Louise Hanna Townsend

CANAAN – Louise Hanna Townsend, horsewoman and community leader, died peacefully Sept. 15, 2022 at her home on Nelson Hill, surrounded by love.

Louise was born Jan. 3, 1935, the youngest child of Doreen Potter Hanna and Jay Hanna of Birmingham, Mich. The freedom she enjoyed there and when visiting a beloved aunt in Thetford, Vt. undoubtedly shaped her independence, curiosity, and sense of adventure.

By the age of 7, Louise was bicycling across town to Charlie Knight’s horse farm where she mucked out horse stalls in return for the chance to ride. On Sundays she and Charlie rode to a local pub, where they tied their horses to enjoy a beer (Charlie) and a bowl of pistachios (Louise) before mounting up and riding home again.

In 1949, on a walk in Thetford, Vt., Louise’s dog startled a doe and fawn. With the angry deer lashing at her, Louise ran to the nearest house, where the door was opened by tall, brown-eyed Bill Townsend. They were married four years later, honeymooning in Maine and the Maritimes before settling near Hartford, Conn., where Bill had joined a large law firm.

When the suburban Connecticut life soon chafed, they relocated to Canaan to pursue the dream of operating a dairy farm. It was a short-lived enterprise, and the sale of the cattle bought a black mare named Amy, the first of nearly 50 horses Louise would buy, raise, and trade over the years.

Horses gradually took a back seat to a growing family, exchange students, and an untold number of pets, most notably a crow named Leo. With her three children in school, Louise returned to college, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Maine. She taught 2nd grade at Skowhegan’s Park School before becoming the itinerant speech therapist for MSAD #51.

During this period the Townsends explored the breadth of Maine by hiking, camping, and extended canoe trips. For the rest of her life, Louise retained vivid, precise, and nuanced memories of the land and people of the state and enjoyed revisiting every corner of it. A family vacation on the St. Croix River sparked a passion for whitewater canoeing. In 1976, Louise swore her 16-year-old daughter to secrecy and handed her a wetsuit. Together, they shot the mighty Skowhegan Gorge without taking a drop of water.

As her children flew the nest, Louise returned to horses, raising registered Morgans she named alphabetically for Maine locales, from Augusta to Washburn (and bending the rules for Xerxes.) She competed in long distance trail rides, including more than 50, 100-mile rides, from Nova Scotia to Florida, and a 24-hour endurance ride in Glendive, Mont. She formed lasting friendships up and down the east coast and often recounted her adventures in the Maine Horseman.

Louise believed strongly in community and lived her values by leading 4-H and serving on the school board, planning board, a term in the Maine House, and, for three decades, as a Canaan selectman. When development threatened the local lake, she joined neighbors in persuading the State of Maine to acquire the property and forming the locally managed Lake George Regional Park. She enthusiastically joined the effort to preserve the Canaan Grange as a community center.

Louise was predeceased by her husband of 63 years; her brother, Martin Hanna, and sister, Elizabeth Hanna Carroll.

She is survived by her brother, Graham Hanna of Toronto, Ontario; her son, Ben Townsend and daughter-in-law, Dorcas Miller of Chelsea, daughter, Meneely Townsend and son-in-law, Bruce Swarny of Livingston Mont., daughter, Eliza Townsend and her partner, Charlie Dingman of Leeds; grandchildren Elizabeth and Rowan Swarny and Nicholas and Adrian Willing; and great-grandchildren Calliope and Griffin Luedeker Swarny. She maintained a lifelong friendship with former exchange student, Luiz Lima, visiting him in Brazil and Italy.

Louise’s family is grateful for the care of Dr. Gust Stringos, and the support of friends, neighbors, and the cadre of caretakers led by Laurie Greenleaf of Skowhegan.

Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Rd., Skowhegan ME 04976.

In lieu of flowers,

donations in Louise’s memory may be made to

Lake George

Regional Park,

P.O. Box 896

Skowhegan, ME 04976 or

Canaan Farmer’s Hall

P.O. Box 296

Canaan, ME 04924

Share your condolences, kind words and remembrances below. You must be logged into the website to comment. Subscribers, please login. Not a subscriber? Register to comment for free or subscribe to support our work.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.