Westbrook woman dies after saving granddaughter from current

WESTBROOK – Anne McNaughton Farley was remembered at her funeral this week as someone who died the way she lived her life: always helping others.

Farley, 57, a Westbrook resident and head librarian at Bonny Eagle Middle School in Standish, died last week after rescuing one of her grandchildren from turbulent waters at Old Orchard Beach. She was able to get her granddaughter out of the water, but authorities said Farley got caught in the very strong current at Goosefare Brook.

“Anne’s death was the ultimate expression of the way she lived her life,” said her brother, John McNaughton of Portland. “She truly lived a life of service for others.”

McNaughton spoke at a funeral Mass on Monday for Farley at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. The pews were packed with family and friends.

Farley was remembered as a warm, joyful person with a keen sense of humor and many interests that included singing, golf and ice skating. She also had a unique gift for relating to others.

McNaughton said that each person gathered in the church could tell of “an experience of how Anne’s life touched yours and made it a little bit better.”

The Rev. Louis J. Phillips, rector of the cathedral, who officiated at the service, said that numerous people since Farley’s death had told him that she was their best friend.

“Obviously, Anne had a lot of best friends,” he said.

Farley, who was described as deeply religious, had planned her own funeral service six years before, so the songs and readings were chosen by her.

The hymns included “Be Not Afraid” and “Ave Maria,” and the recessional hymn had a refrain that said: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings.”

Farley’s casket was placed at the foot of the altar in the cathedral, her parish church. She attended services there each week, and it was there that she was married 14 years ago to her husband, John Farley.

He was the “love of her life,” McNaughton said.

In a separate interview, John Farley recalled how the two met at a singles dance.

When asked what attracted him to her, Farley said: “It was just her smile, her eyes. When she smiled she just kind of lit you up.”

They talked and found out they had a lot in common. “Our first date we played a round of golf. She was passionate about golf,” he said.

The couple moved to Westbrook six years ago after finding a house on Summit Circle they loved, he said.

Farley, who also wrote her own obituary, had many interests. Among the ones she listed were antiques, astronomy, history, The Beatles, travel, and going to the movies with her beloved husband.

“I’ve been married 14 years and it’s been the best 14 years of my life,” John Farley said.

Anne Farley also listed spending time with friends as one of her passions.

“She kept in touch with everybody she knew,” said Carole Madsen Smith of Portland, who had remained close with Farley since they both attended junior high school in Portland. “She was a really nice, nice person. Everyone loved her.”

Linda Madsen, another friend who also lives in Portland, said, “She was always interested in you. No matter who she was talking to, she just focused right on you, and wanted to know how you were.”

Anne Farley also was passionate about reading – and helping to inspire young people to also enjoy reading. Her undergraduate degree, earned in 1975 from the University of Southern Maine, was in elementary education. But in 2004, at the age of 51, she earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of South Carolina Distance Education Program, and started working at Bonny Eagle Middle School.

“When she got the job at Bonny Eagle, I think it was the happiest I’d ever seen her,” her husband said.

He said she “just would beam” as she described helping students become interested in books.

Clay Gleason and Deb Howard, assistant principals at the school, said in a statement that Farley will be deeply missed at the school by staff and students.

“She was always a selfless, caring, and compassionate professional. Her calm demeanor, caring smile, and kind words enriched the lives of all who knew her,” the administrators said.

Phillips said Farley “touched the future” in her work with students, instilling in them a love of learning that will shape their lives.

“Her former students are now part of her legacy,” he said.

In addition to her dedication to her students, Farley was devoted to family. Her mother died in 1994 and her father died less than a year ago, last September. Her survivors include two brothers and nine nieces and nephews.

Farley also loved John Farley’s son and daughter, her stepchildren: Jason Farley of Windham and Regina Lemire of Westbrook. And she cherished their children – her five grandchildren.

“Anne literally laid down her life for her beloved granddaughter,” Phillips said at her funeral.

John Farley said the family has tried to piece together what happened the afternoon of July 13 from the account of his 13-year-old granddaughter and from other witnesses and police.

Because surf conditions were too rough, Anne Farley and her grandchildren had decided not to go swimming, he said.

Instead, he said, they decided to look for shells along Goosefare Brook, which he said is “generally very calm.”

John Farley said that it appears that his granddaughter “was standing by the brook when the soft sand gave out from underneath her and she went in.”

He said the girl said that “Nanny” – which is what her grandchildren called Anne Farley – grabbed her hand and tried to pull her out. But when their grasp broke, he said, Anne Farley “jumped in the water and went after her.”

They got caught up in the strong current, but somehow Anne Farley managed to get her granddaughter safely to shore. However, she couldn’t save herself, John Farley said.

“According to a witness, she got carried back out by the current,” he said.

They were not the only ones caught in the water that day, according to Old Orchard Beach police. Six people reportedly were in distress about 2:30 p.m. that afternoon and lifeguards got all of them, including Farley, out of the water, police said. However, Farley was unconscious. She died the next morning at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

“What she did was totally in line with who she was,” said Madsen. “It is not surprising to us who are her friends that she would do something like that for a child. She loved children. She’s a hero to us.”

At the service, Phillips reminded family and friends that although Farley’s time on earth was brief, it was full of meaning and love.

“Deep down,” he said, “we know that Anne’s life, short as it was, was complete.”

Anne McNaughton Farley, 57, a Westbrook resident and head librarian at Bonny Eagle Middle School in Standish, died last week after rescuing one of her grandchildren from turbulent waters at Old Orchard Beach.
Courtesy photo

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