The baton has been passed in the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society.

Last Thursday night, a new generation of leaders took the reins, when Robin Hodsdon Morin succeeded Donna Boyles, who has served president of the organization for 23 years. Boyles and her husband, longtime treasurer Jim Boyles, will remain as members.

Appropriately enough, the 45th annual meeting and election of officers for the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society was held in the DeWitt Room at Mallett Hall, which the organization restored in 2008, for the town’s bicentennial. Vanessa Mason Matthews, granddaughter of founder Marjorie Alward Mason, is the new vice president. Karen Menchen Puckett succeeds Jim Boyles as treasurer, and Jen Blackstone Kaplan remains secretary.

The newly established Marjorie Keith Alward Mason Archive was opened for public viewing at the meeting. The archive contains more than 1,000 captioned and indexed photographs in town, as well as town reports dating from 1880, genealogy records, a history of Pownal schools, a history of Mallett Hall, information about Pownal veterans of all wars, small artifacts, maps, interviews, videos taken by school children, CDs and more.

Boyles, who has served in a leadership role since the organization was founded in 1970, told the Tri-Town Weekly that she didn’t want a great deal of attention made on the transition.

“I’m too modest for a big to-do,” Boyles said. “Jim has worked with me on all of the projects.”

Jim and Donna Boyles moved to Pownal in 1969. She recalled that, on Earth Day in 1970, Mason called for the creation of an organization to preserve Pownal’s past.

“The buildings needed attention, we needed to spruce up the environment and form a historical society,” Boyles said. “Portland landmarks were being preserved. It was that time. Mallett Hall needed attention. We joined together with the newcomers and the old-timers and we formed the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society. ‘Preserving the past and enhancing the future’ is our motto.”

Mason, taking note of the rundown areas in Pownal, wanted people to take pride in their town, leading to the word “Scenic” in the organization’s name. When Mason died in 1982, Boyles, who had been secretary, took over as president.

Boyles and longtime secretary Blackstone Kaplan led an authors’ group within the organization that has published three books on Pownal’s history. Sherry Dietrich did much of the research. “Pownal, a Rural Maine History,” came out in 1977. Three years later, Boyles and the group republished a 1908 history of the town. “On Pownal Time” went into print for the 2008 bicentennial. Donna and Jim Boyles, Dietrich and her husband Craig, Blackstone Kaplan and the late photographer Joe Raymond collaborated on the book.

Boyles said that she and her husband decided two years ago that they would step down from their positions. A transition team led by Hodsdon Morin began to work with Boyles at that time.

Thursday night’s meeting of the Pownal Scenice & Historical Society represented the second straight year the organization has marked a significant accomplishment. The restoration of the town hearse and the small building that houses it was the focal point of the 2014 annual meeting.

“Finding and Preserving Parts of Pownal’s Early Beginnings – The Hearse and Its House” included a collection of historical photographs, along with a history of the restorations, via digital projection. The illustrated program included three parts: finding Pownal’s third hearse dating to 1878; restoration and preservation of the hearse and its house during the past 40 years; and sharing the artistry of two people who just completed the front and door restoration – metal worker and blacksmith Jim Bennis and carpenter and farrier Matt Welch.

Now, after one year as vice president, Hodsdon Morin knows she has a big act to follow. She said that new members of the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society, in their mid-40s such as herself, need to carry on a great tradition.

“I am a little nervous,” she said. “Donna Boyles leaving is creating a huge void, because she has served in a leadership role for 45 years. She knows everything. But I am excited at the same time.”

New officers of the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society are, from left, Robin Hodsdon Morin, president; Jen Blackstone Kaplan, secretary; Karen Menchen Puckett, treasurer; and Vanessa Mason Matthews, vice president.


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