The 66-year-old York woman who was found dead on a walking trail in Cape Neddick on Tuesday night was remembered as a devoted mother and beloved kindergarten teacher who had an effect on her students’ lives.

Deborah Kolbjornsen died from “sustained blunt force trauma of the head,” the state Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement released Friday.

Deborah Kolbjornsen Photo courtesy of the family

“The known circumstances of Ms. Kolbjornsen’s death lead us to believe her death was an accident,” the statement said. Kolbjornsen’s family said that she fell and hit her head while walking in the woods.

Kolbjornsen was reported missing around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after she did not return from walking a friend’s dog when expected, York police said in a news release. After an extensive search involving multiple agencies, Kolbjornsen was located and found deceased on a trail approximately 1.5 to 2 miles into the woods off Lorraine Drive, police said. The medical examiners office conducted an autopsy to determine her cause of death.

Kolbjornsen was a retired teacher who taught kindergarten at Mast Way Elementary School in Lee, New Hampshire. She also taught first and second grades and worked as a reading specialist. She retired in 2017 after 29 years of teaching.

“We are devastated by her loss,” said James Morse, superintendent of the Oyster River Cooperative School District. “She was a really a special teacher. The children loved her. Her colleagues loved her. She was always breath of fresh air … energized, positive and caring. She was just the kind of teacher you would want for your children.”

Born to Andrew and Albina Kirsch, of Riverhead, New York, on July 5, 1954, Kolbjornsen graduated from Riverhead High School in 1972 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Boston College in 1976. She married Peter Kolbjornsen in 1988, moved to Maine and began teaching at Mast Way. She and her husband lived in York and raised two children.

She was remembered by her family Thursday as a loving, kind and creative woman, who had a passion for art. She was an active member of the York Art Association, Kittery Art Association, and Voices from the Heart.

Her daughter, Kate Kolbjornsen said her mother was a talented artist and active volunteer who spent her time promoting and encouraging local artists. She said her mother enjoyed doing small paintings and was inspired by the ocean.

“She was always a very creative person and always had a deep appreciation for the arts,” her daughter said. “She started watercolor painting five or six years ago. After her retirement, she kind of threw herself into that.”

Her daughter reflected on their relationship Thursday, saying they were very close. She said her mother was a breast cancer survivor.

“She was the best mother anyone could ever ask for,” she said. “She was not only my mother, but a dear friend of mine.”

Kolbjornsen became a grandmother last year.

“She was over the moon about that,” her daughter said.

Kolbjornsen’s survivors include her husband, daughter and son Andrew Kolbjornsen.

Lucas and Eaton Funeral Home in York is handling her services. An obituary is expected to be published in the days ahead.

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