Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person’s family and friends in lasting ways.
GORHAM — Jean Sawyer, a former co-owner of Sawyer’s Variety in Gorham who was active in the community, died Sunday after a lengthy bout with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 81.
Mrs. Sawyer and her husband, Hall C. Sawyer Jr., were longtime owners of the popular Sawyer’s Variety in Gorham’s Little Falls neighborhood. The couple owned the store for 40 years. She ran the register and did some of the buying and bookkeeping.
In 2006 they turned the business over to their daughter, Kelly Finocchietti of Buxton, and their son, Craig Sawyer of Gorham.
“She liked being around people,” said Finocchietti, a fourth generation owner of Sawyer’s. “It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone. All her friends came in.”
Mrs. Sawyer grew up in Westbrook and graduated from high school there in 1948. In her early years, she worked at the former First Industrial Bank and Kieckhefer in Westbrook.
She married her husband in 1956. The couple had four children.
She was remembered by her daughters on Tuesday as a caring and compassionate woman who always had a smile on her face. Finocchietti said her mother was quick to help friends. She would offer rides to the grocery store and laundromat and cook for people.
“She made sure everyone had birthday cakes,” her daughter said. “She was a great cook.”
Mrs. Sawyer was a longtime member of the South Gorham Baptist Church and the Tri-County Extension. She was also involved with the Friends of South Windham Library and served as a library trustee.
She was recognized by White Rock Grange, which presented her with its Outstanding Citizen Award.
“She liked being a part of the community,” her daughter said. “She would do anything for us and everyone else. She was wonderful.”
Mrs. Sawyer began showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease about 10 years ago. Finocchietti recalled the day her mother turned up missing after failing to meet a friend. She was lost for seven hours before finding her way to her friend’s house. That night, Finocchietti took away her mother’s car keys.
“She never asked to drive again,” she said. “It was scary. It was all new to us. We didn’t know. ... It was hard seeing mom decline with that disease.”
Mrs. Sawyer lost the ability to walk about three years ago and went to live at Ledgewood Manor in Windham.
“She didn’t know us at all at the end,” her daughter said. She didn’t know our names. I always had that hope that standing there I would look familiar, but she didn’t know me. ... We miss our mom. It’s a hard disease. It takes away everything. ... Now, she’s not suffering anymore.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: