Emory Westlake Ackley

TOPSHAM – Emory Westlake Ackley, known to everyone as Wes, died Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, at the Memory Care unit of the Highlands, Topsham, supported by family and the staff which had come to love him.

Wes was born June 16, 1942, in Chicago, the son of Alexander and Harriet Ackley. Several years later Wes, his parents, and his brother Sandy moved to Madison, N.J. It was there that Wes, Sandy, and their younger brother, George, grew up with both their paternal and maternal grandparents nearby. Wes was particularly fond of staying in New York City at the apartment of his Westlake grandparents and at the New Jersey farm of his Ackley grandparents. Summers included visits to Cape Cod where all three generations would enjoy time together.

In time, Camp Pemigewassett in Wentworth, N.H., became an important part of Wes’s life. During his years as a camper and then as a counselor, he developed love for nature and wilderness which would guide much of his adult life.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. and then went to the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a master’s degree in Theatre Design. He also met his future wife, Marilyn, in Seattle. They were married in 1966 and moved to Connecticut to continue their work in technical theatre.

The harsh demands of creating visual magic on stage began to wear on Wes, and he dreamed more and more of farming and working outdoors. In 1972, Wes and Marilyn moved to Maine. Wes dedicated himself to bringing overgrown old hay fields back into production. He sought the guidance of experienced forest managers as he cut wood to improve the forest and to keep the wood stoves stoked. He brought his energy and focus to the town of Buckfield, serving as chief of the fire department and a hard-working member of the Planning Board and the Comprehensive Plan Committee. He worked relentlessly behind the scenes to bring many of Buckfield’s significant projects to fruition.

His love of nature reached beyond Buckfield as he gave support to the Western Foothills Land Trust, the Androscoggin Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy. He was totally committed to their work. Buckfield’s VD Parris Preserve and the Jersey Bog Conservation Area were particularly special projects to him.

Meanwhile, on the farm Wes and his wife were working to develop a herd of cashmere producing goats, and in time the goats did grow prize-winning cashmere. Wes’s eye for the qualities of fine cashmere made him an ideal fiber judge. He found himself traveling to agricultural fairs to judge cashmere goat competitions, while his goats used their creative grazing style to improve the fields at home.

In 2016, Wes and Marilyn acknowledged the passage of time and moved to the Highlands in Topsham. It was a wise decision. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease were affecting Wes’s ability to do the things he had always loved. The following April he chose to move into the memory care facility at the Highlands. He sought – and found – safety there.

Memories and condolences may be shared with the family online at www.directcremationofmaine.com. 

Emory Westlake Ackley

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