Perene P. Harriman, 81: Spoke up about mental health issues

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YARMOUTH — Perene P. Harriman, 81, died Nov. 10.

She was born Dec. 28, 1933, in Montclair, New Jersey, the youngest child of Spencer Phillips and Grace Prince. She grew up in Bronxville, New York, and graduated from Harmon Hall School in York Harbor. She met her husband-to-be, Frank E. Harriman, at the Maine school. They married in July 1954.

In 1955 the couple moved to Yarmouth, where Harriman was a mother and homemaker when she was younger. In 1955, Harriman’s husband and other family members also opened Harriman’s Foodliner, which went on to become a popular local grocery store for decades. As her children grew Harriman sought employment outside the home, and worked as a key punch operator when computers were just in their infancy. Subsequent jobs Harriman held and enjoyed were in direct marketing and as a nursing assistant at Coastal Manor in Yarmouth.

Harriman later married Ralph G. Gilmore, with whom she spent many happy years in Portland. The couple was active in the Chestnut Street Church and the many cultural activities Portland offers, including the Portland Museum of Art and The Portland Symphony Orchestra. They enjoyed an energetic lifestyle until he died in 1982.

Harriman courageously acknowledged her lifelong battle against mental illness, and often spoke up for others who had similar challenges. Throughout her life she found ways to look on the bright side, sprinkling humor and warmth into her interactions with everyone she met. She was willing to be a pioneer in mental health treatment, volunteering for experimental therapies that are commonplace today. Family members say Harriman impacted many people in a positive way.

The loves of her life were her two sons, Philip and Frank, and their families. Friends and caregivers were always treated to an update of the latest news of her sons, daughters-in-law and, especially, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Harriman was predeceased by her parents Spencer and Grace Phillips, a sister, Pamela, and a son, Charles.

Harriman is survived by her sons, Philip E. Harriman, of Yarmouth and Frank Spencer Harriman, of Orange Park, Florida; her grandchildren, Rachael Harriman, of Cape Elizabeth, Liza Harriman, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jocelyn Bourassa, of Freeport, Jared Harriman, of Durham, Frank Harriman Jr., of Orange Park, Florida and Madelyn Harriman, of Somerville, Massachusetts; a great-grandson, Simon Algara, of Cape Elizabeth; and a great-granddaughter, Eden Bourassa, of Freeport.

Interment will be private.

The family extends their gratitude for the kindness and love shown to Harriman by Coastal Manor in Yarmouth.