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Welcome to the memorial page for

Pauline Thayer (McHenry) Duke

June 12, 1934 ~ November 23, 2017 (age 83)

The Piano Brothers

Pauline Revere Thayer Duke, 83, passed away on Thursday, November 23, 2017.  She was surrounded by her family as she passed, due to complications from failing health.

Born on June 12, 1934 to Duncan Forbes Thayer and Priscilla (McHenry) Thayer, Pauline and her three sisters grew up in Lancaster, MA, where her parents operated an apple orchard, and maintained one of the largest herds of Corriedale sheep in New England.  Surrounded by fields and forests in Lancaster, Pauline was at home in nature from the start, and found inspiration and comfort in the natural world throughout her life.  After marrying Winslow Duke in 1963, she moved to Pepperell to raise her family on Coontree Farm.  

Pauline’s talents were wide and varied.  She sang in the Pepperell Community Church choir, served as a 4-H leader, and was an active member of the Parent Teacher Association at Applewild School.  In 1976, she joined Pepperell’s bicentennial and parade committee, for which she constructed a life-size horse from paper mache and galloped down Main Street on her horse as the Headless Horseman, throwing pumpkins through Railroad Square. 

Pauline earned a degree in Occupational Therapy from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA.  Here, she was introduced to weaving as a means of therapy. This eventually led to a long career as a fiber craftsman, creating tapestries, weavings, dolls, handbags, spun and naturally died yarns, many of which were sold at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.  Later, she became an active board member of the American Textile History Museum, in Lowell, eventually becoming the boards president.

Pauline was deeply proud of her children and grandchildren.  She loved nothing more than to discuss their interests and passions with them.  She wanted to hear their views on things, and never hesitated to share her own.   She loved to argue and debate, question and quip.

Pauline was also a talented gardener.  Rows of magenta peonies, an ancient flowering quince tree, hedges of forsythia, and pockets of hollyhocks are among the many flowers that will continue to bloom on Coontree Farm and at Enfield, reminding us of her gift to the land and all of us.  She found great joy hiking and fishing in New Hampshire, painting with water color, raising geese, and her beloved cat, Puppy.  She had a great respect for talented and proud tradesmen, and fought hard for preserving community foundations.  She will be sorely missed by many, but forged a standard to strive for.

She is survived by her loving husband Win, children Thayer David Sears (Mary Wattendorf), Pepperell, MA,  Mary Thayer Duke, Delta, CO, John Winslow Duke (Claudia Pepin) of Mattapoisett, MA,  grandchildren Jessica Villatoro, David Sears, Valerie Sears, Hayden Duke and Jonah Duke, her great grandson, Lawson Villatoro, her two sisters, Nina and her husband Samuel Adams of Manchester, MA and Julie Williams of Pepperell, MA.  She was pre-deceased by her sister Priscilla Stewart Thayer, Lancaster, MA.

Services will be held privately for family.  In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations in Pauline’s memory to the “Pauline T. Duke Trust, care of the Town of Pepperell”. Send to David Sears, 75 Jewett St, Pepperell, MA. 01463.  The funds will be used for new medical equipment  for the fire department.  Donations can also be made to The New Hampshire League of Craftsmen.  (Gifts may be made by calling (603) 224-3375, ext.123 or via the web site:  www.nhcrafts.org/support-donate-memorial-form.php)   A very special thanks to the staff of Apple Valley Center, Nashoba Valley Medical Center, and UMASS Medical Center for their heart filled care of Pauline.


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