Mechtilde (Meta) Lisselotte Carlson
January 20, 1933 — March 10, 2023
William (Bill) Theodore Carlson
March 27, 1933 — August 6, 2023
Meta and Bill Carlson passed away in Harpswell, respectively, on March 10 and August 6 of this year. Both had celebrated turning 90 years old.
Meta was born Mechthilde Lisselotte Bauer, on January 20, 1933, in Euerdorf, Germany, a small town in northern Bavaria. She was second oldest of seven children, and played a big part in caring for the younger ones. Meta’s father, Hermann, was a shoemaker. Her mother, Frieda, worked with him to run the business, and was a talented cook and seamstress who taught Meta her skills. In postwar Germany, Meta apprenticed with a dressmaker, which led to having her own business, helping to support her parents and siblings.
Meta had good friends and good times growing up and told of dressing up for town dances. Her favorite music was the waltz, but she also mentioned Elvis. Hapless young men vied for her attention, but she only chose the best dancers. In the mid-1950s, Meta met a young military man named William Carlson, a friend of her brother’s.
William (Bill) Carlson was born on March 27, 1933, and grew up on a small farm in Lyons, Nebraska. His father, Axel, was a Swedish immigrant and his mother, Agnes, a schoolteacher, was also of Swedish descent. His three siblings were older than him and out of the house by the time he was 4. He had many memories — and some harrowing tales of near disaster — of growing up on the farm. Bill grew to be a strong and resourceful lad, an able farmhand to help his aging parents. He attended Luther College for his bachelor’s degree, Nebraska University (Go Huskers!) for his master’s, and later, the University of West Virginia for his doctorate in agricultural science.
In 1954, Bill joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Würzburg, Germany — and there he was introduced to Meta. She accepted his invitation to a dance and also to long walks in the German countryside. When Bill returned to the States, years of letters passed between Germany and Nebraska. In the summer of 1959, Bill went back to Germany and proposed. In the depths of a midwestern blizzard, Meta arrived in the United States to marry Bill on January 20, 1960 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
They first lived in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Bill was employed as an instructor at the university while he worked on his doctorate. Meta began making their small apartment a warm and inviting home — as she did with every place they ever lived. By the next winter, she gave birth to their first child, Susan.
Soon after, they moved to Wheaton, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where Bill started a career at the Smithsonian Science Information Exchange as an agronomist. He was instrumental in developing the first agricultural database, and was often sought out for his knowledge and skill. Bill and Meta’s second daughter, Heidi, was born here.
Meta loved to play and experiment with fabric and to be creative in all she did. She added machine piecing and quilting to her formidable sewing skillset, and a new home-based business began. Even as a young adult in Germany, Meta was known to be at her sewing machine into the wee hours of the morning — that never changed throughout her long life.
In their semi-retirement, Meta and Bill moved to Otto, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Smokies. They joined a craft cooperative, and enjoyed working together — Bill in his large workshop and Meta in her packed yet organized sewing room. They liked to garden and tend beautiful flowerbeds on the wooded mountainside. There were also vegetable beds for Bill and a roomy kitchen for Meta’s love of cooking.
Grandchildren were born during this time — Sam to Susan and Maia to Heidi. Meta and Bill took great pride in being renamed as a (German) “Oma” and a (Swedish) “Morfar.” Heidi lived nearby, and Oma and Morfar happily helped her raise Maia. By 2007, all daughters and grandchildren had settled in Harpswell, Maine, and Meta and Bill decided to make one more move in 2012 to live close to their family.
In Harpswell, Bill continued to make his favorite wood trees in his scaled-down workshop and began to record his thoughts in a “Diary to God,” which he shared with others. Meta loved Maine and the winter snow. She was either in her kitchen window blowing kisses to all her “kids” or in her sewing room creating a variety of items, including stuffed fabric pumpkins from repurposed clothing. Meta became known as “The Pumpkin Lady” — at craft shows and through “Oma’s Pumpkin Patch” online shop. Many people have now collected and treasure work both she and Bill have created.
In her final days, Meta saw “ein schönen Platz” in her mind. At home and surrounded by family, she passed to her “beautiful place” as the sun was setting on March 10. Five months later, family by his side, Bill took his last breath as the sun was rising on August 6. There are now two special times each day to remember them.
In addition, Meta will be remembered for her quirky sense of humor, big smile, mischievous sparkle in her eyes, and the best body hugs ever. Bill will be remembered as a deep thinker and for being quite the talker — always full of stories to tell. Throughout their lives, both Meta and Bill readily gave help to anyone who needed it.
They are survived by their daughters, Susan (Tom Allen) and Heidi Carlson; their grandchildren, Sam Allen and Maia Carlson; two of Meta’s siblings in Germany, Lisa and Lore; and their cat, Cookie.
A remembrance celebration for both Meta and Bill will be held on Sunday, November 5, at Centennial Hall, 929 Harpswell Neck Road, Harpswell Center with a ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. Afterward, “Kaffe und Kuchen” (coffee and cake) will be served. The ceremony will be recorded and posted online at: susancarlson.com/2023/09/13/billandmeta—a place to share comments, photos and other remembrances, especially for family and friends who live far away. Please call or text Susan (207-373-8640) or Heidi (207-841-7378) with any questions.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that any memorial donations in Meta’s and Bill’s names be made to CHANS Hospice in Brunswick, or Harpswell Aging at Home — both of which provided much help and comfort to the entire family. Thank you.