Macy Whitehead 1924-2012

BATH — H. Macy Whitehead, died Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at his home in Bath, just two days after his 88th birthday.Born May 14, 1924, in Mt, Vernon, N.Y., to the Rev. Robert Charles Whitehead and Miriam Macy Whitehead. Named for his grandfather, Rev. Herbert Macy, he was known to everyone as “Macy.” Though he grew up in New York his ties to Maine developed quickly when his parents became part of the Brightwater summer community in Phippsburg in 1926.

Over the next decades he and most of his siblings, aunts, uncles, father and mother all moved to Maine. In later teenage years he worked as a summer volunteer at the Three Fevers work camp run by Albert Baily in Phippsburg, helping low-income families in the nearby Sebasco village with improved housing and economic development. Many of these families were the descendants of the 1912 Malalga Island Expulsion. After graduating from high school in Mt. Vernon, Macy went to Haverford College in Philadelphia, where he reconnected with the values of his Quaker ancestors who settled on Nantucket in the 1670s. Intending to become a clergyman like his father and two grandfathers he received a clergy deferment during World War II.

Graduating in 1946, he volunteered to join up with the American Friends Service Committee’s post-war relief effort in Italy. In an interview with The Times Record in 2007 he said, “If there was an opportunity to work in a different way, to heal the wounds of war and to show a different attitude toward people, that was important for me to do that. I didn’t want to just have a free ride through this. If I didn’t participate in the destruction, I wanted to be part of the reconstruction.” In the spring of 1946 he began working with other AFSC volunteers on community-building projects in villages located in the Abruzzi Mountains on Italy’s Adriatic Coast. In 1947, he arrived in Montenerodomo, a mountain village almost entirely devastated during the war. He set up a small work camp and rallied villagers to build a day nursery for the children, enabling their parents to tend their crops in the lower hillsides. The AFSC and its counterpart in England were named co-recipients of the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize. For Macy, that was “no big deal” — he considered it a far greater honor that in 2005 the citizens of Montenerodomo named him an “honorary citizen” in gratitude for helping their village in its time of need.

Completing his divinity studies at Yale Seminary School, he graduated with a Master’s of Divinity degree in 1950. Macy was ordained by the Maine conference of the United Church of Christ and began his ministry back in Phippsburg, where he served three parishes in Popham, Small Point and Parker Head. He also worked as a “character-building teacher” in Phippsburg and other local schools, teaching music and arts and crafts.

It was in Phippsburg that he met his future wife, Edie Lamb, an Irish Quaker, who had come to care for her cousin, a friend of the Baily family, which ran the Three Fevers program where he had worked as a teen. He had heard that this “charming Irish gal” could sing, so he invited her to perform at a service. After a short, but earnest courtship (Edie had to return to Philadelphia), they were married April 22, 1952, in the “manner of Friends” at the Quaker meeting in Westtown, in West Chester, Pa. They remained deeply committed to each  other over the 60 years of their marriage, sharing interests in music, theater, animals, the outdoors, and most especially the lives of their children and grandchildren. They became an inseparable team, sharing in the challenges of raising four children in often very challenging environments, and working together in the work of the Church.

Though Macy was often the more public figure, in the pulpit and elsewhere, Edie was both the rock and the glue that held everything together. After they finished their work in Phippsburg, Macy accepted a post at the First Congregational Church in South Portland from 1955 to 1960. In 1961, the family made a big decision when Macy’s ministry took him to Eagle Butte, S.D., the tribal headquarters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation — at the time, one of the most impoverished communities in the United States. In addition to serving his parish, he was chairman of the South Dakota Commission for Indian Mission and served on the board of directors of the South Dakota conference of the United Church of Christ.

From 1966 to 1973 the Whitehead family served the Beresford and Centerville communities in eastern South Dakota. In 1973, the family decided to move back to the East Coast, to be closer to Maine and so ended up at what would be Macy’s final parish in Kent, Conn. During his entire pastoral career, Macy was always deeply involved with youth groups and youth-related activities. He ran Sunday schools, organized church-run summer camps and trail rides in the Black Hills, including 10-day backpacking trips for older students in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. He once led a group of college students and his family to a very poor section of southern Missouri, where they helped to build and repair housing.

Macy was a life-long learner and he constantly challenged himself and his convictions about how to best serve humanity. In 1978, he felt his effectiveness in the Church environment was waning, so he returned to school and earned a degree in pastoral counseling at Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center in New York City. During this time, Macy and all four children were in college and Edie supported Macy through her work at a hospital. After finishing this training in 1982, he and Edie then returned to Bath, where he developed a family-counseling practice during the 1980s and into the 1990s. He also continued work on a thesis he had developed while at Blanton-Peale, and this work eventually earned him his Doctor of Divinity degree. Macy’s counseling work evolved over time to include: individual and family counseling; helping people suffering from chronic pain; and those with terminal illnesses. He also worked as a hospital chaplain at the former Bath Memorial Hospital, and continued to officiate at weddings, funerals and other celebrations when asked.

In his later years both he and Edie reaffirmed their Quaker roots and joined the Quaker Meeting in Durham, where he served as the clerk (chairman) of the Meeting for a number of years, and continued to play the organ and give messages to the Meeting right up until he died. He had a great love of animals, once raising a wild mustang from a foal. For a brief time, he raised chinchillas for their fur … then the market crashed.

More recently, upon returning to Maine, he raised Angora rabbits for their wool, which he would spin into yarn, dye and knit hats and other items for sale at craft fairs. An accomplished musician, he played the piano, organ, zither, recorder and auto-harp. He also sang in the Downeasters Barbershop Chorus, the Oratorio Chorale and most recently the Macy Family Band. He is survived by his wife, Edie Whitehead; their four children and spouses, Deirdre Whitehead, Harris Whitehead and Carla Seekins, Heather Whitehead-Sampinos and Phil Sampinos, and Tom Whitehead and Camilla Dunham Whitehead; and five grandchildren, Celia and Kai Whitehead, Sammy Sampinos, and Bevan and Lionel Whitehead. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Macy Whitehead’s honor to The American Friends Service Committee, AFSC Development, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, Pa., 19102. Please make check payable to “AFSC.”