Mary Kahl, 59: Former S. Portland city attorney, Art in the Park chairwoman

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Mary Kahl, 59, died July 9 at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough.

On Dec. 3, 1951, she was born in New York City, where her father taught philosophy at Columbia University, her maternal grandfather was chairman of the school’s Romance Languages Department and her maternal grandmother taught law.

When her parents separated in 1957, her father moved to San Francisco, Calif., and her mother took her and her brother Steve to Los Angeles.

As a child she spent summers in Texas, where her mother’s family was from, including her great-uncle, Coke Stevenson, a former Governor of Texas.

She returned to New York to attend college, and graduated from Barnard College and New York Law School.

After school she relocated to Texas, where she lived for eight years until moving back east. After three years in Boston, she moved to Maine in 1987. While she felt most at home in the northeast, she would visit family in Texas and California, and indulge her love of train travel.

For two years she was the in-house city attorney for the City of Saco before becoming the in-house city attorney for the City of South Portland from 1991-2008.

After leaving that position, she opened a practice that included municipal law, mediation and animal law.

She always knew she wanted to practice law and she said that for her, law was about “doing things right and protecting people … and also protecting animals.”

While she was fiercely private, her public passions included progressive and liberal politics, a love of animals and the arts. Over the years worked on voter registration efforts, supported candidates, and demonstrated against the BP oil spill in the Gulf and for the people and animals suffering there.

She served as chairwoman of Art in the Park, a one day event in August which required seven months of preparation.

When she wasn’t busy with her law practice, Art in the Park, a political event, or an animal rights issue, she enjoyed relaxing in her garden or tackling do-it-yourself projects in her house.

Equally interested in the performing arts as much as the visual arts, she loved the occasional trip to New York for several days of theater, delicatessens and shopping.

She was known for her intelligence, wit and was a role model for courage, commitment and passion.

Survivors include her brother, Steve Kahl and his longtime companion Lolly Lewis; her aunt, Beth Barberis; her former step-mother, Judy Allen; many cousins; and numerous friends.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 20, at Hobbs Funeral home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland.

Memorial donations may be made to Art in the Park, c/o City of South Portland, P.O. Box 9422, South Portland, ME 04116, or to The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, 449 Stroudwater St., P.O. Box 336, Westbrook, ME 04098-0336.

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