PORTLAND – On a sunny afternoon in May 1976, Norma Twyne spotted a young woman lying in the grass near the Eastern Promenade and decided to lay down beside her.

The woman, Carolyn Pardi of Portland, was smitten. The women talked for almost an hour before Ms. Twyne asked her to a movie. That spontaneous meeting sparked a love affair that lasted 35 years.

“Norma took my heart very quickly,” Pardi said Thursday morning. “She was hard to resist. She was so loving. She was outgoing, gregarious and gentle. I had never met someone so kind. She was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

On Monday morning, it was Pardi who lay down beside Ms. Twyne at the Seaside Nursing Home and comforted her in the hours before she died that afternoon. Ms. Twyne was 87.

Ms. Twyne was described by her partner as a happy, strong and confident woman who typically thought of others before herself.

In her early years, Ms. Twyne was a dental technician in the Navy. She served for 20 years and achieved the rank of chief petty officer. She was honorably discharged in 1969.

Soon after retiring from the Navy, she enrolled in the culinary arts program at the former Southern Maine Technical College and received an associate degree. In her early 50s, she became a certified nursing assistant. For about 15 years, she worked at the Jewish Home for the Aged, which later became The Cedars nursing care center in Portland. Pardi said Ms. Twyne was a natural caretaker.

“It was a perfect career move for her,” Pardi said. “She entered it at a time when most people were thinking of retiring, but not Norma. She weighed about 103 pounds and she was stronger physically than most of the aides were. She would do (her job) better and with a happy heart.”

Ms. Twyne then volunteered briefly at the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland. Pardi said she enjoyed sitting with patients and shopping for the home. She officially retired in 1999.

“She was getting along in terms of age, but she was always energetic,” her partner said. “She always walked upright and fast.”

Ms. Twyne enjoyed working in her garden. Pardi said she grew tomatoes every summer and gave many away to friends and people she talked to regularly at local stores. Pardi said they enjoyed reading together, going for walks and playing Scrabble.

In 2005, Ms. Twyne was diagnosed with dementia and moved into the Portland Center for Assisted Living a couple of years later. Pardi visited her partner regularly in the time since.

On the morning that Ms. Twyne died, Pardi lay with her for four hours or so before going home to rest. About two hours later, she received the phone call that her partner had died.

“I was expecting it. I felt a sense of relief,” Pardi said. “Selfishly, when you are watching someone you love struggle to breathe, you want it to be over. Her heart just kept beating. You want it to stop. On the other hand, that meant I would never see her smile again or see her eyes sparkle when she looked at me. I’ll miss her. I’ll miss her being on my side and her sense of humor and her smile.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]