Pearl T. Sawyer


AUBURN — Pearl Tibbetts Sawyer, 95, died peacefully at her home on Saturday, Nov. 11. Born third in a family of 10 children to Alonzo and Gladys Tibbetts, she spent her childhood in Durham and her high school years in Farmington in the care of her maternal grandparents. She found early expression as a writer in high school and throughout her life she chronicled her life and intimate thoughts in personal diaries and essays with wit and wry humor.

Following graduation she resided at the YWCA on Pine Street in Lewiston and began working as a secretary. She maintained her ties to “the Y” for many years, crediting that organization with opening her mind to the broader world outside of her own young and narrow range of experience.

Throughout her life Pearl cultivated and was buoyed by her many abiding friendships in the Lewiston-Auburn community and beyond. Most importantly, she found a great and loving community in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Auburn. She married Robert H. Sawyer in 1947 and enjoyed life as a homemaker and mother. Mr. Sawyer’s sudden death in December 1959, left her widowed at age 37 with four young children to raise.

As a single parent she successfully held her family together through the social turmoil of the ‘60s. A brief remarriage was unsuccessful. A lifelong learner, she worked toward an independent study degree in writing at Goddard College and in later years took great joy in senior college courses in literature and the arts.

She derived tremendous satisfaction from her mid-life career with Tri-County Social Services, where she established more lifelong friendships. During this time Pearl found a new enthusiasm in “Volksmarch” walking events, combining family visits with walking tours in many scenic locations around the country.

Following retirement, Pearl took pleasure in opening her country home, Applewood Farm, on Perkins Ridge as a bed-and-breakfast and weekend conference center for several years, and earned local accolades for her bread-making skills and superb homemade jams. Always an excellent cook, Pearl delighted in arranging elegant dinners for family and friends during the olidays.

During this time of personal growth she wrote prolifically; she belonged to a supportive creative writing group and began exploring her love of the natural world and existential themes through poetry. Encouraged by friends, she published the first of numerous volumes of verse the year she turned 80, producing a book each year until her early 90s.

From this deeply personal expression of self, and despite a lack of true literary credentials, Pearl found new recognition from a wider public and ready audiences for her poetry; she received many requests for public readings over those years.

Pearl remained fully engaged in her community throughout her long life; she loved the performing arts, and participated for many years in the local “Readers Theater.” She continued to attend plays and concerts as long as she was able.

In addition to her family, Pearl loved Higgins Beach and Hill’s Ridge, Whoopie Goldberg and Lester Holt, the “Floradora Girls,” and Rich Livingston.

She was a passionate supporter of social justice, reproductive rights and health care for all.

Pearl was preceded in death by her husband, Robert; stepdaughter, Elizabeth Norman; grandson, Neal Hardy; and eight siblings.

She is survived by daughters Laura Sawyer (Fred Bauer) of Petaluma, Calif., Leslie Bascom (Jon) of Chevy Chase, Md. and Monmouth, and Lynn Sawyer of Monmouth; son, Joel Sawyer of Manchester, N.H.; grandchildren Ryan Swanzey of Portland, Ore., and Lucy Blair (Jacob) of Columbia, S.C.; great-grandchildren Caroline and Sawyer; sister, Elaine Merrill of New Gloucester; and many nieces and nephews.

Pearl T. Sawyer