CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — Large yellow, blue and pink playground equipment now towers over the one-story Chebeague Island School. The elaborate new play area, part of what planners hope will eventually be a larger recreational “campus” for islanders of all ages, was dedicated July 4 in memory of Susan Hudson-Wilson.
Hudson-Wilson died unexpectedly in October 2012 at the age of 60. Described by those who knew her as a healthy and fit person who was always looking to motivate others to exercise, Hudson-Wilson was an avid tennis player and well-known on Chebeague for her fast-paced endurance walks, her companions struggling to keep up with her.
Sandi Whiston, a long-time friend of the Wilsons, became involved in the playground project after learning that the swings beside the school were too dangerous to be used. She then learned that the Chebeague Parents Association (CPA) was planning for new swings and eventually a whole new playground adjacent to the school and Recreation Center next door.
That ‘s when she decided to raise funds for the playground in Hudson-Wilson’s memory.
“The Rec Center was near and dear to Susan’s heart,” said Whiston. “It seemed like the right place for me to do something in her name.”
John Wilson agreed a playground was a perfect memorial for his late wife.
“She was very fond of exercise and children,” said Wilson. “It became obvious that this was a great idea.”
The CPA and its president Meredith Beaupre got involved in the planning, joined soon after by the entire Chebeague community.
Chebeague Island School students were able to choose some of the colors and playground equipment.
When the time came to build it, community members pitched in, moving old equipment and setting up the new structures.
“I don’t think we paid anyone for any aspect of labor,” said Beaupre, adding there were “so many people in the background to make all of it possible.”
Beaupre’s children, Logan and Riley Beaupre, liked being able to choose the colors of the playground equipment. “It’s awesome!” said Logan. He’s especially fond of the slides. Riley has his own favorite: “You know the jacks? I like that part. I like jumping off of it.”
Hudson-Wilson was an economist who specialized in commercial real estate finance. Even after retirement in 2004, she remained active. She gave speeches and worked with small start-up companies, and was one of the founders of Calendar Islands Maine Lobster.
“Probably her biggest pastime was staying fit and healthy and moving around,” said her husband.
At the community Fourth of July picnic, Wilson memorialized Susan and officially opened the playground. Plans call for eventually adding seating, tents and barbecue areas.
“I think it’s going to be a place for getting people together, and for bonding within the community and family,” said Beaupre.
The involvement of the Chebeague community, from planning to actual construction, is “very typical of the island,” said Wilson. That, he added, “made it particularly rewarding for me.”
“Many many people gave generously,” said Whiston. “We could not have done it without the kindness of many of Susan’s fans. It is a true testimony to her personality and generosity.”