Laurette A. Williamson

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KENNEBUNKPORT – Laurette A. “Laury” Williamson, beloved grandmother, mother, sister and daughter, a dedicated teacher and an active community member, died Sunday, Dec. 31, in her home, after a five-month battle with cancer.

She was born July 1, 1939, to Conrad and Pauline Martineau of Lewiston. Laury was the oldest of four children in the family of French Canadian descent. Her Quebecois heritage was central to her upbringing, speaking mainly French, until beginning the first grade at the Ave Maria boarding school for Catholic girls in Lewiston.

It was at the parochial school that she first began fostering the determination to succeed, compassion and love for her family and demand for personal excellence that marked her entire life and career. Seeing her potential as a student, the nuns running the school demanded more from her and she met their expectations through an unmatched work ethic.

Deciding at a young age that she would earn a college degree, she excelled at the prestigious St. Dominic High School in Lewiston, graduating salutatorian in 1957.

She applied for and received a full academic scholarship to the University of Maine at Orono, where she studied education. At UMO, she worked while also excelling in her studies receiving both undergraduate and graduate degrees. She was a member of the Phi Mu Sorority. In summers during college, her love of the water brought her to Boothbay Harbor, where she worked as a waitress.

After school, she began teaching French at Deering High School in Portland. That summer, in 1962, she worked in Kennebunkport. There she met her future husband, William H. Williamson and the couple married Feb. 16, 1963. After the birth of their first son, Matthew, she left her teaching position to become a full-time mother to Matt and her stepson, Barry. The couple built a home on family land near Turbat’s Creek in Kennebunkport.

Over the next dozen years she and Bill had two more children, Joanne and Joshua. She worked as a substitute teacher, while volunteering extensively in her children’s schools and myriad activities, including Boy and Girl Scouts and the Kennebunkport little league. She rekindled a childhood passion for painting by taking an art class with Matthew, focusing on her growing attachment to the Kennebunkport coast. The family also became active members of the South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport, where she taught Sunday school.

She demanded that her children work hard and achieve in all their endeavors, but she was always the first to help them, whether it was late night homework sessions at the kitchen table, trips to the batting cages or basketball courts, reading back lines of plays and musicals, or simply kicking them off the couch and back to the books. But she always put her children first, above her own needs and was the first to congratulate and share in the joys of their milestones.

In the spring of 1976, tragedy struck the family with the accidental death of Matthew at the age of 12. His instant passing forever changed her. She decided to focus her energies on children in need, becoming a special education teacher at Wells High School, before the term “special education” had been coined. She earned an additional master’s degree in this field.

Over the next 30 years at Wells High, she remained dedicated to the success of her students, many of whom the school’s administrators of the day had given up on. She stood up for their rights in the face of budget cuts or ill-advised curriculum changes and fought hard if she felt students could, with the right help, overcome the obstacles they faced. She was blessed with a love of her job, despite its inherent stresses and as Christmas cards would attest each year, a long list of successful adults owed at least a part of their achievements to her guidance and support.

Later in life, she was at her happiest and most relaxed with her five grandchildren. She and her husband, Bill would “volunteer” to baby-sit every weekend and no trip was too far to see a soccer game or school play featuring one of the grandkids. Swimming lessons, trips to Turbat’s Creek or boat rides on the coast with the kids were all sources of joy for her, as she was to the children.

She was also a compassionate caretaker for her husband Bill after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, dying in 2002, after a four-year battle. After Bill’s death, she found herself living alone for the first time in her life. With the same innate strength and determination she had shown all of her life, she made new bonds with her community and friends and began trying new activities. In her later years she was a member of the Church on the Cape, Cape Porpoise, where she ran the Sunday daycare for the youngest members of the parish and served as volunteer for the Kennebunkport Historical Society, primarily as a docent at the Nott House Museum.

Her work ethic, her indomitable will and near complete selflessness, her idiosyncrasies and her love were an inspiration and source of strength for her family and friends and will remain so even with her passing.

She is survived by her mother, Pauline Martineau of Lewiston; daughter, Joanne Duggan, and her husband, Scott and three children, Kelsey, Sean and Connor of Lynnfield, Mass.; her son, Joshua Williamson, and his wife, Nancy and their two children, Nevyn Li and Norah Lane of Portland; her stepson, Barry Williamson of New Orleans; sister, Dodo Stevens, and her husband, Paul Stevens, of Portland and their sons, John and Nathaniel; sister, Connie Jones, and her husband, Herbert Jones, of Yorktown, Va. and their sons, Derek Burner and Tyler Burner; and brother, Raymond Martineau of Lewiston.

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