October 1, 2011

REPORTING ASIDE: Couple retiring from Redington Museum

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Donnice and Harry Finnemore sit side-by-side in the parlor -- she, in an old wing chair and he, in a Windsor armchair.

click image to enlarge

PARTING WAYS: Donnice and Harry Finnemore, who are soon retiring as docents of the Redington Museum in Waterville, talk about their years of service in one of the museum rooms.

A grandfather clock towers on a wall behind them, next to a fireplace that 200 years ago was the only source of heat in this cozy room.

They seem very much at home here, in the Redington Museum on Silver Street in Waterville. After all, they have cared for and loved this place for the last 17 1/2 years.

"When we first came here, I had never really been interested in history," Donnice says. "Now, I'm so happy to read everything I can."

The Finnemores, both 65, are resident custodians at the museum, a Federal-style house built in 1814 and owned by the Waterville Historical Society. They have scrubbed, polished, dusted and cleaned every inch of this house since they moved into an apartment in the back in 1994.

But soon they will retire and move to St. Albans to live with Harry's sister whom they also love, and who is dying of cancer.

"It's time to help the family," Donnice says. "She has always taken care of us, she has always served everyone else, so it's time for us to take care of her now. She's just very special to us all."

So, one chapter is closing and another starting for the Finnemores, who have led hundreds of tours through the museum, sharing what they know with children and adults -- and enjoying each tour more than the last.

They explain the house was built by Asa Redington for his son, William. Asa fought in the Revolutionary War and was a member of George Washington's elite Honor Guard.

"He moved up here to Maine after his duties were done," Donnice says. "He lived in Vassalboro. Eventually, he married the daughter of the people he boarded with and they had nine children -- six sons, three daughters -- and they developed a grist mill and lumber business here in the Waterville area. Mr. Getchell, his father-in-law, developed rights to build the first dam across the Kennebec River, which is Ticonic Falls."

It's obvious she has told this story many time before, but she still delights in recounting it.

"The Redington family lived in this house for about 100 years and it was donated by Ada Redington to the Waterville Historical Society in 1924, with the understanding that it'd be a museum. It opened to the public in 1926. It was a wonderful gift."

Harry's favorite part of the museum is the apothecary, which houses an extraordinary collection of pharmaceutical antiques donated in 1976 by the LaVerdiere family. Doctors, pharmacists and nurses come from all over to visit the apothecary, Harry says.

"It's just such a fascinating and fantastic place."

Donnice loves the children's room upstairs, which has an old Victorian dollhouse.

"I'm very fond of children anyway, and I enjoy seeing the things they used to play with."

She smiles, her hazel eyes lighting up when she recalls special moments at the museum. One day she was showing some children a display case full of sterling silver spoons.

"I said, 'This one's a bone marrow spoon, this is a tea leaf spoon, this is a jam spoon, this is a half-spoon.' A little boy, I think he was about 8, said, 'You know Mrs. Finnemore, in my house, a spoon's just a spoon.' That always tickled me."

Another time, she showed children an old griffin table, explaining that a griffin has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. The table legs are carved in the shape of griffins.

(Continued on page 2)

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