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Remembering a Life too Short, but Well-lived

When Nancy and Charles Scholes lost their beloved second son, Jonathan, to a brutal cancer at age 33, he left them with more than broken hearts. He left them an outstanding example of a life well-lived, if far too short, and dedicated to helping those in need. He also left them a love of Harpswell and its rugged beauty.

So, it seemed natural to the Scholes to create an endowed fund in Jonathan’s name to support Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) in its mission to preserve the natural and cultural resources of our coastal community.

Jonathan Scholes

“Our seasonal home on Abner Point has a spectacular view of the head of Mackerel Cove,” Nancy explained. “And we were impressed and profoundly grateful that HHLT took the steps necessary to protect Johnson Field and preserve this iconic view for generations to come.”

An appreciation of natural beauty came early to Charles and Nancy. They grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, surrounded by waterfalls, glens and spectacular vistas. They met at Cornell University in 1964 and followed Charles’ academic career to Yale University and across the country and the globe while Nancy worked as a public health nurse. Charles joined the University of Albany in 1973, initially in the Physics Department and then in the Chemistry Department, where he continued to teach and do biophysical research until retiring in 2017. They live in Delmar, N.Y., for much of the year.

Jonathan, who died in 2007, brought the Scholes family to Maine when he entered Bowdoin College in 1992. A tall, handsome, and very athletic young man, Jonathan played two years on the Bowdoin football team before graduating in 1996. While at Bowdoin, Jonathan fell in love with Harpswell and lived in a small house on Orr’s Island during his senior year. Nancy and Charles followed in his path and came to share his passion.

“The Giant’s Stairs were Jon’s favorite setting to commune with nature,” Nancy recalled. “We scattered some of his ashes there after he passed away.”

Following graduation from Bowdoin, Jonathan served for two years in the Peace Corps at the Pazapa Center for Children with Disabilities in Jacmel, Haiti. At Pazapa (Creole for “step-by-step”), Jonathan organized a year-round recreation program, summer camps and Haiti’s first Special Olympics. He also helped the mothers of disabled children develop small businesses to support their families. The experience in Haiti was life-altering for Jonathan, and for his parents. Today, Charles heads the US board that helps run the non-profit organization.

After his time in Haiti, Jonathan attended the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and received an MBA in 2002. He then worked for Genzyme Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., traveling extensively as associate director of the company’s organ transplant division in Canada and Latin America. He retained his love of Harpswell. Married shortly before he died, Jonathan and his wife had planned to buy a cottage in the area. It was not to be.

“We wanted to establish this unrestricted endowment as a remembrance for Jonathan, dedicated to the places that were dear to him and are dear to us,” said Charles. “From our experience in Haiti, we know full well that ‘unrestricted’ gifts to a non-profit organization and to its endowment are among the most difficult funds to raise.”

Janice Thompson, HHLT’s Development Director, said unrestricted endowment donations like that made by the Scholes are vital to the land trust because they offer flexibility about how the income from the fund can be used now and in the future. “It’s really a double blessing,” she said, “because the money will support the land trust’s work long into the future and can be used where it’s most needed. We can’t thank Nancy and Charles enough for their incredible generosity.”

The Scholes say they are pleased to make a contribution in a way and in a place that they are certain would make Jonathan happy.

“We have been frugal all our lives, and now in our 70s, it’s important for us to contribute where we can to make a difference,” said Nancy and Charles. “This is our way to help HHLT sustain all the things it’s already doing really well.”

If you’d like to join Charles and Nancy Scholes in making an unrestricted endowment gift to Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, please contact Amelia Graham at development@hhltmaine.org.