At a reception on October 16, the Woods Hole Historical Museum received a generous bequest from the estate of Mary Lou and Paul Ferris Smith, the single largest gift the Museum has ever received. Their eldest daughter and executrix Deborah Cole of Portland, Maine made the announcement with these words:
“My mother and father both loved Woods Hole with unwavering devotion, loyalty and pride. They deeply and passionately involved themselves in chronicling Woods Hole’s unique stories and history.
When my parents were getting their financial matters in order in 2002, I remember my mother in her customary enthusiastic style, announcing at the dinner table that it actually made dying fun, knowing that the Woods Hole museum would be the recipient of a planned substantial and unexpected gift after their death.
So here we are, 12 years later, and although my mom and dad are sorely missed by all of us, I am so very pleased, as their eldest daughter and executrix of their estate and representative of our family, to present this check to the museum in their memory in the amount of $493,240.78.”
The gift certainly was a surprise to the Museum, though the Smiths’ generous spirit was not. As the executive director, Jennifer Gaines, said “Paul and Mary Lou have long been devoted to the Museum, but the amount of the gift is staggering”.
She continued “They were both here “on the ground floor” in 1976, coming into Bradley House and turning it into an exhibit space, sanding the floor and painting the walls. Paul and Mary Lou are in large part responsible for the excellence we have today. They have both been Museum leaders on many fronts, from Mary Lou’s long dedication to our publications, starting with “Woods Hole Reflections, and the journal Spritsail which she edited for its first two decades, as well as editing many of the Museum’s books which went on to win national awards. Two of those books “The Diary of RuthAnna Hatch” and “New England Views” won first prize in the prestigious American Museum Association’s national competition. Paul’s own book “Has Anyone Seen the Glee?” won an honorable mention in that same competition.
Paul’s charismatic leadership led to creating the Museum’s Boat Restoration Program, the Small Boat Museum, the scale model of Woods Hole of 1895, and the biennial Model Boat Show. His enthusiasm carried us forward.”
Last summer when the Museum was holding its Family Boat Building Program on a tent at the sidewalk’s edge, one of the Smith’s daughters walked by and said “My father would have loved this! It is just what he wanted for the Museum! He must be very happy!” Ms. Gaines adds “The whole wonderful, full summer was a testimony to the seeds that Paul and Mary Lou sowed.”
Ms. Gaines concludes “With this gift, Paul and Mary Lou guarantee that we will continue to expand in the excellence which they helped create. We are so grateful……….Last summer, Paul’s death seemed like the end of an era. Now we realize that they are ushering us into a new era.”