I received heartbreaking news this morning that dear friend and accomplished folk artist, Mary Wade has passed away.
Mary was a remarkable woman with a huge heart and sense of humor, a vast memory, and an enchanting gift for storytelling. Our community loses so much with her passing, but her caring and creative legacy will endure for generations. I consider myself fortunate to have shared a memorable friendship — from laughter filled meals to Essex memories and stories — with Mary since we moved to Essex. Susan and I will forever cherish her many artworks that we’re lucky to have collected over the years.
I shared the following memory a little over a decade ago.
Mary Wade, a folk artist who lives in Willsboro but runs a seasonal gallery in Essex each summer… creates painted wooden models, silhouettes, and paintings of historic buildings in Essex that are collected by her fans all around the world. Although I’d visited her shop in the past, it wasn’t until last December (when Mrs. Wade was offering her artwork for sale during the Christmas in Essex event) that we discussed her Rosslyn inspired artwork. I spotted a painting of Rosslyn’s boathouse adorning a wooden box… and asked her if she could make a birdhouse modeled on the same structure.
“I think so,” she said, considering. “I could do that.”
“What about a painting of Rosslyn?”
“Oh, sure. I’ve done that plenty of times, you know, all the Merchant Row houses.”
As soon as my bride was safely out of earshot, we began to conspire. Could she undertake *both* projects this winter? She could. And much more! (Source: Mary Wade’s Rosslyn Rendition | Rosslyn Redux
The photograph shows three Rosslyn inspired artworks that Mary created for me in 2012 to gift my bride on Mother’s Day. The three dimensional model of Rosslyn’s boathouse is not only meticulously accurate, it’s also a birdhouse!
Among our colorful menagerie of Mary Wade artwork are a couple of favorites. A weighty stone, tumbled smooth along the shore of Lake Champlain, was transformed into a functional work of art, a paperweight and an unmistakable rendering of our boathouse as seen from the Essex ferry dock. Capturing the peak of summer in a breezy day, seagulls swooping in front of the quirky lakeside folly that enchanted us almost two decades ago (and that continues to enchant us today!)
You can scroll to see the backside of the stone in the Instagram post above. The simple caption on the reverse of this treasure we received from Mary is especially poignant now. An evocative scene and a handwritten dedication, a bridge back to the twinkling eyes and the rich repository of Essex lore that Mary chronicled with endless energy and a hint of playful mischief.
Another personal favorite Mary Wade memento is an almost life sized representation of our Labrador retriever, Griffin. This handsome pup, painted onto a wooden cutout, was a surprise that Mary presented to us a decade ago. It stands sentry in our entrance hallway to this day, welcoming guests, and keeping an eye on Carley.
I will update this page with additional memories of Mary Wade as I come across them. For now I conclude with a brief recap of something I mentioned to Mary’s grandson, Kasey McKenna, this morning. We’re fortunate when our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are able and willing to guide us and to enrich our life’s journeys. But every once in a while we happen upon a relationship outside of our family, a connection to an acquaintance that evolves into something closer to kin, perhaps a sort of intentional extended family. In this way, I can’t help but feeling as if I am saying goodbye to more than a friend today. And I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity.
What do you think?