TOPSHAM — The Honorable Margaret Joy Tibbetts, 90, of Paradise Hill, Bethel, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the Governor King Community of the Highlands in Topsham, Sunday, April 25.
She was born Aug. 26, 1919, in Bethel, to Pearl Ashby Tibbetts and Dr. Raymond R. Tibbetts. She was educated at Gould Academy, Wheaton College and earned an M.A. and a Ph. D. degree at Bryn Mawr College.
Beginning her life time career to the Foreign Service of the United States with her government experience in 1944 in the Office of Strategic Services, she continued service in the Department of State in Washington, the American Embassy in London, the International Cooperation Administration and the American Embassy in Brussels. She worked in the prestigious Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs and as officer-in-charge of the consulate general at Leopoldville, Belgian Congo, now known in the present day as Kinshasa, Republic of Congo.
From 1964 to 1969, she was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served as American Ambassador in Oslo, Norway. She was the ranking woman Foreign Service Officer in charge of negotiation of military bases and atomic weapons agreements. As Ambassador, she escorted Martin Luther King Jr. and his family when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1964. In 1969, she was appointed a Career Minister. In 1971, she was awarded the Distinguished Honor Award, the highest decoration bestowed by the United States Department of State. That same year she felt obliged to retire and return to Bethel to care for her elderly mother.
Subsequently, she became a college professor at Bowdoin College and very active in the Bethel community including Gould Academy, the Bethel Library Association and the Bethel Historical Society. She was awarded a Honoris Causa Doctor of Laws from Bowdoin College in 1973. She continued her active and dynamic commitment to the Bethel community for the next 40 years of her life.
She was well-known for her deep interest and abilities with her hobbies of natural history, wildlife, bird watching, gardening and North Western Maine history. She was a very avid reader and would wish to be remembered for that interest especially. Always a Maine girl at heart with a great sense of humor, she considered that having been sprayed by a skunk and having burned a hole in seat of her wool pants from sitting on her mother’s wood burning kitchen cook stove to have been honors equal with the others she had received in her life.
She is survived by a nephew, F. Barrie Freeman and his wife, Lois Byrne Freeman, and a grandniece, Mary Tibbetts Freeman, all of West Bath; a nephew, James Ashby Freeman; and a grandnephew, Matthew Scott Freeman.