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Helen Buffum Johnson

January 19, 1921 - May 20, 2020
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Helen Buffum Johnson, 99 years old, lifelong resident of Brunswick and former Registrar of Bowdoin College, died at Thornton Hall on May 20, 2020 with her nephews David and Ben Johnson by her bedside. The cause of death was a life well lived and unrelated to COVID19.

Born January 19, 1921, in Providence, RI, Helen was the daughter of Dr. Henry and Mary Buffum Johnson.  She moved to Brunswick in 1927 when her father became the college physician at Bowdoin.  She attended Longfellow School in Brunswick, later graduating from St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, CT.  She attended Colby Junior College and Connecticut College for Women. 

Helen joined the administration at Bowdoin in 1943 as a receptionist and secretary before becoming the college Registrar, a position she held for 33 years until her retirement in 1981. Generations of Bowdoin students will remember her as the kind and efficient problem solver who occasionally smoked a pipe and cruised about campus in a black Pontiac convertible with red leather seats.

Helen was a member of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, a founder, corporator and Trustee of Brunswick’s Regional Memorial Hospital and a member of the Pejepscot Historical Society.

In the 1940’s, Helen excelled in the early days of photography winning national and local awards for images of her favorite subjects, nature and animals. An avid traveler, Helen crisscrossed the globe visiting Mexico, Europe and Africa. She especially loved the National Parks of America and Canada and visited almost all of them, returning to her favorites time and time again.

Universally referred to as "the sweet lady” by staff and fellow residents at Thornton Hall, in 99 years walking this earth Helen never raised her voice or uttered an unkind word.

Lovingly known as Hahna by her family, Helen was predeceased by her brother, Robert, in 2018, her brother, Lincoln, in 1996, and lifelong family friend, Sophie Dubreuil (2011), with whom she lived in Brunswick for more than 70 years. She is also predeceased by her niece, Mary, who died in 1988. 

Hahna will be dearly missed by her loving family of nine nieces and nephews and their 23 children:  

David and Kara Johnson of Brunswick, and their children Claire, Isaiah, Henry and Noah; Ben and Jessica Johnson of Brunswick, and their children Robert and Jackie; Peter and Carolyn Johnson of Hopkinton, MA, and their children Emma and Stephanie; Anne and Wind Evans of Providence, RI, and their children Sam and Mary; Tom and Maria Johnson of Westborough, MA, and their children Graceann and Charlie; John and Deniz Johnson of Great Falls, VA, and their children Aydin, Devran, Max and Carly; Suzy and Bruce Snyder of Caroga Lake, NY, and their children Jermain and Geoff; Jermain Johnson of Old Lyme, CT, and her children Tim, Whitney, Samantha and Max; and Frederick Johnson of Franklin, NH.

Helen Johnson loved animals.  For most of her life, she always had one or more dogs, Bedlingtons, Fox Terriers and English Setters, among her favorites.  In lieu of flowers, give your dog an extra treat.  Be kind to someone in her honor.  Try not to raise your voice.    

A funeral service at Stetson’s Funeral Home in Brunswick will be held at a later date followed by burial in the Johnson family plot in Westerly, RI.

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