FALMOUTH – Nancy Payne, 94, died on April 6.
For the better part of a century, Payne ran at full throttle, engaged in life, her community and her family. An author, painter, legislator and activist, she enjoyed two distinct lives in her 94 years: the first as a wife, mother, employee and volunteer, and the second as an unbounded and accomplished widow, politician, artist, writer and creative force.
She was born the first of identical twins in 1919 in Jamaica Plain, Mass., the daughter of Dr. Lewis Webb Hill and Pauline Dexter Hill. She was very competitive from the beginning.
A 1936 graduate of the Winsor School and a student of art history in the class of 1941 at Radcliffe College, Payne married William Hancock Payne Jr. in 1942. Together they raised four children, living in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts before moving to Portland in 1950.
She was active in the United Way, Junior League, Cub Scouts, American Field Service and Deering Pathfinders PTA, where she helped author “The Teenage Code,” a guide of conduct for area high school students. She often said, “If you set your bar high, you’ll never be disappointed even if you fall short.” In later years she served on the boards of the YWCA, Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging and the Portland Red Cross.
Payne’s early work-life included owning a second-hand children’s clothing shop run from the back of her home in Deering Center and helping launch her husband’s insurance agency from the living room. Additionally, she researched and authored “Living in Portland” and “Community Facts” for Tower Publishing Company. In the mid 1970s, she was co-director with Ellen Higgins of the Marketplace, the first craft gallery in Portland’s Old Port. She also became involved in politics as a field organizer for the successful repeal of straight ticket voting in Maine under the leadership of Bob Monks and later served as the scheduler for the 1972 Monks for Senate campaign.
Her second life began when she was suddenly widowed in 1978. She decided to run for the Maine House of Representatives and was the first Republican legislator to be elected from Portland in 16 years. She served a single term and decided grassroots party development was more satisfying. Instead of running for a second term, she chose to serve as a GOP county and state committee member. In 1984, she was elected at the state convention to represent Maine on the Republican National Committee.
To satisfy her creative side, Payne dived into art and writing. She was a regular exhibitor at area art shows, selling her whimsical water colors and pine needle baskets.
In 1997, at the age of 79, she wrote and self-published her first book, “Widowing, a Guide to Another Life.” With three printings behind her, she decided to write “Phoenix/Maine,” a novel that focused on “creating greater bipartisanship in politics and civility in all relationships.” Her fervent belief that courtesy, enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity and positive thinking were essential characteristics for a well-rounded life was reflected in all she did and wrote.
One of her last volunteer efforts was serving as a founding member on the board of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Southern Maine. She not only attended classes but taught a course in art history. For her 90th birthday, she instituted a fund for the development of cultural diversity at OLLI, hoping to draw new members and faculty from the many cultures now living in the greater Portland area.
She was predeceased by her husband, William, and her twin sister, Penelope Dwinell, of Dedham, Mass.
Payne is survived by her daughter, Nancy P. Alexander of Ellsworth; sons William H. Payne III and his wife, Elizabeth, of Boxford, Mass., Lewis H. Payne and his wife, Clare, of Holden, and Anthony M. Payne and his wife, Grace, of Falmouth. She was the proud grandmother of Abigail Alexander and her husband, Chad Goodwin, of Hollywood, Fla., William Payne IV and his wife, Christa of Chattanooga, Tenn., Nell Dailey and her husband, Andrew of Warren, John Payne of Brooklyn, N.Y., Julia Bailin and her husband, Daniel, of Portland, Edward Payne of Portland, Hank Payne of Falmouth, Halsey Payne of Falmouth and Gordon Payne of Falmouth; five great-grandchildren and two more on the way.
The Payne family wishes to thank the seventh floor staff of Richards wing at Maine Medical Center for serving as both her caregivers and an appreciative audience for the last week of her lifelong performance. They would also like to thank all he loyal friends who have been equally caring, kind and loyal over the years.
A memorial celebration for friends and family will be held at 1:30 p.m. on May 12 at the Wishcamper Center at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland Campus.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to OLLI.