Elaine Janet Libbey Holman
1922 - September 29, 2015
On the afternoon of September 29, Elaine Libbey Holman, 93, passed away at her home in Falmouth, attended by family. Elaine was known for her sharp mind and her welcoming generosity. She was a woman who lived by her principles and always treated others with dignity and respect. She encouraged those around her to live life to the fullest, and to have faith and hope in the essential goodness of life. It was a winning plan, and those fortunate to have spent time with her benefited greatly.
Elaine was born in 1922 in Lewiston, Maine, the second child and eldest daughter of W. Scott Libbey and Helen McCarthy Libbey. She grew up in Lewiston and spent summers in Wayne. A horse-lover and excellent rider, she later told many stories of her horses Peavine and Sweet Kentucky Sue. After high school, Elaine attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C., where she majored in history and economics.
At the beginning of World War II she worked in the laboratory at Central Maine General Hospital. Doctors and laboratory specialists were in short supply, so a fast learner like Elaine was quickly taught many procedures. Determined to do more for the war effort, in 1943 she enlisted in the WAVES. After training at the US Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College, she was assigned to duty in San Francisco and New York City. Her job was to decode messages; in her entire life, she never revealed the codes she had memorized. In at least one incident, she prevented a ship collision by jumping in and sending a correctly coded message when another (male) officer was fumbling with the codes. She rose to the rank of Lieutenant, junior grade, to the great pride of her father, also an officer in the Navy, who wrote to her, “You are an officer, but you are certainly no gentleman.”
Elaine loved art and design. She studied art in many settings, including at Cranbrook in Michigan, and with watercolorist Eliot O’Hara, whose work and style she greatly admired. She first put her skills to work in the family textile business, the W.S. Libbey Company in Lewiston. After World War II, she attended Rhode Island School of Design on the GI bill. She moved to New York where she had many friends in the arts, and worked as a textile designer for Cannon Mills.
While living in New York City, Elaine was introduced to Alexander Holman, a chief engineer with the Merchant Marine. They married in 1954 and later moved to Lewiston where they raised six children in a lively and adventurous household. Elaine and her husband loved entertaining, and were known for gourmet cooking and large, food-filled parties. Elaine was also involved in many community organizations, including community theatre, the Women’s Hospital Association and its Red Stocking Review, the Androscoggin Chorale, and others.
Through her example and her efforts, Elaine gave many gifts to her family and those close to her. She was utterly unafraid to show her intelligence, and made sure her daughters did not feel that they had limitations as women. By opening her home to exchange students, au pairs, and visitors from the Netherlands, Mexico, and elsewhere, she gave her family the gift of cultural inclusiveness. Friends were always welcome, and the Holman house was a regular hang-out for friends of her children. Despite having six children in ten years, she made sure that each one got individual attention, helping them find and develop their own gifts and passions. She also shared with them her own lifelong passion for gardening; her flowers brought her great joy, a joy that her children have inherited.
In the mid-70s, the family relocated to Asheville, North Carolina for several years, then moved back to Lewiston when Alex returned to working on ships. Elaine occasionally joined Alex as he traveled around the world, with extended stays in Casablanca, Morocco, and Valencia, Spain. When Alex retired, Alex and Elaine purchased a Gulfstar 42′ motor sailboat, the Pegasus II. For thirteen years, Elaine and Alex spent October through April cruising the Caribbean, and once sailed all the way to Maine. They later exchanged winters on the sea for winters in Cape Coral, Florida. The friendships they made throughout their travels were an important part of their lives. In 2001 Elaine and Alex began residing in Maine year-round, most recently at Foreside Harbor in Falmouth.
Elaine was predeceased by Alex, her husband of 60 years, and their daughter Abigail. She is survived by children Lee Holman of Hartford, Maine; Claire Holman and husband Mitsuru Saito of South Portland; Sarah Holman and husband Harold Skelton of Cumberland; Daniel Holman and wife Rebecca Dorr of Mount Vernon; Andrew Holman and wife Catherine Holman of Melbourne, Australia; ten grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank all those who showed their fondness for Elaine through visits, notes, and phone calls, especially cousins Kate O’Halloran and Arline Saturdayborn, and gives special thanks to the staff at Foreside Harbor for their genuine care and concern for Elaine.