NORWAY — After 23 years at Stephens Memorial Hospital, the past 10 as vice president of Development & Community Relations, Barbara Allen, 65, of Waterford, has retired.

Allen grew up Arlington, Massachusetts. When she was 16, her father, who owned an elevator company in Boston, retired and moved the family to Waterford, where her grandparents lived and where they had summered.

Two years later, she graduated from Oxford Hills High School and went back to Boston to attend Chandler School for Women, a secretarial school.

After finishing school, she worked for a brokerage firm in Boston until and opportunity came to return to Maine.

“I missed Maine so I did (come back),”she said.

She worked for a mobile home company in Oxford for a while, in human resources for Paris Manufacturing, as assistant sales manager for C.B. Cummings, as transportation manager for a mobile home plant in Oxford, and finally for Stephens Memorial Hospital as an administrative assistant.

After a few months at the hospital, Allen said she was brought in to President Harrison Hahn’s office. When she left, she was his executive assistant and director of medical affairs. Her responsibilities included recruiting physicians and credentialing applicants.

Ten years ago, she moved into community relations and development as vice president. Her job entailed overseeing the medical library, thrift shop, marketing, fundraising and community relations. 

“We all work as a team, so I really can’t take credit for anything,” she said Sept. 29, the day before she retired.

In the past 10 years, Allen and the team have made many changes.

“When I first came here in 1993, there was one female physician on staff,” she said. Now there are 14. The increase followed a special marketing campaign to bring women to the hospital to practice.

One of the greatest things about this hospital, Allen said, is that in 1948, a grass-roots effort by people in the community who recognized the need for a hospital here decided they would get one.

“It took them until 1957 to raise enough money and actually open the doors,” she said.

To this day, generation after generation are still supporting the hospital.

Her last capital campaign, she said, was in 1993 for a new Emergency Department and Imaging Space.

“That was a community effort,” she said.

“We had a very successful campaign for Tufts medical students,” she said of a collaboration between Maine Medical Center and Stephens Memorial Hospital.

Allen is the hospital’s historian and has a great deal of institutional memory as well.

Allen said she is retiring because she has worked all her life and last year was a transitional year.

“I realized it was time to  do things I never had the opportunity to do,” she said. “I learned you may not have a tomorrow, so we need to find joy in each day.”

She hopes to travel to the West Coast of the U.S., Paris, Scotland, Ireland and England, as well as spend time with her family and do volunteer work.

“I think (volunteering) is important and I hope to find a special place to volunteer and give back,” she said.

She has been involved in her church and with children’s programs there, she said. She was on the board of directors of Norway Downtown for several years, completing her service as vice president of the organization.

Allen has two daughters, Kimberly, 42, and Lori, 45; four grandchildren, Kyle, 17, Julia, 16, and Grace, 14; and a grandchild on the way.

She acknowledged she has mixed emotions about retirement.

“There are so many wonderful people here. … I am going to miss both the staff and all the wonderful people in the community I have met through my development work,” she said.

She admits it’s a little bit scary leaving her safety zone.

“For 23 years, she said, “I’ve known exactly what I’m doing.”

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