STANDISH — Mary Axelsen had two lives – one before and another after an accident in 2005 that left her with a traumatic brain injury.
She died on Sunday with her family by her side. Monday would have been her 67th birthday.
She was a loving wife of Gerald Axelsen, Sr., and a devoted mother and grandmother, who loved her family and embraced life fully.
Mrs. Axelsen worked in quality control at First Technology in Standish for 32 years. Outside work, she was a dedicated mother, who attended all of her children’s school events and games. She baked. She painted. She volunteered extensively. For holidays, she would pepper the house with decorations and cook elaborate meals. She loved kayaking and spending weekends in Rangeley at the family camp. In the winters, she loved sledding with her grandchildren.
“She was the ultimate mom,” said her daughter, Lori Axelsen, who lives in Colorado. “She didn’t miss anything.”
Mrs. Axelsen had achieved so much in her life. She had the love of her family. She was respected by her peers. She was admired by scores of friends, who often turned to her for advice, support or help.
“She was just a very loving person,” her husband said. “She was full of life. … She would do anything she could to help someone.”
Then, tragedy struck the Axelsen family on June 26, 2005, her husband’s birthday.
The couple were riding on his motorcycle in Saco when it went off the road and she went head first into a tree. They were both wearing helmets. He suffered massive internal injuries and was in a coma for about six weeks. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for two months. The accident changed their lives completely. She could no longer take care of herself. She needed help with showering, eating, using the bathroom, and more. Her husband, with help from family, friends and home health agencies, was able to take care of his wife at home.
“He did a really amazing job taking care of her,” said her daughter, who traveled from Colorado to Maine every 4 to 6 weeks to help take care of her. “He is a really strong person. As a family, we just made her a part of everything we did.”
The accident also left Mrs. Axelsen unsteady on her feet. So, her husband built parallel bars in their kitchen, so she could navigate the room safely and have dinner with her family. He built parallel bars on their porch, so she could walk outside.
On Monday, he talked about their life together before and after the accident. He said they met at a dance at the American Legion Hall on Dunn Street in Westbrook. They were 14 years-old. They attended Westbrook High School together and got married a few months after she graduated in 1965.
“It was a great life,” he said. “We liked a lot of the same things. We did a lot of things together, but we did things on our own. She did line dancing. I did fishing, golfing and hunting. It was great. No regrets.”
Since the accident, he has been her primary caregiver. Their son, Gerald Axelsen, Jr., lives next door and also helped take care of her. A longtime friend, Ruth Warren, brought a hot meal every Wednesday for the past eight years. Another couple brought a meal every Friday. He took his wife to get her hair and nails done every Wednesday.
Her daughter said the family worked together to take care of her, just as she did for them for so many years.
“We say we lost her twice,” her daughter said. “We lost our mom, the person we always knew. Then, we lost the mom, the person we took care of for eight years. I’ll miss her being present for everything. She might not remember, but she was still here with the family.”
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: