Merrymeeting People

Donald Ernest Lipfert
June 17, 1921 - April 20, 2011

Donald Ernest Lipfert, a longtime Woolwich resident, died April 20, 2011, with his family at his side at Winship Green Nursing Home from Parkinson’s Disease.

He was born in Meriden, CT on June 17, 1921 to Ernest A. F. Lipfert and Rose Beierle Lipfert. He graduated from Meriden High School in 1939.

He learned the drafting trade and became a designing engineer, with over 30 patents in his name, and many inventions.

He worked on the development of a wire recorder for an early satellite and one of the last mechanical calculators, but he preferred working on things that impacted the human condition, such as a mattress that prevented bedsores in quadriplegic patients.

After 1963, he lived in Woolwich while commuting weekly to his job in New York City. He retired in 1983.

He was a conscientious objector during World War II, doing his war service in the Civilian Public Service camps in New York, Ohio and Tennessee.

During that time he volunteered to be a test subject in survival research being done at the Metropolitan Hospital on Welfare Island in New York City.

He met Roberta Joan Green of Ottawa, Ontario, at a summer Christadelphian Bible School held in Wilbraham MA in 1949, and fell in love. He courted her with letters and occasional visits to Canada and married her in 1950. Their first home, shared with their newborn son, Nathan, was in South Meriden, CT. Soon after the birth of their twin daughters, Gail and Wendy, in 1955, the family moved to Middletown, CT, to a house he had designed, incorporating radiant heating in the concrete floor. In 1963 they moved, with their children, to a historic 1780s house in Woolwich, Maine. In 1995 he fulfilled his dream of self-sufficiency in his design and construction of another new house also in Woolwich. The home used solar panels to both heat hot water and generate electricity thus making it an off-the-grid home. Since 2009, he and his wife have been residents of the Plant Home in Bath.

In the late 1960s, he helped establish the Bridge Coffeehouse, a place for young people to "hang out" and also allow for interaction of different generations within the community. In 1970, he conceived of and organized the Jacataqua School, an alternative high school based around the idea of using the resources in the community to educate students. He and his wife were instrumental in founding the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and in the creation of that organization’s annual Common Ground Fair. He served on the Woolwich School Committee and worked on the Woolwich Comprehensive Plan. He served on many state and local committees involved in conservation, organic farming, town planning, green politics and many more. He volunteered at Maine Maritime Museum, Woolwich Historical Society (where he also served as president), and in the Woolwich school helping to inspire creativity and a love of learning in the students. He will be remembered by many for his heart-felt impersonations of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

He loved the land and the water, and spent much time mowing fields, getting in firewood, hiking and snowshoeing, camping, canoeing and boating, and tending his huge garden. He was skilled at wood carving, oil painting, and furniture building. His selfless concern for the future resulted in his donating a conservation easement for his former land to the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and establishing it as town open space.

He is survived by his wife, Roberta Joan Lipfert, of the Plant Home; two sisters, Gertrude Turner of South Meriden CT and Dorothy Rhinehart of Berlin CT; a son Nathan Lipfert of Woolwich; a daughter Wendy Decker of Bath, and a daughter Gail Lipfert of Canaan ME. He had two nieces, a nephew, five grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. He will be missed by his children’s partners, Janine Lipfert, Elaine Malkin, and Michael Kelly, and by many others.

A celebration of his life will be held on May 21, 2011, at 1:30 p.m., at Maine Maritime Museum’s Long Reach Hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler