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Recalling A Special Woman: Nina Bowden Hansen From Maine, Dies At 91

June 23, 2020

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This morning James received the news that Nina Bowden Hansen, a special woman in his life, his second-grade teacher, and someone he talked with regularly died.  She had left a phone message on our machine just about a week ago.  Her letters and conversations over the past years have often been a topic in our home.  James had written a wonderful tribute to her while she was living, back in 2014.

In part, her obituary reads as follows.

Her legacy of love for family, her students and her community will live forever in the hearts of those whose lives she touched.

Nina was devoted to her family and her love was unconditional. She always wanted her family to look out for each other as well as for those less fortunate. She held the heart of a public servant. Her powers of persuasion were legendary and at times relentless. If you were not initially inclined to do the right thing, you were always thankful you did whatever she “gently” encouraged you to do.

Teaching was more than a vocation for Nina; she loved nurturing and educating each soul that entered her classroom. She taught in Winterport, at St John’s in Bangor, and at Kenduskeag Elementary. In retirement, she was a substitute teacher in the Bangor School system.

Nina doted on all; relations near and distant, cousins, in-laws, ex-laws, steps, and friends. Once you were in the family circle you stayed there forever. Those folks are happily too numerous to mention, but if you were fortunate enough to be part of that circle then you know how much she valued you.

She perennially advised others to live their faith and to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving of one another – acts of kindness or forgiveness would honor her memory.

James wrote, in part, the following about Nina Hansen.

What I cherish most from that time when I was a student in your class was the way that you made me feel valued and encouraged me to be the best James Wilson I could be, to worry less about what the others around me expected me to be.  You encouraged me to find my own path to happiness.  Moreover, you wrote in my report card at the end of that year that you would miss me for two reasons:  first, because I was so eager to meet every new challenge, and secondly, because I was so dependable.  I would have done anything for you because you went out of your way to make me feel like being one of the “smart kids” was laudable, not something that should be reproached.

You gave us real lessons in living honestly and authentically.  My Mom truly made every effort to be there for us three kids (I also had an older brother, Todd).  She participated as chaperone on all school outings; she made cupcakes and other treats for any class bake sales we had.  She also tried to make sure that we ate well, even going so far as to send me to school with plates of celery sticks cut up and peanut butter stuffed in to their middles to share with my classmates when we had parties.  One day, Mom got a phone call from the school.  You were on the line, asking her if she were aware that I was not in the least interested in celery.  She admitted that she was unaware of this, and asked how you had ascertained the fact that I (still to this day) have an aversion for the stuff.  You replied, “Well, Mrs. Wilson, I have just now caught him burying some of it in the rocks out on the playground!”  Mom and I had a talk that night, at your behest, about being honest about things, about being willing to express one’s feelings.  She never sent celery to school with me again; I got apples (my favorite) after that.

More importantly still, you also encouraged (and expected) us to be good citizens—to believe that by working together, we could indeed make the world a better place for all.  In fact, I still have hanging in my office two little awards that you gave me that year—handmade signs of your appreciation.  They are framed now on field of blue with a hint of red trim around the openings.

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