Mary Margaret (Gifford) Hunt died peacefully at her home in Falmouth on March 7, 2013, at the age of 88. Mary was born in Cambridge, Mass., the second of five children of Charles Cummings and Margaret (Grandgent) Gifford. Her early years were spent in Bedford, Mass., where her parents ran a chicken farm. In 1938, due to her father’s poor health, they returned to Cambridge and her mother began teaching to help support the family (her mother’s career culminated 26 years later when she founded the Gifford School, now in Weston, Mass.).
Mary graduated from Radcliffe College in 1946 with a degree in mathematics, and took a job at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), where she met her husband, Otis Eugene Hunt. They married in 1949 and in 1951 Mary left WHOI to raise her children. In 1959 she and 15 others founded the Unitarian Fellowship of Falmouth (now the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth); she taught Sunday school for many years and served three times as president of the Fellowship during its first 20 years. In 1962 she was elected a Trustee of the Falmouth Public Library, and was treasurer from 1969 until she stepped down in 1974.
In 1966 Otis Hunt died of cancer, and in 1967 Mary returned to WHOI as a computer programmer at the Information Processing Center (IPC). >From the start, she had tremendous zest for her work. Her programs were often in the background supporting scientific achievements; for example, she created a series of programs to improve the process of calibrating ocean bottom acoustic transponder nets (used to navigate devices in the deep ocean). In 1984 Mary participated in an engineering test cruise on R/V Knorr, where her software was used to navigate various tethered vehicles involved in sea floor exploration. Most importantly, like her own mother, Mary managed gracefully and without fanfare her responsibilities as a working single parent.
Her retirement from WHOI in 1988 as a research specialist allowed Mary to pursue several longstanding interests. After earning a Certificate in Field Botany from the New England Wild Flower Society, she took part in the Falmouth Conservation Commission’s study of vernal pools, and collected and annotated specimens for the MBLWHOI Library Herbarium. She became a member of the Falmouth Genealogical Society and as treasurer helped the Society in its early years to find its footing. Mary had an adventurous spirit; highlights of her many travels during her retirement were an Outward Bound course in the Everglades and an Earthwatch expedition to Easter Island, a place that had long fascinated her.
Mary is survived by her older brother, David Gifford of Williamsburg, Mass.; her children, Susan Gibbs Hunt of Cambridge, Harold Otis Hunt of Anchorage, Alaska, and Barbara Gifford Callahan of Falmouth; and grandchildren Mary Elizabeth Hunt of Anchorage, Adam Otis Callahan and Brian Patrick Callahan of Falmouth. Her daughter, Margaret Cushing Hunt, passed away in 2008.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, May 13th at 2pm, at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth at 840 Sandwich Road, Falmouth, MA.
Donations in Mary’s memory can be made to the Friends of the Falmouth Public Library, P.O. Box 480, Falmouth, MA 02541.