Carole Lerner, owner of the Owl & Turtle Bookstore in Camden, died Tuesday at the age of 72.

Mrs. Lerner and her husband moved to Camden in the mid-1990s to be closer to their son Brett and his family. Two years before the Owl & Turtle Bookstore celebrated 30 years in business, the couple bought it.

The change in ownership in 1998 aroused concern among residents, who didn’t want the Lerners to change the essence of the quaint bookstore.

“She wanted to create a store that was warm and inviting on one hand and ran effectively and efficiently,” her son said.

Her efforts proved to be successful. The Owl & Turtle was voted Maine’s top bookstore recently by readers of Down East magazine.

“She was particularly proud of that,” Brett Lerner said.

The appeal of the store came from its comfortable atmosphere, and from Mrs. Lerner’s efforts to keep a core staff. Her son said loyalty to the staff, as well as customers, was always important to her.

Mrs. Lerner attracted well-known authors to the Owl & Turtle, including Tess Gerritsen, Walter Cronkite, Richard Russo, Linda Greenlaw and Anita Shreve, for readings, book signings and book launches.

Her son described Mrs. Lerner as someone who fulfilled dreams throughout her life.

As a young girl, she was a fan of Alfred Hitchcock films and the Nancy Drew mystery series, her son said. She and her friends would often “re-create the crime scene” from a Nancy Drew novel and pretend they were solving the mystery.

“One of her childhood dreams was to be a Nancy Drew,” he said.

Before moving to Maine, she and her husband, Paul, lived in Asheville, N.C., where Mrs. Lerner was able to fulfill her dream of solving mysteries.

She worked as a deputy sheriff in the detective division of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, helping with psychiatric profiling. Her son said she would go to crime scenes with the department’s detectives and work with them to solve the cases.

“She was quite the character,” her son said.

One of Mrs. Lerner’s habits was sitting down at 12:30 p.m. every weekday to watch “The Young and the Restless,” a soap opera on CBS.

Her son introduced her to the show one summer, and she continued watching it after he returned to school in the fall. For 25 years, she didn’t miss an episode.

Often enjoying a Beefeater martini with a twist, she took careful notes on the plot line while watching the show, her son said. She then would give him regular updates on the characters.

“It was her way of feeling connected to me as our lives grew further apart. It was a daily reminder of our time together,” he said.

Mrs. Lerner will be laid to rest with a headstone similar to the one she designed for her husband when he died four years ago. She used her artistic abilities to create a gravestone in the shape of a book.

“It’s an open book,” her son said, with the words “bookstore owner” engraved on it.

While she held many titles throughout her career, she will be remembered most by visitors and residents of Camden as the owner of the Owl & Turtle Bookstore.


Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]