To Beverly Ludden, nothing was more important than family. Running a close second were her Boston Red Sox. She wrote about both in her Republican Journal town column for more than four decades, and her stories about life in Jackson gained her a broad following, not limited to Jackson, Waldo County or even just Maine residents.

When it was announced in the paper in October 2018 that Beverly had to give up writing her column because of failing health, she was overwhelmed by the number of cards she received from strangers, daughter Lisa Larrabee said, "people we didn't even know existed!"

They came not just from Jackson readers, but from column followers in Islesboro and other towns around the county, from other Maine residents, and from summer people elsewhere in the country. This outpouring was less surprising to Journal editors; Beverly's weekly column usually drew the highest town news views tallied on

Beverly Ludden, chicken farmer, school bus driver, certified nursing assistant, community volunteer, photographer, knitter, crocheter, chronicler of goings-on in her hometown, and "Gram" to all the youngsters in her life, died July 29 at the age of 85.

Beverly wrote like she spoke, her Maine accent coming through in phonetic spellings of words like maybe (mebbe) and soccer (socca). She religiously recorded every birthday and anniversary in "my book" and handwrote "my news" on yellow legal pads for Republican Journal copy editors, and more recently for Lisa and Beverly's daughter-in-law Debbie Ludden to type up for the paper.

"First we had to decipher her handwriting," Debbie said. Beverly would fill five to seven handwritten pages, "and would often write up the side of the page when she ran out of room," former Journal editor Stephanie Grinnell recalled. "I always had a good time interpreting her language and spelling."

In her columns, Beverly wrote about her life and her recollections of bygone events — and, in doing so, told of rural Maine people and life in general, then and now. Subjects included:

Family and town: births, deaths, kids' sporting events, birthdays, anniversaries (all recorded religiously in "my book"), Eldridge family reunions at her sister Shirley's in Palmyra, visits to fairs and seasonal events (she loved horse pulling, oxen pulling and other country fair attractions), the Grange, maple syrup season, church cookbook sales, someone getting his deer, grandchildren coming to visit and setting up her air conditioner each summer.

Sports: The Olympics, the national Little League baseball championship, Mount View teams, and the Boston Red Sox.

Television: favorite soaps, food shows ("In the Kitchen with Daniel"), "Bill Green's Maine," QVC. She often commented on random facts she found interesting, news events and natural disasters, recalling something similar from her childhood — like carrying sandwiches to firefighters during a local wildfire.

And more.

Beverly wrote her last Jackson News in September 2018. Living thereafter at Harbor Hill in Belfast following a stroke, she suffered from failing eyesight. “It got to the point where Gram had all the ideas, but she couldn’t write them down,” grandson Christopher Larrabee said July 31 at the funeral home where family and friends gathered. “She was so upset when she couldn’t write her column anymore.”

That was heartbreaking for the formerly indomitable Beverly. Whatever life threw at her, she had always managed it, including carrying on the chicken business alone for several years after her husband passed away, while also driving the school bus and working every other weekend as a CNA. She took care of both her parents in their failing years so they could live at home.

“She knew everything and everybody,” granddaughter-in-law Brooke Larrabee said Friday, and she delighted in writing it all down for her readers. On her telephone, every digit had someone on speed dial.

“I spent just one night at her house and she asked me my birthday,” Brooke said, “so she could ‘put it in my book.'” Beverly referred to her book for every column.

When she died last week, Lisa said, “She made it easy for me to write her obit — she left me a list labeled ‘Stuff I Did.’ I found it in a notebook."

That "stuff" she did is recounted in her obituary in this week’s paper, and this week's Jackson News includes some anecdotes. But there's more to know about this woman so beloved by so many.

"She had a huge heart," granddaughter LeeAnn Roberts said.

Beverly frequently babysat her grandchildren, and her Maine accent rubbed off on Lisa's two offspring, LeeAnn and Chris. "They both sound just like her," Lisa said with a smile.

Both loved going to Gram's. "First, there was food," LeeAnn said. "And then we always sat on the arms of her recliner. There was a vibe in her house — welcoming, warm and loving. We always felt at home there."

Gram was "always up for an adventure, and it didn't have to be extravagant," Lee Ann said. Gram took them on picnics, to agricultural fairs, and to the airport to greet returning troops.

"She taught us three things," LeeAnn said, "to respect the troops, to balance a checkbook and to drive." A non-swimmer who didn't like the water, Beverly also took her grandchildren to swimming lessons in Hampden.

"She was proud of each and every one of her grandkids, and what made them unique," LeeAnn said.

Beverly's big heart extended to all the kids in her care. In retirement, she volunteered to read to elementary school children. Earlier, she had one grandchild in Mount View sports, and another in Chamber Singers, and she often drove the school bus carrying them to their events. "If she took a sports trip and a kid didn't have money for McDonald's afterward, she paid for it," daughter-in-law Debbie said.

At a family wedding, two older men stopped by and Beverly immediately directed them to the food line — "and put them in her book," Debbie said.

In her community, she was involved in just about everything, including the Grange, 4-H, horse shows, girls' softball, the ambulance, and the Jackson Fair.

Also the family photographer, Beverly recorded every event. Family members told a story about how, as a school bus driver, she was stopped behind another bus whose driver radioed that a cow moose was crossing the road, and then that a bull moose was following. Beverly exclaimed, "Oh, no, I don't have my camera with me!"

Grandson Chris said she was, however, "a terrible videographer." An avid spectator at all of her grandchildren's sporting events, she would get excited cheering on the team, and her videos would capture all of the surroundings, interspersed occasionally with action on the field.

Because she was always the one behind the camera, the family has few pictures of their beloved Gram. But she has left them with memories as indelible as the 40-plus years of town columns that she wrote.