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about Elly

About Deborah Boies Leighton

Watch a video, prepared by her son
Geoffrey Leighton, about Debbie and hear her speak about the joys and challenges of aging and activism.

Debbie Leighton

Debbie was born in New York City on February 22, 1924, the daughter of Bessie and Tom Cotton, and she attended Mount Holyoke College. She married Perley Leighton and raised three children in Connecticut while working for the League of Women Voters, earning a master's degree in social work, and then becoming Director of Children and Youth Services for the State of Connecticut.

She came to Maine to work for the State in programs such as Displaced Homemakers, helping to create opportunities for women returning to the workforce. She met Eleanor "Elly" Haney and they formed a loving partnership for 15 years, until Elly's death in 1999.

In her retirement, Debbie became a full-time activist and "raging granny." She went on peace exchanges to Colombia, El Salvador and Russia. She stood with Brunswick peace activists every Friday for years and protested the WTO in Seattle and Quebec.

Deborah passed away on August 14, 2021, at the age of 97. Even at the end of her life, she was active and enjoyed spending time at the place she loved most, the family cabin in Brightwater, Phippsburg, where she had spent every summer since 1928. Although she could no longer sail, she enjoyed watching the coming and going of boats on the New Meadows River and watching her family sail the Shearwater, her Cape Dory Typhoon. Well into her 90s, she could be seen at the helm of the Shearwater or swimming in the cold New Meadows in her signature swim cap and flippers (you would be forgiven for mistaking her for a seal).

Debbie touched many people with her passion for peace, women's rights, and social justice. What she loved most was community - be it her Brightwater community, the Feminist Spiritual Community, The Neighborhood UCC, or Peaceworks in Brunswick. Encouraging young and old to understand each other and work in fellowship was Debbie's way of making a better world.