SCARBOROUGH – Esther Marie MacDuffie passed away very peacefully Sept. 27, 2012. She was 85 years old. At the time of her passing she was held with love in the hearts of her friends, family and children.
Esther worked as a public health nurse for most of her career, a calling that she truly loved. She was a caring person who healed her patients not only with her skilled hands and medical knowledge, but with her quiet conversation and genuine interest in their lives. In the 1970s she served as resident nurse on Swan’s Island, on call to this isolated community 24 hours a day, attending to emergencies, trauma and deaths, as well as holding regular clinics for children and seniors. She also worked for the Ellsworth, Westbrook, and Portland Community Health Services. Her concern for her patients extended beyond her retirement at age 75, when she continued to provide free clinics and home visits to those in need for many years, until she could no longer drive. She was a progressively minded person who researched and adopted a health-oriented diet long before this became popular. Without the help of electricity, she fed her large family primarily from food harvested from their small farm on Swan’s Island. She helped form a small co-op that organized the shipment of whole grains and natural sweeteners to the island. Esther loved her family and used her many talents for cooking, sewing, singing, and making handcrafts to create a warm, beautiful and inspiring home for her children. Her resourcefulness taught her kids to do more with less, inspiring creativity and delight in problem solving. She was known for her green thumb and to the end of her life spent every summer amongst the rows of her large vegetable garden. Inside the house she tended her vast collection of cactus and succulents. Her eight-foot cactus, bedecked with ornaments, was a marvel to all that had the opportunity to see it. Her nurturing nature extended to the many animals that she rescued throughout the years. Esther was a spiritual person who questioned the world constantly. She was a member of both Unity and Westbrook-Warren Congregational churches, where she contributed her beautiful voice to the choir for many years. She was born July 11, 1927, in Fleetwood, Pa., to Matilda (Trout) and John Messersmith. She earned a master’s degree in nursing from Yale University School of Nursing. Esther was a gentle member of her community wherever she lived. She will be remembered for her generosity, her independent nature, her friendly ways, and her warm smile.
Esther leaves her six children, Angus, Nathan, Heather, Laurel, Robin and Noel; her daughters-in-law, Lynda MacDuffie, Lani Graham, Lynn Carpenter Jones, Deborah Miller and Pamela Wagner; her son-in-law, David Orser; her sister, Margaret MacLaughlin; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church, Westbrook. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in Esther’s name. Arrangements are under the care of Advantage Funeral & Cremation Services, 981 Forest Ave., Portland. To sign Esther’s guest book, please visit