Michael P. Iselin, 73, resident of Nelson, NH died Wednesday December 14th at his home. He was surrounded by his family. His death was sudden and unexpected.
He was born on March 19, 1943 in Fargo, ND a son of the late Arthur and Cornelia (Wheelwright) Iselin.
The oldest of six children, Michael often played chief of their little tribe. He showed his siblings what Mad Magazine was. He terrified them with his stories around the campfire. He entertained them with clever games. At Christmastime, when the family put on a play of “A Christmas Carol” (for their own entertainment) Michael was generally put in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. His siblings still tell how wonderfully and convincingly he played the role. He confessed later that he was somewhat sad to have been cast in the role. In truth he was much more the reformed Ebenezer.
Michael was raised in Nelson and was educated at the Dublin School, graduating in 1962. He later went on to attend college at Harvard University, graduating in 1966 with a degree in Biology.
Michael married Alouette (Burns) in April of 1972. Together they raised their family in the small tight knit community of Nelson, NH. Michael and Alouette had this way of walking abroad in this world through the people they touched. In the words of a very close family friend: “You were like a pair of songbirds, always moving in syncopation and relationship to each other, always singing together. Thank you for being true love and true collaboration together. It changed this world for the better in a million tiny ways.”
To know Michael was to know love and generosity. He was as honest and open a man as you could possibly find. He was the original curmudgeon, one of his friends called him “Your Surliness.” True he was as cheap as any yankee could be. And he was idealistic to a fault. As soon as you broke though these outer layers you would find the warmest heart and the kindest soul. If you showed up at Michael’s house before he “got out there, doing” you were in danger of being handed a strong cup of coffee. You were in grave danger of talking about “greasecar” diesels or philosophy, politics or seed saving, education or ecology. You might be handed another cup of coffee and find yourself wasting the whole morning and part of the afternoon. If you ever had this experience however, you know that these times were in fact never wasted. You might have walked away with some of that marvelous idealism rubbed off on you.
Although he wore many hats, most of Michael’s professional work was in some form of teaching. He worked for many years as a High School Biology teacher, first at the Shepherd Knapp School in MA and later at the Keene Free School. He also worked at different times in his life as a tutor at the Dublin school. He could be called on to fix just about anything. For a time he ran his own automotive service. He had a 1946 Chevy originally used by the town of Sullivan as a fire truck. Michael converted it to function as his tow truck. He lovingly referred to it as “Clarence.” He also did site work and excavating for a time.
The work where Michael had the most profound influence was as a foster parent. Michael and Alouette took in numerous young people in need of “a place to land.” They helped some young people to find themselves. Others they simply provided a place to stay and food to eat. Each young person had different needs which Michael and Alouette did their best to provide. Together through foster care they influenced and improved countless lives.
Michael was a man of many passions. He tried very hard to live off the land and to leave only a gentle and temporary footprint on the earth. This passion gripped him for most of his life. For years Michael gathered ice for the ice box from the pond with the help of his brother George and a team of horses. The Iselin family lived for a long time without any electricity by choice. As the family story has it, they only converted to electricity when Michael’s son nearly overturned a kerosene lamp. The Iselin’s always had a garden. Michael saved and reused things to an extent which most others would not be willing to commit themselves. He was constantly engineering new ways to heat his house and run his car from alternative fuel sources.
An important person in Michael’s life was Eloise. Eloise was born in 1915 and she is a Ford Model T. Michael and Eloise caused many smiles of joy from his grandkids and neighbors alike when he drove her to the Harrisville store to get the kids ice cream. Eloise and Mike were also a mainstay at a friend and neighbor’s annual Independence Day Celebration.
Sometime in the late 1960’s Michael and his mother Cornelia (Cia) dreamed up The Game of Village (Village). Cia had visited and had been extremely impressed by Madurodam, an entire town built in miniature in the Netherlands. Meanwhile Michael had been working on a college project and had been dreaming up a game to be played in miniature. Their collaboration was Village, a summer program for kids 10-14. During the 5 week program, the “Homesteaders” build a tiny community for their “peeps” (their miniature avatars). During the course of the program the players learn many valuable skills and get an introduction to the way that the adult world (jobs, government, etc.) work. Village continues to be played in Nelson. Michael was Chairman of the Board of Village at the time of his death.
Michael regularly attended the Keene Friends Meeting, a Quaker church group in Keene, NH. The Quaker values reflected his own unique spirituality, specifically the dedication to his wish for world peace.
In addition to his parents, Michael was predeceased by his sister, Virginia Hall in 1988 and his daughter, Jessamyn in 2002.
Survivors include his loving wife, Alouette of Nelson, his children; Kerridwen Terk of San Francisco, CA, Margaret Iselin of the sailing vessel Talisman, and Owen Michael Iselin of Brattleboro, VT; his grandchildren, Ingrid Iselin, Amelie Terk, Peri Craici, Lumina Craici, Max Craici, Julian Terk and Cortland Iselin; his sisters, Dorothy Iselin and Niña Iselin both of Nelson, NH; brothers, George Iselin of Marlborough, NH and Jay Iselin of Harrisville, NH and many nieces, nephews and cousins and many, many friends.
SERVICES: A memorial Service will be held at 2pm on Friday, December 23rd at the Nelson Congregational Church. If you are not able to attend at this time, more celebrations of Michael’s life will happen in the spring or summer (plans forthcoming). Please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be alerted of these dates.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Game of Village Inc.
www.thegameofvillage.com. or care of Tom Buttrick, 9 Log Cabin Rd., Nelson, NH 03457.