Katherine M. Greenleaf

YARMOUTH – Katherine Morgan Maxim Greenleaf, 72, of Yarmouth, passed away peacefully surrounded by family at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough on Dec. 3, 2020 following complications from a chemotherapy treatment.

Katherine was born Oct. 28,1948, in New York City, the youngest child of the late George L. Maxim of Deer Park, N.Y. and the late Mildred J. Moegling of Cumberland. Katherine grew up in Flushing, Queens with her beloved older brother, Robert M. Maxim, spending summers camping on Lake George. Katherine graduated from The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, N.Y. in 1966 and then attended Connecticut College in New London, where she majored in Asian Studies and graduated with honors in 1970—but not before she attended Woodstock in 1969.

In what would become a theme her entire life, Katherine bucked the norms for women and enrolled in law school at Boston University. Katherine met her husband, Peter W. Greenleaf, at law school and they were married in 1972. In 1973, Katherine accepted a position as a litigator at a small Maine company called Union Mutual Life Insurance, now know as Unum, taking a brief leave in 1975 to serve as legal counsel to President Jimmy Carter’s campaign in California. At Unum, Katherine quickly distinguished herself professionally and by 30 she had been promoted as the company’s first female vice president.

During this same period, Katherine and Peter had their two children: Julia in 1978 and Rob in 1980. In 1984, Katherine and her family moved to the house she would call home for the rest of her life on Little John Island. From 1985 to 1993, Katherine was the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Hannaford Bros. Co.—taking a brief detour to complete a course at Outward Bound Hurricane Island where she spent weeks in an open skiff with Tom Brokaw. Having hit the “glass ceiling” in Maine, in 1993 Katherine and her family moved to Columbus, Ohio when she took a position as the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at The Limited Stores, Inc., then the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Bath and Body Works, and others.

Suburban Midwest life and The Limited could not compete with the pull of Casco Bay and so Katherine and her family returned to Yarmouth in 1995. For several years she consulted, commuting to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury, Vt. and XL Insurance in Bermuda. In 1999, she took a position with Wright Express LLC (WEX Inc.) where she was its Senior Vice President of Client Operations as well as Chairman of Wright Express Financial Services Corporation. While at WEX, she helped take the company public and rang the bell on the New Stock Exchange in 2005. Katherine retired in 2007, coming out of retirement from 2010 to 2012 to serve as the Interim Chief Operating Officer of the University of Southern Maine.

In 2009, she assumed her favorite title of all: “Grandma.” Katherine was blessed to live close to all her grandchildren, famously attending the birth of her eldest grandchild despite having broken both her arm and leg in multiple places only hours before the baby’s birth. Katherine’s professional achievements pale in comparison to her love for her family. She modeled unconditional love and loyalty to her children her entire life.

Katherine maintained strong ties to her personal and professional communities, weaving a tight fabric of friends who became family, and serving on a variety of boards over the years, including: the Maine Center for Creativity, the Casco Bay YMCA, Maine Maritime Academy, the University of Maine School of Law, MEMIC, Peoples Heritage Bank, TD Bank, the Gestalt International Study Center, and Martin’s Point Health Care. She was also a decades-long faculty member at the Gestalt Institute in Wellfleet, Mass.

Katherine was an extreme extrovert and thrived on being with people. Katherine was warm, generous, and had a gift for putting people at ease. She easily elicited a person’s life story; before long, she was helping that person think through next steps in life, providing guidance that was as pragmatic as it was encouraging. Her gift was so well known that Katherine’s colleagues, friends, and friends of her children, would seek her out specifically for advice, spending hours at her kitchen counter or on her front porch, as she helped them map out their futures and navigate personal and professional obstacles. She was both a mentor and an advocate for many.

Katherine officiated seven marriages, she was a talented painter, and she loved to attend the theater, read, walk, dance, and do cross-words. She hosted a steady stream of visitors from all over the globe; all were welcome and you never knew who would be at dinner. She was quick to laugh, accepting, and fun.

In 2016, Katherine was predeceased by Peter, her husband of 44 years. Katherine was diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer the year prior. After an initial round of chemotherapy failed to kick her cancer, she elected to participate in an immunotherapy trial at Mass General in Boston. Always an outlier, the trial was unsuccessful for the thousands of participants except Katherine. For four years, Katherine traveled to Boston monthly, driven by dedicated friends and family members, and quickly forging bonds with her intrepid healthcare providers who kept her cancer at bay. Experiencing no side effects, Katherine traveled the globe to Iceland, the Baltic, Spain, and Ireland. She also attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. In 2020, her cancer reoccurred and she recommenced chemotherapy.

Katherine is survived by her brother, Robert Maxim (Meta), of Sacramento, Calif.; her daughter Julia G. Pitney (Eliot), and her son, Robert M. Greenleaf (Rebecca), all of Yarmouth. Katherine’s legacy also includes the grandchildren who she absolutely adored, Marian E. Pitney (11), Harrison J. Pitney (6), Peter W. Greenleaf (7), Vivian R. Greenleaf (4), George E. Greenleaf (5 months). She is also survived by her nieces, nephews and their children; and her tribe of friends, all of whom she loved dearly. And last but not least, she leaves behind her two loyal and constant companions, her miniature-doodles, Izzie and Chloe.

A celebration of life in proportion to Katherine’s personality will take place in Yarmouth in the summer of 2021.

Donations in her name may be made to the Casco Bay branch of the YMCA of Southern Maine. https://www.ymcaofsouthernmaine.org/give

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