January 28, 2013

Feature obituary: Theresa Ketchum, 77, mother of six, late-blooming lawyer

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH – Theresa Ketchum was a former special assistant attorney general for Maine, who ran a private law practice and served as legal adviser for numerous organizations including Southern Maine Medical Center and the University of New England.

Theresa Ketchum

Family photo

PASSAGES

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.

Mrs. Ketchum, who devoted her life to family and the causes she cared so deeply for, died Friday after a courageous battle with ovarian cancer. She was 77.

She was remembered by her children Monday as a devoted mother and hardworking woman, who set out to make a difference in people's lives.

In her early years, Mrs. Ketchum raised six children, took college classes, and worked at Fortin's Furniture and Appliance in Brunswick, her former husband's business.

Mrs. Ketchum was active in the community, too. As a member of St. John the Baptist Church, she served on the parish council and taught CCD. She was also a member of the Brunswick School Board from 1973 to 1982.

"She had an incredibly busy life," said her daughter Anne Reilly, who lives in Acton, Mass. "In reviewing her resume – thankfully we found a copy of it – I don't know how she did it and raised six children at the same time. She was extremely hard-working and motivated."

At age 42, she went back to school and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1980. She then attended the University of Maine School of Law, where she received her degree in 1983.

She was a law clerk, then an associate at the firm of Mittel & Hefferan. In 1984, she was appointed assistant attorney general.

A year later, she was appointed a special assistant attorney general, where she served as general counsel to seven medical-related state regulatory agencies.

In 1985, she also joined the firm of Walker, Bradford, Hull & Labrique, where she worked for four years.

"She had this insatiable desire for learning and research," said her daughter Michele Baranowski, of Falmouth. "She loved researching things and getting into the nitty-gritty. When she chose to do something, she (did) it well."

She was married to her first husband, Richard "Sonny" Fortin, for 23 years.

In 1985, she married Jack Ketchum, the founding president of the University of New England and its College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Mrs. Ketchum served as a legal adviser for UNE's board of trustees from 1993 to 2001.

She was also an adjunct professor in 1993, when she taught a course in medical ethics and was a guest lecturer.

She was also active at Southern Maine Medical Center, serving on its visiting nurses board and its board of trustees for a combined eight years.

Outside her professional life, the Ketchums lived at Bonnie View Farm in Kennebunk. There, they enjoyed working together on their flower and vegetable gardens.

She helped tend to the flock of 100 sheep, two llamas and chickens at one time. Reilly said Monday that her mother was also an accomplished seamstress and decorator.

"She loved to create beautiful things, whether it's in her home or gardens," Reilly said.

Mrs. Ketchum's husband developed Parkinson's disease and died on Oct. 21, 2006. That year, she moved to Falmouth to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

She enjoyed spending time with her family at Popham Beach.

She was remembered as a kind and supportive mother, who listened and loved unconditionally.

Eleven months ago, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "She fought till the bitter end," Reilly said. "She was such an inspiration in terms of her ability to work through any difficulties or challenges and she never gave up."

 

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

mcreamer@pressherald.com

 

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