Merry Hermans died June 22, 2020, ten days after her 92nd birthday.
In November, 1927, as the Winooski River in Waterbury, Vermont rose 20 feet over its banks, Dascomb Rowe carried to safety through the rushing and turbulent waters and up three flights of stairs his pregnant wife Ruth and their two young children, Ernestine and Alan. Two months later, on a brutally cold winter’s day, Ruth was thrown from a runaway horse drawn sleigh. Miraculously, she gave birth on June 12, 1928 to Mary Ellen Rowe, who soon realized that her essential soul -joy, grace, sunshine, optimism-was better reflected as Merry.
And at age 13, so she became.
Merry, Ernie, Alan and their younger brother Steve were raised in a tradition that highly valued education. Her father, Dascomb Rowe, was principal of Waterbury High School. Her mother, Ruth McLachlin Rowe, was a professor of English at Vermont Junior College. Of course, it was not always so easy being the principal’s daughter and she would recall jitterbugging down the school hallway only to see the commanding presence of her father: “You all go to class. Miss Rowe, you go to my office.” Merry graduated as Valedictorian and noted in her yearbook a favorite quote: “Knowledge is Power”. Love of sport was also a foundational belief. “Stretch”, as Merry was known, played varsity basketball for 4 years, winning the gold ball during her state championship season her junior year. Love of music, as well, was a driving force, and she sang throughout the town as a young woman with her trio: The Sunshine Lassies, and wondered aloud about a possible future as a nightclub singer.
Instead, she continued her education at Syracuse University, which turned out to be a wise decision indeed. She earned a B.A. in English, and, more importantly, met the love of her life, George Hermans, while on a blind date at a local drinking establishment, the Orange. After a wonderful and spirited romance, George and Merry were married in 1950 in Vermont and then traveled back to Syracuse where Merry worked for an insurance agency while George completed his studies at the New York State College of Forestry.
In short order, Merry gave birth to her three children: Michael in 1952, Stephen in 1953 and Linda in 1954. By that time, George and Merry had moved to the North Shore of Massachusetts and then settled in Topsfield in 1956.
While raising her children, Merry returned to school and earned her Masters in Education at Salem State College, taught math at Masconomet Regional Junior High School and then worked at the Family Mutual Savings Bank. Merry’s life in Topsfield was rich with the things she loved: her family, her music, and her love of sport, games and competition. Merry sang in the choir at the Congregational Church. She became an avid tennis player after teaching herself the game, and was a wonderful doubles partner. She could play for weeks without a double fault, for “there is no excuse for a double fault”. She and George won the one and only “Nimbledon” tennis tournament in Topsfield. Like her dad, she was an intelligent and daring bridge player, earning many master points. Merry enjoyed playing with and also teaching her family. Indeed, she relished in a day of bridge during the last week of her life. In basketball, tennis and bridge, Merry could play with her children and teach them her views of the game, while taking them all to school with her classic running hook shot, angled volley, and nimble finesse.
In 1973, after their children had graduated from high school, Merry and George moved to Kennebunk, Maine and began life’s next phase. She continued her love of sport, playing tennis with friends and family. Eventually, the joy Merry gained from tennis changed from playing to watching, but she and George continued to ballroom dance in Maine and at the Rockingham Ballroom in New Hampshire. She joined the Seaglass Chorale and sang all over Maine and Italy. They enjoyed traveling to many destinations around the world.
In 1984, Merry discovered her new vocation as a librarian at the Kennebunk Free Library, where she stayed for 25 years and became in her own right a treasured institution. She worked in each of the library’s sections. With a kind smile, Merry would answer a child’s question, and, when an older person asked for advice in finding the perfect poem, it was Merry who could provide exactly what was needed. At her retirement at age 79, her community feted her generous contributions at Merry Hermans’ Day where she was proclaimed a hero of the Kennebunk Free Library.
When they decided to downsize in 2014, Merry and George had the extraordinary good fortune to land at the loving community at Birch Meadow in Brunswick. They enjoyed their many new friends as well as the many activities at People Plus. Merry continued to teach her family well. Such was her love of poetry that at each family gathering every attendant, regardless of age, knew to arrive prepared with a poem or two to recite and the attention to hear again Merry’s reading of her favorite poem of moral complexity: Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Richard Cory. As she grew older and less able to move with ease, she would nonetheless make the effort to hear her favorite pianist, Bowdoin’s artist in residence George Lopez, whose concerts she would rarely miss. One of her happiest moments was Mr. Lopez’s playing a concert for her on her 90th birthday.
Merry Hermans will be deeply missed. She radiated intelligence, kindness, positive energy, and cheerfulness. She loved sunrises, waterfalls, poetry, singing, playing and watching tennis, bridge, and friendly competition in games of all kinds. Most of all she loved George, and George loved her. They were a great match and so looked forward to sharing their 70th anniversary on September 12, 2020.
Merry is survived by George and their three children: Michael Hermans and wife Kathryn Hermans of Temple, Texas, Stephen Hermans and partner Suzanne Stone of Exeter, New Hampshire, Linda Hermans and husband Richard Goldman of Dresden, Maine, and their beloved former daughter-in-law Debra Perou of Exeter, New Hampshire. They have ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren: Judson Hermans and wife Emily and their child Ross, Adam Amir and wife Noal and their child Rumi, Tucker Hermans and wife Kelly, Brett Hermans and wife Reeve and their children Whimbrel and Dunlin, Rachel Goldman-Stewart and wife Tiffany and their children Queen and Cam, Benjamin Goldman, Sarah Perou Hermans and husband Pooya, Phillip Hermans, Corrie Hermans- Webster and husband Tom, and Wendy Goldman.
For those who wish to express their honor of Merry's life and memory, please consider making a donation in Merry's honor to further the work George Lopez, the Robert Beckwith Artist-in-Residence at Bowdoin College, who's music moved and enlivened Merry's heart and brought her much joy. Please send donations, made out to Bowdoin College, earmarked for George Lopez music programs to:
Bowdoin College Department of Music
Attn: Delmar D. Small, Administrator
9200 College Station, 9 Gibson Hall
Brunswick, ME 04011-8492
Arrangements are under the care of Kincer Funeral Home, 130 Pleasant St., Richmond, ME 04357.
Condolences may be expressed at www.kincerfuneralhome.com