Alberta May MacMillan Kirkpatrick, 98, a recent resident of the Suites at the Rouse, Youngsville, and previously of 222 Conewango Avenue in Warren, died on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at the John and Orpha Blair Hospice House, Warren.
Alberta was born July 15, 1918, in Boston, Mass., the oldest child of Malcolm MacMillan and Nina Keith MacMillan. Following her mother’s death when Alberta was six, she attended Boston public schools until age eleven when she went to live with the Shaker community, Canterbury Shaker Village, East Canterbury, New Hampshire. She graduated from their high school program in 1934, a student of Sister Marguerite Frost who had also become her surrogate mother.
Alberta was the last child accepted to be raised in a Shaker Community. The Shakers, a religious sect (The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing), was founded in the late 1700’s in England based on Quaker principles. The Shakers were the most successful of the country’s many utopian societies in the 1800’s, establishing fourteen self-sustaining farming communities, mostly in the northeastern states. The progressive and inventive Brothers and Sisters created many of the tools and methods we use today, patenting none, preferring to share them for the common good. If Shakers were alive today, they’d have computers.
The celibate communities often took in children who were from orphaned or challenging family situations. Alberta lived with the Canterbury Shakers until she was eighteen. Celebrating Alberta’s long life, the Shaker Village mounted a museum retrospective of her childhood years at the community, which was also chronicled in Yankee Magazine. Armed with her acute memory, Alberta was the only remaining resource for correct furniture placement and usage of many artifacts at the living museum.
On Alberta’s 90th birthday, the staff and trustees dedicated the day to her with programs for all visitors to the village museum and a large birthday party. The Associated Press covered the event, with the article and photos being published worldwide. Alberta (or Birdie as she was known to the Shakers) laughingly considered it her fifteen minutes of fame. Birdie credited her early years with the Shakers as both life altering and defining, years that formed her values, her work ethic and her lifelong curiosity. She was an Honorary Member of the Board of Canterbury Shaker Village.
The Canterbury Shakers gave their girls classical educations in their cloistered hilltop school but no skills translating to employment in the “outside” world. Alberta worked many years in manufacturing jobs and the hospitality industry, eventually becoming a traveling dining room manager for the Red Coach Grille Corporation, working seasonally in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida and California.
In her later years she volunteered as a docent at the historic King Caesar House in Duxbury, Mass., and as a volunteer driver for the Duxbury Senior Citizens’ bus, continuing until her retirement at age 81. In 1999, she moved to Warren, to be near her daughter. She was a member of First United Methodist Church in Warren.
Alberta served many terms as president of the Duxbury Senior Citizens and was their travel director, taking the club to destinations around the U.S. and Canada, including Hawaii and Alaska, and many European countries. An intrepid traveler, she drove until she was 96, and on one of her many coast-to-coast trips, she crossed the country alone from Cape Cod to Los Angeles in two and a half days. She saw more of her beautiful world of mountains, oceans, sunsets and flowers from behind the wheel than most people see from the passenger seat. Any trip was successful that involved visiting and climbing a lighthouse, a favorite destination and the impetus for a large lighthouse collection. She was instrumental in saving and restoring the historic Duxbury Bug Light in Plymouth Bay.
She managed the federal surplus food program in Duxbury, served as an emergency response director for Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, Mass., and hosted a local closed-circuit television show for seniors in Plymouth County. Alberta enjoyed gardening, baking, and jigsaw puzzles, dedicating time to reading and crossword puzzles so she could “keep the grey stuff sharp.”
A truly joyful person, she loved nothing better than sharing a good story or a great laugh with friends, and even more if she could offer them hospitality around her table. Her wit and humor won her many friends throughout her life.
In addition to her parents and Sister Marguerite, Alberta was predeceased by her husband, the love of her life, Francis Earl Kirkpatrick, of Duxbury, Mass., whom she married in 1968 in Santa Ana, Calif., and who died in 1983; her brothers Chester Malcolm MacMillan and Kenneth Arthur MacMillan, a sister Rose Etta Rodrigues; her son-in-law, Thomas O’Brien; and several nieces and nephews. She is survived by her daughter Marcy O’Brien (husband Richard Fisher) of Warren; a granddaughter Alix O’Brien Fox (Ian) of Lexington, Mass., a grandson, Barton Bennett O’Brien of Annapolis, Md., and two great-grandchildren, Keira and Malcolm Fox. She is also survived by two nephews, many cousins, and a dear friend, Patt Gilliland of Hemet, Calif.
Friends are invited to call at the Donald E. Lewis Funeral Home, Inc., 304 East Street, Warren, PA, on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. A memorial service will take place at First United Methodist Church, 200 Market St., Warren at 2:00 pm, on Sunday, September 25th followed by a Celebration of Life for friends and family at the Conewango Club.
A memorial service will be conducted at Canterbury Shaker Village later this fall at a date to be announced.
In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be sent to Alberta’s beloved Canterbury Shaker Village, 288 Shaker Road, East Canterbury, NH 03224 or Hospice of Warren County, 1 Main Ave., Warren, PA 16365. Burial of cremains will be in Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, Mass., at the convenience of the family.