Merry Christmas from our French’s Point family to yours! May this day bring you peace, joy and a reason to celebrate!
Merry Christmas from our French’s Point family to yours! May this day bring you peace, joy and a reason to celebrate!
For me, Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday; one infused with beautiful memories of my family through the years, paralleled with the opportunity to create new memories alongside those we love most. We come together here at French’s Point. We work side by side to put the estate to bed for the year before old man winter arrives. We celebrate our connection with time spent together walking the trails as the last autumn leaves fall and sitting by the fire in deep conversation while our kiddos roast “just one more marshmallow”. We honor each other with the sharing of a beautiful meal. We show our love for each other in a way that was taught to us through the example of our grandmother May Brooks, or “Nana” to her grandchildren. She was the perennial hostess and her family adored her. Holiday meal prep was thoughtfully planned. She prepared in the days leading into the Thanksgiving for her family that came from near and far to be in her loving presence.
“Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday; one infused with beautiful memories of my family through the years, paralleled with the opportunity to create new memories alongside those we love most.” – Jessika
May was known for her cooking and particularly baking. My sweet father loved her donuts the most, fresh out of the fryer. Her turkey was always beautiful and delicious. She was famous for her mashed potatoes and lump-free gravy. But her pies were crowning jewel of the feast. My favorite was her apple pie, but there is debate among our tribe as to what was the “best”. She made her pie crust as all experienced bakers do… by feel and muscle memory, not by recipe. At our pleading, she finally wrote it down so we have some means to trying to duplicate her flaky crust…somedays I feel like I am almost there, and others, I feel like I am a novice at the task in need of much more practice. The days I get close to making the perfect crust, almost like hers, I feel closest to her. I am grateful I have this endeavor to share with my children, so they may know her too. I am carrying my Nana with me each Thanksgiving, and always in my heart.
Photography by Rachael Anderson
May Brooks, my sweet paternal grandmother would be 101 years old today. I miss her every day. She was a large presence in my life and really shaped who I am. She is a big part of the reason why we chose to steward the property here at French’s Point. She made this place magical for her children and grandchildren. Caring for and sharing French’s Point is a way to honor the legacy that she and my grandfather Bill started for our family.
May was born and grew up in Augusta, Maine. She was born the youngest of 5 children. Her father was a deacon of a Baptist Church and she was the granddaughter of the Civil War General Benjamin Foster Harris of the 6th Maine Infantry. She married my grandfather Willard Nash “Bill” Brooks and they settled in Winslow, Maine, and had three children, two boys and a girl. She was active as a Sunday school teacher, Den Mother, Girl Scout Leader. She was involved in the Winslow High School Band Parents Organization, and the PTA. She chaperoned trips and events for the schools and clubs. She manned the food and ticket booths at high school sporting events. She was a much beloved secretary at the Winslow High School for more than 30 years.
In the summertime each year, May would pack up her children, ride to Sandy Point to our family cottage just down the road from French’s Point, where she would spend the weeks of school break sunbathing, digging for clams, fishing in her tiny tin boat, picking wild blueberries and walking the beach looking for skipping stones and lucky rocks. She was often times the first one in our family to brave the water each year for an invigorating swim. When my cousins, siblings and I arrived on scene, we spent our summers in the same way, often in my grandmother’s care. All of our holidays were spent in her home around her table with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Family was the most important thing to May, and that was evident in everything she did. Our best family moments were spent here together at French’s Point. My best and most vivid childhood memories are filled with this beautiful soul. She loved this magical place because it was about family.
May was an outstanding home cook with her thanksgiving turkey, Christmas roast, apple and rhubarb pies, deviled eggs, BLT sandwiches, homemade french fries, and donuts. She had a sharp wit and big, beautiful smile that could turn your day around in a heartbeat. I inherited my stubborn streak from May. I also have her strong sense of empathy and her desire to love family by feeding them well. I never left my Nana’s house without some sort of treat in my hands.
My grandfather Bill passed at a young age, before I was born and my grandmother never remarried. My sweet father was devoted to his mother. He tenderly cared for her and doted on her (even when she didn’t want him to). My dad also inherited his determination and perseverance from his mom, and though they did not always agree, they loved each other fiercely. Witnessing their love for one another was such a gift. It is truly one of the most beautiful things about my father.
May met my husband Fred a few years before she passed. For this I am grateful. Knowing her has helped him understand me. She gave me the diamond ring my husband used to propose and it never leaves my finger. When we married in 2008, my grandmother was my Matron of Honor and made her way proudly down the promenade to join us at the gazebo to celebrate on that beautiful February afternoon. I could not think of a better soul to be by my side that day. My oldest daughter Bailey May, met her Great Grandmother and namesake before she passed. My other kiddos did not have this blessing. But we keep her alive in the stories we tell them and the family traditions we carry on in her honor. I feel closest to May when I am here at French’s Point, cooking for my family or playing on the beach with my babes. She is only ever a breath away.
Thank you Uncle Jim, for taking good care of our family photos. It was wonderful to walk back through these beautiful memories.
The second level of the Retreat House now offers four newly renovated suites with en suite bathrooms and six total bedrooms on this floor. Suite 4- The Brewer Family Suite, offers a two-bedroom configuration with a queen in each room with an adjoining bath. Our family LOVES this space and we hope other families do too. When I had my first and second babies, we lived in these suites for a time. I love thinking back to those times rocking my sweet little ones with the moon shining in the window.
We will share the details of the other Retreat House enhancements in upcoming posts. We hope you love them as much as we do.
Photography by Greta Tucker
“I took one look at you
That’s all I meant to do
And my heart stood still.”
– Lorenz Hart “My Heart Stood Still”
Somehow, in the blink of an eye, ten years of marriage has come to pass between my soul mate and me. Life has been so busy with four small (but growing) children, lots of family, perpetual changes and busy careers in family businesses. We don’t take the time we should to pause and honor of these milestones. I often feel too busy to breathe in these moments, let alone be still in them and soak them in. Well, this year, we decided we needed to do just that. We are learning, after all. We knew we could not take that honeymoon we have been putting off all this time. But we carved out a beautiful afternoon and made some memories together. Thank you to our talented friends for helping us feel the love and see the magic that remains and grows with each passing day: Greta Tucker Photography, Flora Fauna, Jessica Candage, Blush Bridal.
When you visit French’s Point, you will pass a little cottage just before Beach Rose Farm. You may see a pretty older woman wearing a wide brim hat and a beautiful smile sitting on her bench. Likely, she will give you a friendly little wave as you pass. This sweetheart is my maternal grandmother, Bernadette Tilton Douglas, my Grand Mama. She has come to be a big part of the French’s Point story and is the heart of our family.
Bernadette was born on January 3, 1927, just a couple of years before the Great Depression hit the United States. She grew up in a small town in Central Maine. She was the next to youngest of 10 children born to my great grandmother, a school teacher and laborer in a woolen mill, and my great grandfather, a lumber jack. She experienced a childhood filled with love, but also more than her share of challenges and tragic loss. She lost two siblings in childhood: one was hit by a car, and the other died of scarlet fever. This sickness almost claimed my grandmother’s life as well, but she was able to make a full recovery. Her father died in a work accident, as was so common in those days.
In spite of the challenges she encountered early in her life, my grandmother persevered. She studied to be a Registered Nurse as part of the Nursing Cadet program starting in Waterville, Maine, and then completed her training in Baltimore, Maryland during World War II. After the war ended, she went on to work as a nurse in a hospital. She married my grandfather, Merle Smiley Tilton, a decorated Marine and war veteran, on June 28, 1946. Together, they raised six children. My mother Bonita Tilton Brooks is the oldest of the brood. After her children started leaving home, Bernadette went on to work in the maternity ward of the hospital. She was well-suited for this job because there is nothing she loves more the wee little babies.
Grand Mama bought the little cottage at French’s Point and has been spending May through October with us each year. This has been an incredible gift to our family.
In 1982, my grandfather had a massive stoke, and my grandmother became his fulltime caregiver. He was not an easy ward. The horrors he experienced in combat tormented him. Not long after his stroke, my grandmother set off on a cross-country adventure to the west coast with my grandfather in tow. This was an immense undertaking. She continued to care for my grandfather until he passed in 1999. During her time in Idaho, my grandmother also helped care for my young cousins (three handsome, busy boys) who lived nearby. They have shared with me the immeasurable love she invested in them and impact this had on them as children.
In 2001, after a brief courtship, she married a childhood friend and veteran, Edgar Douglas. These two enjoy their retirement years; traveling and experiencing adventures together. In July of 2012, Grand Mama bought the little cottage at French’s Point and has been spending May through October with us each year. This has been an incredible gift to our family. My four small children have enjoyed wonderful times with their great grandmother who loves them immensely. She goes home to Idaho to live with my aunt in the winter months.
This past November, almost 50 of our family members came from near and far to French’s Point for an epic, three-day family reunion over Veteran’s Day Weekend. This was such an appropriate time because so many of our family have continued my grandparent’s legacy of service to our country in the military. We celebrated Edgar, who passed away at the age of 93 after 15 years of marriage to my Grand Mama. It was a bittersweet time together that passed all too quickly as all good things do. Bernie, as her friends call her, is her happiest when she has a small baby in her arms and is surrounded by the ruckus of family. As the grandmother of 14 and the great grandmother to 14 children, I was so happy to see her heart so full of love that weekend. Those memories will stay with me for my lifetime.
Bernie’s devotion and love for her family as well as her faith in God have kept her family together, loving and respecting each other in spite of the challenges they have faced. My Grand Mama has taught us all many lessons through her example. She is loving, strong, resilient, faithful, loyal, practical, frugal, and generous beyond measure. We are blessed to call her Grand Mama.
All photos by Spring Smith Studios.
Today is a surreal day for me. Today marks the 25th anniversary since my big sister passed away at the tender age of 20 on January 13, 1992. I was 13 when she left us. It was a horrific shock to lose her and our family has never really been the same since that awful day. Her absence has left a gaping hole in the hearts of all who loved her. After the many years I have had to contemplate this, I have come to the conclusion that it is because she was such a beautiful soul and no one expected her light to go out so soon.
Crystal was my big sister. She was 7 years my senior. She was my keeper. I followed in her footsteps for the 13 years she was on this earth with me. Of course, I idolized her… she was beautiful, hard-working (a trait she took from both my parents) and graceful. She was a calming force in my life, patient, giving, kind and loving. She was a small-town beauty with a bright future ahead of her. She won the Central Maine Egg Festival Egg Queen title in 1988 in costume as Charlie Chaplin. I will never forget her beautiful blue ball gown in the parade that year and the beautiful smile on her face. I am proud to say we share the same smile… our mama gave it to usJ. Crystal and I both had our photographs in the newspaper that week: Crystal in her beautiful gown wearing her crown and me kissing my massive frog because we won the frog-jumping contest at the festival. There could not be a more appropriate analogy of how different my sister and I were. But I could not have loved her any more than I did.
Crystal loved the arts. She was in theatre, she was an accomplished dancer, she loved to cook and dreamt of traveling the world. Crystal was brilliant in many ways. She graduated from Maine Central Institute in 1989 as class Salutatorian and was attending Cornell University to become an engineer.
I have tried to honor her legacy in the 25 years since, by trying to be my best. I want her to be proud of me, of the life I have built, the daughter I am to our parents, the mother I have become, and what we have done in tribute to her at French’s Point. I know she can see this. I can see beautiful bits of the love my sister and I shared between my own two little girls (with an age gap of 6 years between them). My oldest daughter’s personality is very similar to my sister’s personality with her quiet demeanor, kind heart, and mother-hen nature. The beauty of it takes my breath away some times. It’s a magical reminder of just how close Crystal really is, even though I cannot see her. I know she is here. I still feel her after all these years.
In large part, our family took on the endeavor to be the stewards of French’s Point because she loved this place so much. So many of our memories of her are rooted here. Together we grew up as children, running through the fields at French’s Point, picking blueberries, having adventures, and giving life to dreams. Crystal went to summer camp with our cousins at French’s Point (then the Hersey Retreat) when it was owned by the church. From her time spent here, came big dreams of someday getting married at French’s Point. She shared this vision with me sitting on the deck one day and I remember it like it was yesterday. The way she described her dream, I could envision it myself in beautiful detail.
Over the past 15 years, my loving parents have made a tiny piece of the 100+ acre Sandy Point State Park, right next to French’s Point, into the most beautiful memorial overlook in honor of Crystal. The State dubbed it “Crystal-Lynn Cove” in Sandy Point State Park. There is a beautiful bench to take in a clear view of sunsets that have unparalleled beauty. We played hide-and-seek in these woods and along the shore that is now a preserve in tribute to her. I slip away to this place often to be closer to her. Working and living here at French’s Point allows me to be closer to her and the memories we made and the dreams we began together.
Today we honor Crystals’s life, and we will do so each day we live out her dreams here at French’s Point.
Photos below by Spring Smith Photography.
I wanted to tell you about a very special person here at French’s Point…. my mother, Bonnie. She’s a big part of what makes French’s Point so beautiful. Read on to find out how.
Mom grew up in Sidney, Maine. She was the oldest of six children born to a Marine and a pediatric nurse. Bonnie was a busy and energetic child… traits which remain to this day, along with her youthful exuberance. She and my father raised three children (my brother, sister and me) here in Maine. She is the very best grandmother to my children (Bristol, Bailey, Camden and Payton) who love their Nonnie without limits. A farm girl from childhood, Bonnie has leant her green thumb, indelible work ethic and love of the beauty of nature to the French’s Point Estate since we purchased it in 2002. At the time, the nearly 20 acres upon which our venue sits was primarily free of any landscaping. Aside from the beautiful wild blueberry fields, there was very little other grounds work. She has invested love, countless hours and so much sweat equity to make this venue beautiful for our visitors.
Mom’s dedication to the physical beauty of this environment and the vision she has had for the grounds have shaped the enhancements made over the last 11 years. She has established terraces, overlooks, the acres of formal gardens, an organic produce garden, and an orchard. Bonnie has been the visionary and the nurturing, loving heart behind it all. The family jokes that we rarely see my mother’s beautiful smile (which I am blessed to have inherited) because her head is always in a shrub, bush or garden from sun up to sun down.
From the beginning Bonnie has felt a connection to this land that is evident not only in the beauty of her landscaping, but also in her passion for each living thing here. There are so many incredible stories about Bonnie’s ties to French’s Point, but this one is my favorite:
There were originally four red oak trees that the church had planted to the west of the Estate around 1885. Over the course of time, three of the trees fell to disease or storm damage. Only one remained when we began the restoration of French’s Point Estate in 2006. One major limb was split from 100 years of campers climbing up by the dozens for photos. The roots of the tree were wrapped around the posts upon which the Estate sat which were being replaced with a full foundation. Ultimately, we decided that the tree had to go. Bonnie climbed up into that tree and would not come down until we agreed to save the tree; her own little sit-in. It worked. We let the tree stay and over the years she has lovingly repaired it and continues to care for it. This tree, which we’ve dubbed the Family Tree, resembles the most beautiful bonsai tree when seen silhouetted against the sunset. From two vantage points on the property, you can see the beautiful shape of the heart formed by the major limbs of the tree… this is so appropriate because this tree’s protector has a heart that knows no equal.
You will likely see Bonnie when you visit French’s Point. She will greet you with that lovely, welcoming smile. As one of your hosts, she will do everything in her power to help you enjoy your time here with us.
Contact us today to see our Family Tree and meet Bonnie!
All photos of Bonnie by Spring Smith Studios.
As a child, I have many vivid memories of time spent with my family here on the shores of Penobscot Bay. To me, my dad has always been a larger-than-life hero of our adventures together… our safari leader as we cut trails through the woods around our camp, our strapping rail road worker while we fashioned stairs to our beach trail out of railroad ties he could carry on his shoulders, our briny pirate captain of our tiny Boston Whaler when the motor had failed to get us to shore after a trip across the harbor.
This legend, my father, was born of humble means to a loving family in central Maine. He attended University of Maine at Orono, went on to serve in the Army, and marry his high school sweet heart, Bonnie. Together, they had three children, two girls and a boy.
Dad filled our childhoods with memories of our time together in this magical place: French’s Point. Thinking back, we were always working on projects together as a family. We became a great team; leaning on each other’s strengths to reach whatever objective we set for ourselves. Dad’s an engineer by trade, and he’s excels at problem-solving, which he taught us while working together. As a family, we encountered some real heartache and he is the glue that keeps us together.
In 2002, I got a call from my father saying that he had a “project” for me. I moved home, and together as a family, we began restoring the Point and giving it new life. The past 14 years have been full of long days and many, many blessings, as our family has grown and our dreams have changed. We have worked hard and invested ourselves fully in this place we love, and no one more so than my father, who has a work ethic to be envied. He is strong and determined; perseverance is his personal life code.
My father and I have always been close. I consider that a miracle because we are alike in many ways and that can present challenges! We share a similar personality: we are determined, undeterred (those who love us would say “stubborn”), kind, thoughtful, a bit shy, but with a big heart and appreciation for people. We are protective of the things we love and believe in. My father approaches, what would seem an unsurmountable task, with a pragmatic optimism. In the 80’s, he was known to use the phrase “Piece-o-cake” more than any other in his vocabulary.
The time spent shoulder to shoulder with my dad building this business has been the gift of a lifetime. It’s always feels so appropriate to me that my father’s birthday falls so close to Thanksgiving. My gratitude for being blessed with the gift of being his daughter, knows no limits. I wake up in the morning each day, grateful for so many things (partially because he instilled a strong sense of gratitude in me as a child). And always, above many things, I am honored to be his daughter. He has steered our ship around some unbelievable rocks and into safe harbors. I can’t imagine going on this journey with anyone beside my pirate captain at the helm. Happy birthday, Dad!
All photos by Spring Smith Photography