The world joins the residents of Attleboro in mourning the loss of Grace Cahill, a longtime member of our community. Known for her generosity, intelligence, and strong-willed personality, Cahill was a prominent figure in philanthropic and academic circles both locally and abroad.
Cahill was born in 1929 to Edith and James Cahill. She was educated at some of New England’s most famous schools, along with her siblings, Beatrice and Fiske.
Cahill attended Radcliffe College, now a part of Harvard University. She thrived socially and academically at Radcliffe and earned degrees in anthropology and chemistry. In honor of her achievements, Cahill’s father donated the Grace Cahill chemistry laboratory. Its fireproof walls still stand today.
After graduating in 1950, Cahill traveled extensively around the world, studying communities in Asia and Africa. The villages she lived in were so remote that Cahill was often out of contact with her family for years at a time, much to her parents’ chagrin. However, she always resurfaced and soon became well-known for her articles in anthropology journals and her work as an amateur cartographer. Cahill spent a great deal of time flying her own single-engine plane, the Flying Lemur, which allowed her to explore previously uncharted areas.
In 1959, Cahill returned to Massachusetts to marry Nathaniel Hartford, a young poet she had met at Harvard. Their daughter, Hope, was born in 1960. In 1962, Cahill’s younger brother, Fiske, mysteriously disappeared. The cause of his disappearance is still unknown and Fiske is now presumed to be dead. This tragedy was followed by the sudden death of Hartford in 1967, who died of an unknown cause while on a business trip in Moscow.
After these losses, Cahill decided to make Attleboro her home base to provide a stable life for her daughter. She spent most of the year at her family’s estate, heading numerous charitable organizations, contributing to anthropology journals, and conducting chemistry experiments in her private laboratory. She opened her home to scientists, artists, and diplomats from around the world, creating a modern-day salon in Attleboro. Cahill also continued to travel extensively, often taking Hope with her.
In 2001, Hope Cahill and her husband, Arthur Trent, were tragically killed in a fire that broke out in their Boston home.Cahill is survived by her elder sister, Beatrice; her grandchildren, Amy and Dan Cahill; and numerous distant cousins.