Allison Weeks Freeman Ulmer (1952-2016)
Allison Weeks Freeman Ulmer, of East Sandwich, MA, died suddenly and unexpectedly in the arms of her husband of 42 years, Kevin Michael Ulmer, on Valentine’s Day morning (February 14, 2016) at their Cape Cod home for the past five years. She was only 63.
Allison was born on April 12, 1952 in Asunción, Paraguay, the first diplomatic posting with the U.S. State Department for her father, the late James Benjamin Freeman, and her mother, the late Elizabeth Weeks Freeman. Her maternal grandmother, the late Elizabeth Weeks Zollars, had given her daughter money to return to the U.S. to give birth, but instead she pocketed the money and gave birth to “Sunny”, as her family would come to call her, in a sanatorium complete with a dog that lifted its leg on the bedpost. Her family moved to Frankfurt, Germany where she attended kindergarten and her sister, Diana Freeman Dempster of Bethesda, MD, was born. A final posting took them to Jakarta, Indonesia where her brother, James Benjamin Freeman, Jr. of Wichita, KS was born, before they returned to the U.S. with memories of encountering water buffaloes, monkeys, and a very nasty cockatoo.
At the age of ten, Sunny’s family returned to settle in Bethesda, MD and her father moved from the State Department to work as a press spokesman at the Pentagon for the Department of Defense. Allison attended Leland Junior High School and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. Her chorus teacher invited her to participate in a choir festival in Ocean Grove, NJ during the summer of 1967 where she, then 15, would meet her future husband, Kevin, then 16, whose family had summered there for generations. Two summers later she returned with three of her best friends to work at the North End Hotel on the boardwalk, where Kevin and his best friends were also working, and a “summer romance that lasted” would bloom.
Kevin went off to Williams College and took advantage of the free bus rides to Washington, DC that were organized to protest the Vietnam War, but did no marching – “Make Love, Not War”. Allison matriculated to Skidmore College the following fall and weekly road trips ensued between Saratoga Springs, NY, where the drinking age was still 18, and Williamstown, MA.
Allison majored in French and spent her junior year in Paris as part of Hamilton College’s program. Kevin visited often, which lead to ski trips in Zermatt and a most memorable drive in a Deux Chevaux from Paris through Provence to the Riviera, ending with a celebration of her 21st birthday in Monaco. Kevin proposed the Christmas of her senior year, and they were married in Chevy Chase, MD only weeks after her graduation in June of 1974.
The newlyweds moved into Kevin’s tiny cottage in West Falmouth, MA, which would become known as “The Love Shack”, where he worked on his Ph.D. in oceanography at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They bought their first sailboat, a 19’ Cape Dory Typhoon, which Kevin refurbished and christened the “Sunny One”, and Allison began her French teaching career at the Lawrence School in Falmouth. Two rescued dogs, Shannon and Kerry, and a black cat named Moscow completed the new family.
Impatient with Kevin’s slow progress towards his degree, Allison took a brief “sabbatical” in 1977 to obtain her Master’s Degree in French from Middlebury College’s Foreign Language School. This afforded her two summers in Vermont and the year in between back in Paris. Needing a Parisian accommodation for her time there, the couple sailed to France aboard the Queen Elizabeth II and found a charming apartment overlooking Place du Petit-Pont and Notre Dame.
The couple were awarded their respective graduate degrees the following summer and bought their first house in North Scituate, MA. Allison resumed teaching French in Norwood, MA while Kevin started a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. A serendipitous meeting the following spring would result in Kevin joining Genex Corporation, one of the first recombinant DNA companies, and a return to Bethesda, MD for the next eight years. Allison continued to teach French at Charles Woodward High School until the birth of Ashley Weeks Cart of Pownal, VT in 1983. Their second daughter, Kimberly Maxwell Ulmer of Woods Hole, MA followed shortly after in 1985.
The family returned to the South Shore of Massachusetts in the fall of 1987, moving into a 100 year old Victorian perched on ledge overlooking Cohasset Harbor, which became their home for 23 years. Wesley Allison Ulmer of Columbus, OH would complete the family in 1990. Never was there a more magical place to raise a family by the sea. Fully convinced of this fact, the self-described vagabond put down deep roots in the place she finally chose to call home. She delighted in her gardens and dirt under her fingernails and was a member of the Garden Club of America and the Cohasset Garden Club, as well as the Junior League. As soon as Ashley was old enough, they joined the Cohasset Yacht Club to instill a love of sailing that continues to this day in each of their children. The girls would both graduate from Cohasset High School and follow their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps at Williams College, graduating in 2005 and 2007. Wes would graduate from Thayer Academy in Braintree, MA in 2010 and then attend The College of Wooster in Ohio.
In her final 15 years, Allison returned to teaching French as well as Spanish, in a series of communities throughout the South Shore and Cape Cod, beginning with Norwell and Hull. Budget cuts and foreign language program changes resulted in her commuting back to Cape Cod to teach in Sandwich. Consequently, in 2010 the now empty-nesters moved back to the Cape, settling in Carleton Shores in East Sandwich where they were only a short walk from the beach on Cape Cod Bay. After teaching in Sandwich, Allison taught in Chatham before, ironically, commuting back over the bridge to teach at Cohasset Middle School for a year before Duxbury Middle School lured her away this past September. A Francophile to the core, she has imbued many hundreds of students throughout her career with her love of foreign languages and cultures, especially French, and leaves over 160 current students and many colleagues mourning their sudden and shocking loss.
Ashley married fellow Williams classmate, James Whaley Cart, during the height of Hurricane Hanna in September 2008 in what was supposed to have been an outdoor wedding overlooking the Purple Valley. Allison’s greatest joy was her role as “Momar” to her two granddaughters, Addison “Sunny” Weeks Cart (6) and Courtland “Kaki” Whaley Cart (4). She reveled in frequent trips to Williamstown where both Ashley and James work for the College, as well as their visits to the Cape where she was grooming the next generation of beach-lovers with the able assistance of “Auntie Kimmy”. The silver lining in this very black cloud is the imminent arrival of grandchild #3, due in early March 2016. Allison was bursting at the seams with the building excitement and her planned Valentine’s Day visit that has instead changed everything, forever.
Allison’s remains were cremated, fittingly, in Duxbury, MA. Kevin will undertake a pilgrimage over the coming year, accompanied at times by family members, to scatter her ashes in those places that held importance in their lives, beginning with Ocean Grove where it all began and ending in Paris, her favorite place on Earth after Cohasset.
A joyous celebration of her life following her 64th birthday will be held on Saturday, April 16th from 12-3 pm at the Atlantica restaurant, which looks over Cohasset Harbor at the former family homestead. Allison adored planning and hosting fabulous parties and the family intends to carry on her proud tradition.