Memorium: Mary Evelyn (M.E.) Whitehill (NRA-1983)

Mary Evelyn (M.E.) Whitehill in July, 2011 (at age 91) on the parlor balcony of SCNY during one of her last plein air excursions to New York City to participate in a musical paint-out in Washington Square Park.

Mary Evelyn Whitehill
Mar. 9, 1920 – Mar. 27, 2012

Town of Newburgh, NY.

The art world was changed with the death of Mary E. Whitehill of Newburgh, New York, on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Born on March 9, 1920 to David J. and C. Evelyn Pope Perrott, she was a Newburgh resident all her life. At her 80th celebration she observed that her life had so far been divided into stages of twenty years each: student, parent, librarian, artist. And the next stage? “A successful artist.”

As a child Mary Evelyn (M.E. as she liked to be called) was set on becoming an artist; her great grandfather was the Hudson River artist, Thomas B. Pope. She attended Quassaick Hall, Abbott Academy and Wells College, where she said she chose watercolors “because this German professor was doing very abstract free-for-all American watercolors, totally different from the European style.”

In 1941, M.E. began work at Burgers’ Furniture Store where she met her husband W. Hugh Whitehill. Married in 1943, she stayed at home to care for her four children and do local volunteer work. “I’d belong to everything – become president – League of Women’s voters, Girl scouts, Sunday School – you name it.”

In the 1960’s she took advantage of New York State’s Title II program to receive her masters in Library Science from SUNY Albany. She then worked at The Newburgh Free Library and the West Street School Branch.

Upon her retirement in 1985, M.E. began her art career in earnest. A prolific painter, her art has preserved forever much of the beauty of the Hudson River Valley. “When I first started to paint they were tearing down Newburgh and everything was disappearing. I really wanted to record some of the buildings.” Many of her images are found today on greeting cards she started as a donation project. She truly enjoyed depicting florals and landscapes. She loved painting outdoors, believing the world needs its nature and the world needs its art.

M.E. exhibited an enthusiastic love of life. People who met her didn’t forget her; she made a vivid impression in her purple hat. Always interested in learning about people’s lives and new ideas, at 70, M.E. bought her first computer, created her own website (www.mewhitehill.com- even writing her own “html” code), joined Facebook but not Twitter because “you were always told to avoid twits.”

At 89 Mary Evelyn realized her dream of opening her own gallery, combining her marketing and business skills with her love of art. On her 90th birthday she arranged a celebration and benefit to help preserve Bannerman Castle, a scene she had painted many times. Her art will continue to inspire and share the joy Mary Evelyn had in creating her paintings.

Mary Evelyn Whitehill is survived by her sons Walter Whitehill of Newburgh, Brian T. Whitehill and his husband David Domedion of NYC, daughter Joan Roth of Katonah, NY.

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