Nan Heald Submitted photo

PORTLAND – Pine Tree Legal Assistance has created the Nan Heald Black Fly Fellowship, a new initiative to increase access to free civil legal aid in Western Maine.

The fellowship was created in memory of Pine Tree’s former executive director, Nan Heald, who led the organization from 1990 until her death earlier this year. The project’s name is a nod to a 1970’s newspaper editorial that described Pine Tree as a “defender of low-income people which has burgeoned in Maine and become almost as omnipresent as black flies in June,” according to a news release from Helen Meyer, development director.

The fellowship will begin as paid fellowship for a summer law student to work at Pine Tree Legal Assistance serving Franklin County, where Heald was from. The fellow will work on a combination of substantive legal work and community outreach, including building better relationships with community partners in that area of the state. The fellow’s legal work will focus on housing, public benefits, and family law and victims’ rights. The goal of the fellowship is to increase access to free civil legal aid in Western Maine.

Nan Heald in Rangeley. Submitted photo

Heald grew up in Oquossoc in the western mountains of Maine. She graduated from Smith College in 1977 and George Washington University Law School in 1980.

In 1985, she joined Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Maine’s oldest and largest legal aid provider, as a staff attorney in its Native American Unit. Her primary responsibility was to reverse the exclusion of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs from the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act — a reversal that was eventually achieved by the enactment of federal legislation that provides federal recognition to the tribe.

In 1990, at age 34, Heald became executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance. She served in that position until the time of her death. Through the creative use of funding opportunities and other leveraged support, her leadership has enabled Pine Tree to fortify and expand the legal services and new areas of law available to diverse client populations, and to make justice more accessible for all the people of Maine.


Pine Tree’s board of directors will continue to raise funds for the project, with the hope that these new funds can have a greater impact. Already, Pine Tree has received close to $200,000 in donations in memory of Heald.

“We want to honor Nan’s legacy with a project that will ensure access to free legal help is as omnipresent in Franklin County as black flies in June,” said Dan Emery, Pine Tree’ board president. “The Nan Heald Black Fly Fellowship will help low income residents of Franklin County protect their housing, livelihoods, and families.”

For more information about the nonprofit law firm and the fellowship, contact Emery at 207-807-3750 or [email protected], or Meyer at 207-699-6273 or [email protected].


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