Dinah Caldwell

BRUNSWICK – Dinah Caldwell died on Jan. 19, 2021, in Brunswick. She was 92 and left no unfinished business.

Born on Sept. 20, 1928, Dinah grew up in Newington, Conn., the daughter of Frank and Arline Benson. Her parents named her Arline but never called her that, and in time the only people who used her real name were receptionists at doctors’ offices and the DMV.

Her childhood was happy but not carefree. The Great Depression began when she was 1, World War II when she was 10.

On July 6, 1944, Dinah took some younger children from her neighborhood to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in Hartford. With the show underway, the circus tent caught fire and as flames raced up the canvas, she calmly led the kids out of the burning tent to safety. 167 people died in the fire. That evening, when she finally got home, she learned that her beloved older brother Bud was missing in action in Normandy, France. He had been killed on D-Day.

Dinah attended Teachers College of Connecticut but had to leave to help support her mother when her father died. She went to work as a secretary and, not long after, was set up on a blind date with Allan Caldwell. They were married in 1953.

In that era it was frowned upon for young women like Dinah to work outside the home once married, so she devoted her time and energy to helping others. With enthusiasm and a flair for organizing, she ran a thrift shop that raised money for troubled children; served on numerous church boards; organized flower shows; volunteered for a visiting nurses’ association, historical societies, and village improvement projects; and drove patients to doctors’ appointments. She did volunteer work until her mid-80’s and when she finally had to give it up, she’d say in frustration, “I can’t do anything to help people. I wish I could.”

Most of her energy, though, went into taking care of her husband and three boys. She filled her home with love, laughter, understanding, encouragement and good food. She was always there to make Halloween costumes, watch Little League games, sit through a school play. Her brownies, French toast and blueberry muffins were simply the best. What a great mom.

Dinah lived in Simsbury, Conn. from 1956 to 1977; in Yarmouth from 1977 to 2010; and at Thornton Hall in Brunswick for the last years of her life. In all of those places she made friends, and those friendships were among her greatest joys. Her family would like to express its appreciation for the care provided by many employees at Thornton Hall and The Garden.

Her husband, Allan, died in 2013. They were married for 59 years. She is survived by her three sons and daughters-in-law, Jamie and Kathy of Claryville, N.Y., Phil and Alice of Yarmouth, and Rob and Emily of Portland; and by her granddaughter, Hannah, of New York City.

She leaves behind unforgettable memories for her family: skiing in Vermont, playing a mean game of Skee-Ball on warm summer nights, baking endless plates of homemade cookies. We love her and miss her and wish we could have one last crab roll with her.

A memorial service will be held once it’s safe for people to gather. To leave a note of condolence or share a memory, please visit http://www.brackettfh.com.

Donations may be made to

Yarmouth CAN (Cares About Neighbors),

P.O. Box 553,

Yarmouth ME 04096 or

YCAN.info/donate-money.

Please specify that the donation go to the Yarmouth Community Food Pantry.

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