Remembering Phyllis Buchanan

Phyllis J. Buchanan

Phyllis J. Buchanan, a co-founder of Belfast Flying Shoes, passed away just after midnight on January 14, 2018.

Born on December 17, 1949 in Lima OH, Phyllis lived for many years on a hillside farm in Greenwood ME. She raised her daughter Solai and son Toji with her husband Norris, milked goats, co-founded a co-op, and, as a lay midwife, welcomed innumerable babies into the world.

After her husband died, she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from the University of Southern Maine and attended medical school at Duke University. Upon graduation, Phyllis moved to Brooks, where she swam with loons and her black labs, biked and hiked throughout Waldo County, and participated in the traditional music and dance community in Maine and beyond. She was a physician assistant at Arthur Jewell Medical Center in Brooks and later at Lincoln Health in Waldoboro, earning the trust and affection of her patients and medical colleagues alike. Among her patients were the children of a contra dancer who recalled, “It made going to the doctor a whole lot more fun having her there, resonating the halls with that laugh.”

At Belfast Flying Shoes dances, Phyllis organized a cake quilt, a mosai-cake, and cupcake towers; she bought mirror ball necklaces and ridiculous party hats; and she danced with abandon. Phyllis co-led the All Comers Band with laughter and joy for eleven years, from our first dance in December 2005 until December 2016, when she moved back to Greenwood. During the inaugural contra dance in 2005, the fiddler Nat Hewitt gestured to Phyllis, asking “Does that woman have a goat farm? I stayed in a tent there in the ’70s or ’80s. She left in the middle of the night to deliver a baby.” With Phyllis, such crazy small world connections were the norm. For example, as the board reflected on Phyllis’s influence, our current president Lee Stover reminded us that she helped resuscitate him in June 2009, when he collapsed from a heart attack during the contra dance.

In countless such profound and simple ways, Phyllis gave back to her community. At our 2016 annual meeting in November, the board asked Phyllis for some parting advice. She thought a moment and replied, “Keep it joyful. This is a gift to the community. Maintain inclusivity. Celebrate.”

To honor our dear friend Phyllis, we can dance, play a fiddle tune, have an adventure, help a friend or neighbor, share a wild story, and laugh loudly. And yes, keep it joyful.