The legacy of Castine resident Deborah Pulliam continues to shine in Castine and was recognized in a celebration of her life on September 20 at the Castine Historical Society.
Pulliam, who died in May of 2007, made bequests to the same institutions she supported during her life: the Castine Historical society, Witherle Memorial Library and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine. She also continued her support of the Maine Community Foundation, of which she was a member of the Hancock County Fund advisory board.
The foundation, at the suggestion of Castine resident Karen Stanley, current chairman of the Hancock County Fund committee, helped organize the event.
“This evening’s event is a tribute to the power of communities giving back in a meaningful way,” Stanley told the more than 40 attendees.
A $1,000 grant in Pulliam’s honor was made to the Tree of Life food pantry at the celebration.
The effects of Pulliam’s bequests are evident and ongoing on the town common. The UUCC has just completed its latest refurbishing project—rebuilding the tower of the town’s first meeting house.
The library finished a $1 million expansion and renovation last year, which includes a much-used children’s room in the former basement. In addition, Pulliam’s bequest allows the library to remain open six days a week, said board member Berna Kaiserian.
“It’s Deborah’s legacy—or we’d be like the other libraries in Maine that are only open three days a week.”
“Our [previous] endowment was a little less than a million dollars…That just didn’t make enough to support the library the way we’re running it today.”
The town’s help, paying half of the library’s annual operating costs, “is integral, too,” said Kaiserian. But, “Deborah really gave the gift that is maintaining the library. It’s why we have one of the best library’s around.”
Currently undergoing a major renovation is the historical society’s Grindle House, which is being restored to a “circa 1850 house as it was,” with a conservatory vault and staff offices, allowing the public exhibit space in the Abbot Building next door to double, said board president Jack Macdonald,
“I didn’t know her at all,” he continued. “I certainly know of her…Apparently, she was a self-effacing person. She didn’t want buildings named after her, she didn’t want gifts in her name—she was not that kind of person.”
At the celebration, “if you looked around the room you saw the various organizations she supported and the way she stimulated a sense of community,” Macdonald said. “She wanted her resources used in a way that would benefit the community.”
Pulliam was born in Indiana, earned a degree in anthropology, and carried on her family’s tradition in newspapers, including a stretch as editor of the Castine Patriot in the 1980s.
The celebration “was a wonderful tribute to Deborah Pulliam’s generous spirit and love of her community,” said Cathy Melio, program director for MCF. “[She] was as generous with her time and energy as she was with her financial resources. Sadly, she is gone, but her support of issues she cared about lives on.”