Peggy Osher, a Portland philanthropist and dedicated supporter of the Portland Museum of Art, died Tuesday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 88.

She and her husband, Harold Osher, are the benefactors behind the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine. The Oshers also collected prints and graphics by Winslow Homer and donated several hundred pieces to the Portland Museum of Art’s collection.

Peggy Osher was a modest leader and “the epitome of elegance and grace.”

Osher began promoting the arts by donating famous works to Portland schools so that teachers could educate students. She became involved with the PMA in 1961 and served on its board of trustees for more than 50 years.

Osher and her husband funded a lecture series at the museum and created an endowment that paid for special projects like the PMA Family Space in the McLellan House. She served as chair of the museum’s education and collections committees, and with her husband established the Peggy and Harold Osher Acquisitions Fund.

For her years of dedication to the arts, the museum appointed her a lifetime trustee in 2011 and established a position in her honor – the Peggy L. Osher Director of Learning and Interpretation.

PMA Director Mark Bessire said Osher brought the museum into the modern world and said she was tireless in her efforts to build its collections and education programs.


“She really wanted to share her love of art with more people and was relentless in her leadership to make sure that happened,” Bessire said. “She was the most gracious and elegant person. She had a way of commanding a room with quiet leadership.”

Osher’s children said Thursday that the Portland Museum of Art was her home away from home. Sam Osher of Lexington, Massachusetts, the youngest of her four children, spoke of her passion for the arts and commitment to the museum.

“She was an incredibly giving and selfless person,” her son said. “She spent a lot of time and energy trying to strengthen the cultural fabric of Portland. She was born with and developed a sense of the importance of the greater community. Both of my parents had a great dedication to Portland and really wanted to make it a stronger and more vibrant community.”

The Oshers lived in Portland and were married for nearly 68 years.

According to Osher’s obituary, which is published in Friday’s newspaper, the couple made a trip to London in 1974. There, he found a historic map and she convinced him to buy it. It marked the beginning of an impressive collection of antique maps, globes and artifacts, which is housed at The Osher Map Library at USM.

“Even as an important patron of the arts and committed community servant, she led with modesty,” her husband, Harold Osher, said in her obituary. “And she was also the epitome of elegance and grace.”


Osher was described by her children Thursday as a fashionable woman who inspired kindness in people.

Her daughter, Susan Osher Epstein of Piedmont, California, said she was humble about her accomplishments and eager to share what she knew and loved.

“She and my dad both felt so grateful for the opportunities they had,” Epstein said. “They felt it was so important to give back to the community. They led by example.”

Her daughter Judy Osher, of Lexington, Mass., said she was incredibly devoted to family. She said her mother loved to bake and arrange flowers.

“Being a really good wife and mother was so important to her,” Judy Osher said, adding community and philanthropy to the list. “My father was the love of her life. They were thrilled to raise a family in Portland.”

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

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.