CHELSEA — Esther Shaw, 90, one of the oldest living Maine legislators, said she thinks everything happens for a reason.

For Shaw, that means marrying a serviceman two months after meeting, moving to Maine with him and her entire family, becoming a newspaper reporter, serving in the state Legislature, working for Gov. John H. Reed, helping establish the Maine State Museum and, in her ninth decade, staying active in three community groups.

“Sometimes I think that’s a little much,” Shaw said of the community groups.

Shaw, after retiring from the Maine State Museum in 1986, became the town clerk for Chelsea, where she’s lived since the 1940s. She’s now an overseer at the Chelsea Grange and has been leading fundraising efforts to pay for a new roof. After that’s completed, she plans to begin to raise money to bring plumbing to the century-old building.

“The more things you know about, the better off you are to serve people,” Shaw said in a recent interview at her Chelsea farmhouse.

When she served the towns of Chelsea, Farmingdale and Randolph as a state representative from 1961 to 1965, Shaw sponsored about 15 bills.

A few of her bills aimed to boost revenues for municipalities and counties, including a 1961 bill that provided tax revenue from telephone and telegraph companies to some municipalities.

She also submitted a bill to tax cigarettes at 1 cent a pack, but it failed.

“The lobbyists wouldn’t let it happen,” Shaw said.

Shaw is no longer involved in politics, but she still attends her local Republican caucuses and visits the State House on Welcome Back Days, when the Legislature brings back former members. When she attended the Welcome Back Days in 2013 and 2015, the Legislature honored her for being the woman there who had served in the earliest legislative session.

She met her husband, Stanley Shaw, who died in 1993, while she was studying at the University of Toledo in Ohio. He was stationed there with the U.S. Army Air Forces. The first time invited her to dance at the field house, she didn’t even know his name, Shaw said. They were married within two months.

“We were married just short of 50 years. It was 49 years and several months, so it was right,” Shaw said. “We didn’t make a wrong step.”

When he was serving in World War II, they didn’t see each other for two years.

But lives were changed while Shaw was serving in her second term.

While driving home in the winter, Stanley Shaw came over a hill and saw a car on his side of the road that appeared to have children in it and a truck in the other lane, Shaw said.

He chose the truck.

The crash killed his mother and left him disabled for the rest of his life. After that, Shaw left the Legislature and became the social secretary at the Blaine House for Reed. Her husband was then elected to the Legislature himself and served for three terms.

As social secretary at the governor’s house, Shaw managed parties and other social activities and records. She speaks fondly of her time working at the Blaine House, and she remained a close friend of the family. While Reed was living in Washington, D.C., he would often call Shaw, and she still regularly talks with one of his daughters on the phone, she said.

“I think everything does happen when it’s supposed to happen and has a reason for it. I really do because it seems that way,” Shaw said. “I let life take me where it wants. I hope it’s good. I don’t know. These golden years aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig


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