At least once a week, Geraldine Waterhouse would travel the short distance from her house to the Waterhouse Center to watch children ice skate. For Waterhouse, whose $1.5 million endowment inspired a fundraising campaign to build the center, there was great joy in seeing kids lace up their skates and spin across the ice.

Waterhouse, a longtime Kennebunk resident known for her philanthropy, died Saturday. She was 95.

Waterhouse’s most visible legacy in Kennebunk is the Waterhouse Center, an open-air pavilion with an ice rink that is also used for community concerts and other events. She also gave generously – in both time and money – to other local causes, including the Animal Welfare Society.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” said Barry Tibbetts, the town manager. “She created something for the community forever and we’re extremely grateful for that. She was a very fine lady.”

Waterhouse was born and raised in Canada and spent summer vacations at Kennebunk Beach with her family. She moved to Maine permanently in 1964 when she married Homer Waterhouse, a well-known attorney who died in 2003. During her childhood in Montreal, she enjoyed ice skating and, decades later, set out to bring the same joy to children in Kennebunk.

Waterhouse said in 2014 that she was inspired to set up an endowment to build the center after seeing children skating on a temporary rink that had been built on the site of a former gas station.

“When I was young, I loved skating,” Waterhouse said during an interview in October 2014. “My memories went back to that and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a skating rink for the children?’ ”

The creation of Waterhouse’s $1.5 million endowment sparked a fundraising campaign that raised $900,000 to build the 11,000-square-foot pavilion. The Waterhouse endowment will generate an estimated $60,000 to $75,000 annually to maintain the facility and pay for educational and recreational activities. All events there are free.

“Geraldine found great joy in the variety of wonderful events at the center, especially watching the children ice skate,” her family wrote in her obituary.

Waterhouse was predeceased by her husband and a daughter, Diane Gohier Costello. She is survived by her granddaughter, Paige Hill, two brothers and two sisters. At her request, funeral services will be private.

Waterhouse was a past director of Pepperell Trust Co. and the Animal Welfare Society and a member of the Webhannet Golf Club, Kennebunk River Club, Kennebunk Beach Improvement Association, Arundel Yacht Club and Eagle Rock Yacht Club.

Tibbetts said he got to know Waterhouse when she was first thinking about setting up the endowment. Tibbetts recalled standing on the vacant lot on Main Street where the center would be built with Waterhouse and her granddaughter to talk about the idea of the ice rink. Waterhouse talked of her childhood memories of ice skating in Montreal with friends and asked Tibbetts if he thought people would come if the rink was built.

“I said, ‘Gerry, what you grew up experiencing is what people want in a small town. They want that center where they can come and be with their friends,’ ” he said. “She said that’s exactly what she wanted to see.”

After the rink was finished, Waterhouse would frequently stop by the Waterhouse Center to watch kids skate in winter and, during other times of the year, enjoy concerts and shows, Tibbetts said.

“(The Waterhouse Center) has become the heart of the community,” Tibbetts said. “We wouldn’t have that without Geraldine.”

Kerrie Leclair, development director for the Animal Welfare Society, said she got to know Waterhouse through her involvement with the animal shelter in West Kennebunk. In the early 2000s, Waterhouse helped fund the construction of the community cat rooms to give cats space to roam during the day. Waterhouse told Leclair her love of animals dated back to her childhood, when she and her siblings would find and bring home animals.

“I can remember during one visit, we were chatting about Lilli, her then 15-year-old Maltese,” Leclair said. “She told me that Lilli ate freshly prepared lamb each night, while she would eat Stouffer’s.”

Leclair said Waterhouse frequently supported the Animal Welfare Society, but never sought out recognition for her donations.

“She very generously gave each year and, quite honestly, her gifts single-handedly changed the lives of thousands and thousands of animals in Maine,” she said. “But she always gave so quietly.”

Tibbetts said Waterhouse was “sharp as a tack” and always knew what was going on in town. Though she wasn’t able to donate her time to the community in her later years, she found ways to give generously to the community she had loved since childhood, he said.

“She loved Kennebunk dearly,” Tibbetts said. “She spent all of her time here and thoroughly loved it.”


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