Dr. Miriam Mae Wilton, née Kuusisto, of Edgartown, formerly of Wellesley, passed away on Oct. 4, 2022.
Miriam found joy in many, many things, including her Finnish heritage, intellectual pursuits, hard work, music, the seashore, nisu, sisu, a good laugh and, most of all, her family. She was a woman of beauty, intelligence, kindness, and many, many achievements: She was an accomplished musician, a gifted teacher and psychologist, spoke Finnish fluently, and held two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. She brought joy with her wherever she went, and as one contemporary once said of her, “Miriam just shines and sparkles.”
Miriam was born in Minneapolis, Minn., to Finnish parents, Siiri and Antti Kuusisto, a Lutheran minister, and she had one older brother, Allan. They moved east as Miriam’s father built parishes in Lanesville and Peabody, at which Miriam played the piano. Allan served during WWII, and Miriam and her mother contributed to the war effort, working at the Sylvania factory, where it’s worth noting Miriam was named “Miss Sylvania.” Along with her brother Allan, Miriam did what so many children of immigrants did; she overachieved and worked hard, even after her marriage to Richard Rhodes Wilton in 1949 and the birth of her three children, Marilyn Christine (1950), Richard Thomas (1957), and Melissa Miriam (1962). She studied liberal arts, piano and pipe organ, and psychology, ultimately earning her Ph.D. in psychology in the early 1960s at Boston University (where it’s worth noting she was “Miss May Hall”). Miriam then embarked on a 30-plus year career as a professor at Framingham State College, and was instrumental in creating the first ever psychology department and major within the Massachusetts State College system, soon the most popular and sought-after major at the college. Oh, and let’s not forget: This was alongside considerable clinical work at HRI, Fuller Hospital (among others), and playing the organ and managing the choir at churches and temples. It’s no surprise she was among “Who’s Who of American Women”!
Miriam Mae Kuusisto Wilton was a remarkably talented and lovely woman for whom many people are grateful, whether students, friends, patients, colleagues, or family. Her children and grandson enjoyed young lives filled with intelligence, music, the fine arts, beauty, the seashore, comfort, humor, and love, all due to her considerable efforts and singular character. It’s difficult to sum up a life so full, so exquisitely just Miriam. If you can imagine a shooting star that kept its brilliant arc streaking past you for 96 years, and then you still feel as if the 96 years went by too fast, well, that just might do it.
Among those saddened by her death, yet very grateful for a life spent with her: Her daughter and son-in-law Marilyn Wilton Hopkins and Thomas C. Hopkins of Vineyard Haven and Dorset, Vt.; her son, Richard T. Wilton II of Edgartown; her daughter and son-in-law
Melissa Miriam Wilton and Martin L. Leonard of Holliston, and her grandson, granddaughter-in-law, and great-granddaughters, Leif D. Hopkins, Lea Cardona Hopkins, Ligaia Hopkins and Lanna Sage Hopkins of Bangkok, Thailand, Vineyard Haven, and Dorset.
Rakastamme sinua, Mimi, ja kiitos kaikesta, mitä olet antanut meille!
We love you, Mimi, and thank you for all you’ve given us!
If you would like to make to make a donation in Miriam’s honor, we are
recommending two organizations: Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy St., Hancock, MI 49930, 906-487-7549, or 800-682-7604; finlandia-donation.paperform.co; or Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Development Office, 116 Huntington Ave., Third Floor, Boston, MA 02116; Office: 617-424-4300.
Arrangements are being handled by Chapman Funerals, 56 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.