Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 20


home : obituaries : obituaries May 25, 2016

7/21/2014 11:25:00 AM
Mary E. Petersen

Mary E. Petersen passed away peacefully at The Mary Elizabeth House on July 7, 2014, after a battle with cancer that took her body but never compromised her spirit. Mary's beautiful smile will forever live in the hearts of those who knew her.

Mary was born in 1938 in Nyack, N.Y. to Charles and Helen V. Wirtenson. Her father worked for the N.Y. Fire Department and her Mother was a Nurse for Nyack Hospital. Mary received the Mable Smith Douglas Scholarship for tuition at Douglas College (Rutgers University) in 1956, where she earned B.A.s in Art and Zoology (High Honors). She was a member of the Rutgers University Choir from 1957-1960, with one performance at Carnegie Hall under the direction of conductors Erik Leinsdorf, Eugene Ormandy and Leonard Bernstein. Mary continued her education after being offered the National Science Foundation Cooperative Fellowship at Duke University, where she received her M.A. in Zoology and completed all courses and exams for her Ph.D. prior to moving to Denmark. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Copenhagen in 1970. Mary continued working and researching in Denmark until 2004, when she returned to the United States, settling in Maine. Her non-stop research continued at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole. Through the course of her career, she taught summer classes at Woods Hole, MA., Fedrikshavn, Denmark, advanced courses in Kristenberg, Sweden, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beauford, N.C. and Fredrikshavn, Denmark. She was versed in 8 languages, which assisted her in the many foreign countries where her research led her; Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Eastern Canada, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Thailand, U.K., and the USSR. These opportunities provided Mary with many chances to meet colleagues from around the world. Mary has 11 Marine species named after her and one African earthworm. Libyodrilus Maryae. Polychaetes (worms) were Mary's passion. She is well respected by her peers for her research.

While Mary spent most of her life on scientific pursuits, she was also a skilled artist, a lover of classical music (DaPonte was a favorite outing), a good pianist in her own right, a master cultivator of all things green ("even weeds are pretty"), an observer of all living things not just for the scientific value or mystery, but for the consummate beauty of all life's gifts. Most of all, she was a good friend who believed in, forgave and put others happiness above her own. Mary's simple thought in life was, "Be decent to one another, everything else will take care of itself." The world is smaller for not having Mary in it. She will be sorely missed.

Mary was predeceased by her brother "Gil" and his wife Jan. Mary leaves behind, her dear cousin Dick Wirtenson & his wife Helen of California, Niece Julia Cook, her husband John and their children Jessica and Emily of N.Y., as well as friends at The Darling Marine Center and throughout the world.

There will be a Remembrance of Mary's Life at The Mary Elizabeth House to be announced at a future date.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Miles & St. Andrews Home Health & Hospice, 40 Belvedere Road, Damariscotta, ME 04543; Friends of the DSQ, P.O. Box 401, Damariscotta, ME 04543; Lincoln County Animal Shelter, PO Box 7, Edgecomb, ME 04556.

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