Terry Silber wrote about, lived and shared an abundant lifestyle from her Sumner homestead.

SUMNER – Terry Silber’s fame may be due to the lifestyle she led and the books she wrote, but she will be remembered by many as a friend.

She and husband Mark left big-city life in the Seventies to get back to the land around a $5,000 Sumner farmhouse.

Terry died July 6 at age 63 after a year-long struggle with uterine cancer.

“The longer that I live in this farmhouse, the more I work to restore the land, the stronger becomes my bond to the place and to its history,” Terry wrote in the introduction to her 1988 book, “A Small Farm in Maine.”

The book was described by The Washington Post as “required reading” for new homesteaders.

It was a struggle from the start. “It was predicated on Terry and my working hard seven days a week,” said Mark. “It wasn’t just ‘back to the land’ where it was a hippie kind of thing. We wanted to be here, that’s all.”

The Silbers built a business based on their love of the land. Each year thousands would visit Hedgehog Hill Farm to buy seedlings and everlastings, or dried flower arrangements from their shop, attend teaching workshops and view the beautiful gardens that Terry designed and created.

Since moving full-time to Sumner in 1978, the Silbers have been an integral part of their community. They headed up Sumner’s bicentennial celebration, producing a cookbook and an award-winning photo documentary book, “Sumner 200.” Mark has been a Sumner selectman for 21 years and started the Buckfield-Sumner Recycling Center.

The couple also co-authored two others books, “The Complete Book of Everlastings” and “Growing Herbs and Vegetables.”

$5,000 getaway

A Lewiston native and graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Terry worked in Boston, Mass., for publications including Harvard Magazine and Working Papers; she became art director at The Atlantic Monthly in 1971.

In 1965, Terry was tipped off by her mother about an 1837 Greek Revival farmhouse and 40 acres in Sumner at the end of a dirt road. She bought it as a weekend getaway for $5,000.

After dividing their time between professional lives in the city and a growing love of country life, Terry gave up her Atlantic Monthly job in 1978 to live on the farm full time. They waited until after Mark completed his doctorate in anthropology from Boston University.

They had a son, Jacob, now 24 and living in Boston. When asking herself if she made the right choice to leave her urban career, she wrote, “I’ve reflected most honestly when trying to find the words to make my son understand why we are here.”

Mark held her in his arms as Terry died at home.

“Terry ate all the right things, didn’t smoke and had a tremendous intellect, vigor and stamina,” Mark said. She was also known as being very gentle and compassionate, to the point of not wanting to rid the gardens of woodchucks or porcupines.

“‘There’s enough to go around for everybody,’ she’d say,” her husband recalled.

‘Person of the world’

Mark focused all of his energy on Terry after she got sick, leaving much of the work of the farm to Cathy Lee, their helper for the past 20 years, as well as the many friends they’d made over the years in the Sumner community.

“I don’t really dwell on why this happened to Terry, because beyond the first few questions, there are no answers,” Mark said.

As her illness progressed, he said, “she was very, very sad, not because she wouldn’t be alive, but because she was so disabled that she wasn’t able to participate in all the things (around the farm) she loved to do.” Like going on walks, weeding, gardening and designing.

“That was her joy, the purpose of her life. She constantly thought about what plants went together. She was a terrific designer,” Mark said.

“Terry was not just my wife, she was a person of the world. She was able to talk to any person about anything. She was able to focus in on a person and read their needs and desires. And people just opened up to her.”

“Everlastings on Display” was to be the Aug. 3 program at Hedgehog Hill Farm.

Instead of that program, a memorial gathering will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the farm for Terry.

Donations in Terry’s name may be made to: Sumner Bicentennial Scholarship Fund, Town of Sumner, 633 Main St., Sumner, ME 04292



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