PORTLAND – Earlier than most widows, Marguerite “Cissie” Lindemann found herself at a crossroads after her husband died.
She had just turned 60 — her husband, Carl Lindemann, had died at 62, shortly after retiring as head of NBC Sports — and she had only been a full-time resident of Maine for a few years.
According to her son, also Carl Lindemann, his mother faced a choice: She could have returned to New York City, where she still had friends, or she could have stayed in Maine.
“She felt New York is too big to make a difference, but Portland is the size that she could make a difference in her 60s and 70s,” he said. “And that was a great call.”
It turned out to be the right choice for both Cissie Lindemann, who died Wednesday at 88, and her adopted city.
She created the jazz brunch that, for years, livened up the Portland Museum of Art on sleepy Sunday mornings.
She wrote a walking tour book on Portland and was a volunteer guiding people up to the top of the Portland Observatory and through the Eastern Cemetery.
And she helped found St. Elizabeth’s Pantry at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, where the needy in the community can still find household essentials, from a bar of soap to a box of diapers.
That was the third of his mother’s three lives, Carl Lindemann said.
In her first, she grew up in Washington, D.C., where her father worked for the Justice Department and she got a front row seat to history, including being part of the gallery on Dec. 8, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Cissie Lindemann, her son said, would recount how Washingtonians observed the Japanese hurriedly burning papers before they closed their embassy.
As she embarked on a career, Cissie Lindemann chose radio and then the infant television industry, where she was a production assistant on the variety show “Your Show of Shows.” That was where she met her husband, a cameraman at the time.
She also worked on “We, the People,” an early public affairs interview show that, like everything at the time, aired live, including the show which featured the — supposedly — oldest living veteran of the Civil War.
Cissie Lindemann would recount dryly, “During the break before he went on, he died,” her son said.
One of her jobs was to keep track of the time and she was always amazed at how the performers could stretch out a scene or drop several pages of script to keep the live show on track without viewers catching on, Carl Lindemann said.
After they married, the couple raised five children in Greenwich, Conn., a suburb of New York City. In the second phase of her life, Cissie Lindemann took care of the kids and household during her husband’s long absences to manage the network’s coverage of sports events, although she sometimes traveled with him to the Olympics, the World Series, or the Kentucky Derby.
The family bought a house in South Freeport while on vacation in Maine and soon began spending summers here. After the elder Carl Lindemann’s health deteriorated, the couple moved to Maine and, when he passed away, phase III of Cissie Lindemann’s life began.
Carl Lindemann said his mother built on her passions — jazz, history and community service — and kept up a dizzying pace at a time when most people are slowing down
A few years ago, she had a stroke, her son said, and told her doctor that she wanted to recover “to be normal.”
“The doctor told her, ‘Madam, you don’t want to be normal. At your age, normal is dead,’ ” her son said.
But Cissie Lindemann, her son said, overcame what many see as the limitations imposed by age to make phase III as enjoyable and productive as the first two.
“She had an awful lot of fun being at the center of this world she created,” her son said.
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: