Patricia Kane Hennin died peacefully at home Friday, Nov. 3, 2006, having battled an aggressive form of breast cancer for nearly five years.
Born June 17th, 1943, Patsy grew up in Centerport, New York on Long Island, the daughter of Daniel Hipwell Kane and Helen Shirkey Kane. Top in her class, she taught swimming and sailing at Centerport Yacht Club and was the New York State High School Backstroke Champion. At Tufts University she earned a B.A. in mathematics and French Literature, and performed extensive volunteer work teaching math in Boston through the Leonard Carmichael Society and taking groups of Harlem Children camping in Vermont through the Student Conservations Association.
While at Tufts University, and much to the concern of her father, she met and married a Frenchman, who quickly became the love of her life. Their whirlwind courtship evolved into 41 years of continually growing love, friendship and partnership.
Within a week of her first son’s birth and her husbands’ graduation from Tufts, she, Pat and Raoul moved to Plymouth, N.H. to direct the junior division of Mowglis Boys Camp. Patsy was an avid supporter of LaLeche League. Moving to Durham, N.H., she taught mathematics at Exeter High School, from which she and her husband introduced students to the wilds of New England mountaineering and whitewater canoeing. In 1969 she moved to Maine, gave birth to her second son, Gaius and supported her husband through law school, designing and building timber frame houses for the Hennin Building Company out of the trunk of their TR3 sports car, cutting wood toys, and creating woman’s clothing that she sold in Portland stores. She taught math at the Neighborhood Youth Core, always with one Child on her hip and another in her backpack – the Hennins took their children with them everywhere. She joined the League of Women Voters, took the federal census for Falmouth, and continued hiking and canoeing Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, founding and presenting to the Maine Legislature the Saco River Corridor Association. She was spokeswoman for “Combat,” Maine’s consumer protection watch dog, making press releases on local television.
In 1972-73, Patsy and Pat designed and built a passive solar home for a Maine client. After an article in the New York Times and an explosion of orders for similar homes, the Hennins moved to the Woolwich woods and founded the Shelter Institute , graduating 30,000 people from all over the world in the sciences of energy efficient construction. Patsy brought grace, wit and charm to engineering and architectural design. Featured in numerous popular magazines, newspapers, and television broadcasts , including Time Magazine, The New York Times, The WSJ, CBS news, WGBH, Pat and Patsy’s Shelter Institute brought the American Dream of independent home ownership to thousands of graduates, their work documented in an Oscar nominated film. In the midst of growing a business, Patsy gave birth to her third child, daughter Blueberry. In 1979 she opened Woodbutcher Tools in Bath in the Shelter Institute building to provide the community with a supply of woodworking tools.
Patsy became the first woman president of the Bath Rotary, one of the nation’s oldest rotary clubs and set records in enrollment.
In 1982 Patsy convinced a group of retired teachers and PhD’s to join her in forming the Ad Hoc High School whose graduates attended American’s top universities. An avid participant in the community and always striving to improve the small business climate, Patsy helped found the Bath Business Association. She became an Incorporator and member of the Midcoast Hospital Board of directors, working initially to convince the community of the need for a new hospital to provide broader, more co-ordinated care, and then on the Capital Planning and hospital design committees. Patsy chaired the Woolwich Comprehensive and Capital Planning Committees, presided over the Woolwich Historical Society, was a board member of Gardiner Savings Bank, and earned a realtor’s Broker license, becoming a member of the Million Dollar Club at Century 21 Baribeau Agency in Brunswick. In 1998, she opened Midcoast Realty in Woolwich.
She has taught her children, graduates of Harvard, Tufts and Dickinson College, to teach the engineering of sensible, energy efficient construction as well as the myriad responsibilities of business management and community service. The ultimate multi-tasker, she baked bread daily, held nightly two-hour homework sessions with her children and husband over home-cooked dinners, wove fabric on looms she built, spoke French with her family, knit mittens for her children and drove a red antique jaguar convertible to work on sunny days. She embraced technology as though it was going out of style. In recent years, three new computers were barely able to keep pace with the breadth of Patsy’s life. She loved sailing with Pat, whether on chartered boats in the Caribbean or on their 40-foot slip on the coast of Maine out of the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club.
Patsy’s leadership inspired family, friends, clients, and fellow board and committee members. Her generosity and poise belied a wisdom that was seldom articulated, but always practiced. While paying college tuitions and mortgage payments simultaneously, hosting 50 students for dinner, orchestrating consensus by committee or researching to fight an indomitable cancer, Patsy always smiled and sought to learn more, constantly reworking ideas with her husband Pat.
Patsy’s highest priority in life was the raising of a strong independent family for a strong healthy community. Forever joyful, her infectious enthusiasm for life and its challenges never failed to open others’ minds to new possibilities. Patsy is survived by her husband Pat; her children, Raoul, Gaius and Blueberry, their spouses and six grandchildren, all of Woolwich; her sister, Ailene Rogers of Long Island, N.Y.; and her brother Dr. Kevin Kane of Hallowell. Patsy’s brother Daniel Kane Predeceased her.