Louise Mertin Heard, adventurous spirit, lover of life, matriarch, died peacefully at age 100 in her granddaughter's home in Stony Brook, NY on March 10. She was mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, grandmother-in-law, great grandmother and friend to many, appreciating each for who they were, who they could become, and and touching each with her strong sense of their own unique and special worth.
Louise is survived by seven children and their partners: Christine of Wendell, MA, Robert (Kathy Chaiklin) of Porter, ME, George (Sharon) of Dover, MA, Elizabeth of Brooklyn, NY, Susan (Paul) Crowley of HIngham, MA, Cynthia (Donald) Leppala of Ocala, FL, and Katharine (Lee Lockrem) of Ocala, FL. She is also survived by 20 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and 4 step great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by both her husbands, Robert William Heard, Sr. and Charles Russell Heard, and by her son Charles R. Heard II.
Louise was born January 21, 1919 in Boston, MA, to Mary Lanergan Mertin (aka Jack) and Rudolf Mertin. After losing her mother in a car accident at age 3, she was cared for by a housekeeper, summered with her paternal grandmother and was sent to boarding schools for several years, until her maternal uncle, Harry Clement Lanergan, and his wife Grace took her in and raised her in Newton, MA. It was from her much-beloved ‘Uncle Harry’ that Louise learned to value the good story, a witty remark, and all kinds of play and laughter. From a young age she loved to read; and she told of throwing a book across the room as a child, in a fury because she had finished it and that particular pleasure had come to an end.
She attended Newton High School and excelled in academics. Upon graduating, she went on to complete the program at Katharine Gibbs School of Secretarial and Executive Training for Educated Women, then worked as a secretary at a well-respected firm in Boston. She met and married her first husband, Bob, just before WWII; rather than stay home with relatives, she took her first baby and followed her newly enlisted soldier husband around the country, having many adventures in trains and in various rooming houses, and making friends with other young women on the move. After the war, she and Bob settled in Dover and had 4 more children. Bob died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1955, leaving Louise with five children, the youngest an infant. She subsequently re-married, and with her second husband, Charlie, Bob’s brother and a career Marine, again packed up the family moving from Massachusetts to California and on to Maryland, having three more children along the way.
She spent many years in a sunny Maryland farmhouse, surrounded by acres of land yet close to the city of Washington D.C. There, she raised her children in a healthy and stimulating environment, made dear friends, and hosted many a party with flair. Later in life, she moved back to Dover to be close to her aging Uncle Harry, where she reconnected with old friends and made new ones.
As her brood of children became more independent, Louise began to attend to her lifelong intellectual curiosity. She started by taking a Shakespeare course at American University with her oldest daughter, where she deepened her love for his plays and poetry. She later attended the University of Maryland and Prince George Community College. She re-entered the workforce while she still had children at home by teaching middle school at St. Columba’s School in Oxon Hill, MD. After the family moved back to Massachusetts, Louise attended Middlesex Community College where she earned an AA in social work and then graduated from Goddard College in Vermont with an MA in Clinical Child Psychology, in 1977. It was at this point that her career shifted toward caring for complex families with the same devotion that she had for her own family. Her career included working as a counselor at the Walker Home for Children in Needham, MA, a staff psychologist for 14 years at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, MA, a clinical instructor at Tufts University Medical School, and as a clinical consultant at Merrymeeting Farm in Kezar Falls, ME. In all these jobs she was highly regarded for her clinical expertise and practical wisdom.
As her choice of professional work indicates, Louise cared deeply about children. But she was also passionate about economic and social justice, as well as gender and race equality. She followed the news and opined about politics, opposed the Vietnam War even as she supported a son deployed to it, advocated in whatever ways she could for racial and gender justice, and argued long and hard for universal health care. She also valued individual freedom, and practiced this by looking for and nurturing in each of her children their own unique talents, and teaching them all to stand up for what they believed to be right.
Family was Louise’s greatest love. Over many decades she faithfully attended innumerable sporting events to cheer on her progeny ranging from kindergarten soccer to college-level swimming competitions. She never missed a graduation, dance recital, school play or musical performance. She lived for the birth of a new baby, holding each one with tenderness and confidence; and at weddings she was often among the first on the dance floor. After suffering a debilitating stroke in 2001, Louise’s children and grandchildren worked as a team to provide her with a comfortable life in their homes. She moved up and down the East Coast each year for extended stays in their homes, adapting to each physical layout and household routine beautifully. With support from multiple generations, she continued to joyfully participate as a treasured presence in all the family events she loved so dearly.
It must be mentioned that Louise was a certain kind of bon vivant. She was happiest at the beach with her family and friends. Whether it was Crescent Beach in Florida, Plum Island in Newburyport, or Third Cliff in Scituate, she would sit for hours having a glass of wine, playing Scrabble and stretching out her long legs in the sun. She also enjoyed these same activities at the Mill, a rambling, ramshackle edifice in Maine that she bought in 1972 and restructured as a much-loved family gathering place uniquely suited to their needs.
Other pleasures she took seriously: swimming, shopping, bodysurfing, good food, conversation, people-watching, dancing, gardening, long walks, picnics, beautiful houses, nature, poetry, theater, art, fashion, friendship, traveling, and children. Her greatest pleasure, however, was always other human beings, not matter what their age. Over the years she collected a group of dear friends and they, along with her family, joined her in many antics. She loved going on junkets in search of reasonably priced treasures and many a time stretched a 3-hour road trip into a 7-hour one by making endless yard sale stops. She travelled the world including trips to Sri Lanka, Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Ireland, and India, where she worked with Mother Teresa for several weeks. She had endless stories of lost passports, being led astray by outdated maps, and sweet-talking her way out of difficult situations. Confident in her belief that one could survive on chocolate alone, she was never more than an arm’s length away from some delicious concoction (her family is still finding spots where she tucked it away).
She had a clear vision of her classy yet always au courant style. Her beautiful white hair and ready smile complimented many a gorgeous outfit. She insisted on silky pajamas if visitors were in the house for breakfast, she loved knee high boots (which took at least two people to put on) and chose from endless scarves and jewelry to round out the look.
Louise was a brave woman who endured personal struggles, the loss of many loved ones, and national and international crises of every type over her 100 years. But she never lost her focus on family and friends, the courage to take action, her love of fun, and the ability to create around her a beautiful life. Her wide circle of family and friends are forever grateful for her spirit in their lives.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to the Eaton Funeral Home of Needham, MA. The wake will be on Sunday, March 17th from 3-6 pm. and the funeral will take place at Most Precious Blood Church in Dover on Monday, March 18th at 10 am. Instead of flowers donations may be made to a charity of your choice in Louise’s name. For additional information please visit eatonfuneralhomes.com.