg and Charles David Major and his wife, Susan, of Orono; sister Anne Cowart of Atlanta; brother Hugh T. Henderson of Tulsa, Okla.; many nieces and nephews; grandchildren John Edward French of North Yarmouth, June French Geoffroy and her husband, Marc, and their son, Colby Geoffroy, of Minot, Anne Marie French and her companion, William Adams, and their daughters, Alyssa Marie French and Ava Elizabeth Adams, of Poland, Michael Rolfe of Portland, Stephen Rolfe and his wife, Amy, and their son, Patrick, of Portland, Charles Major of Orono, Andre Major and his companion, Kira Herrklotsch, of Berlin, Germany.

The family will host an open house to share memories of Major at her home in North Yarmouth, 10 Acorn Lane, on May 5 from noon to 4 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lamoine Elementary School Library, 53 Lamoine Beach Road, Lamoine, ME 04605.