Ilene ‘Pat’ Pope, 94, longtime Addison County resident

Ilene “Pat” Pope

RUTLAND — Those who knew Pat Pope would not be surprised to know that she was a feisty, determined child. The daughter of a butler from Ireland and a housemaid from the Gaspé Peninsula in Canada, she grew up in Millburn, N.J., tap dancing, helping her mother and father with chores around the house, and chasing annoying neighborhood boys up trees. She was very clear that her two least favorite chores were taking out the trash and plucking the chickens. She tried to avoid taking out the trash until her dying day.

She was the youngest of three children, born to James and Annie (Eden) Patterson on May 16, 1928. Her formative years were dominated by the Great Depression and World War II. She often told stories about her father playing his fiddle with a glint in his eye and of her mother always having a hot meal, soap and a towel on the hob for any itinerant passing by. She remembered knitting socks for the boys overseas and seeing her brother go off to fight in the Navy.

Pat was a storyteller. Descended from two large families with the gift of the gab, she always had a tale to tell, mostly of the warmth and acceptance meted out at every family gathering. She carried on that tradition with her own family, and Pope family gatherings often involved friends and travelers and a lot of laughter. As she grew older she explored more of her family ancestry, and was delighted to learn about her forebears, who included some of the first settlers on Prince Edward Island and others who emigrated to France at the same time a Catherine de Medici. She was also very proud of her Irish roots, and was able to travel to Rockcorry, Ireland, her father’s birthplace, and see where he once lived.

Ilene “Pat” Pope

Having been raised by two very enterprising and resourceful parents, Pat had a knack for making a silk purse out of sow’s ear. She became adept at making every house she lived in a true home, whether it was applying a fresh coat of paint or wallpaper, uncovering old stencils, sewing up curtains, reupholstering an old chair, or cutting off the legs of an old table to make it a coffee table. Walking into Pat’s home always brought a feeling of comfort (as long as you ignored the trash can). There was warmth, music, a pot of tea, and eclectic and cozy objects everywhere. She applied the same panache to her gardens.

She could squeeze more groceries out of $100 than anyone, and passed on her knack for bargain hunting to her children.

On Oct. 17, 1952, six months after meeting on a blind date, she married Charles H. Pope Jr. of Newark, N.J. The couple moved to Waitsfield, Vt., soon thereafter and ran a ski lodge,

hobnobbing with the Pratts at Mad River Glen. Over the next nine years Pat and Chuck moved to Shelburne, then Charlotte, and had four children. While Chuck pursued his teacher certification, Pat worked as a nurse at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, a job she loved. After relocating to Stockbridge, Mass., in 1962, Pat worked briefly as a psychiatric nurse at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge.

The Berkshires were an ideal place for Pat to cultivate her love of the arts with its music, theater, museums and artisans. She spent her years there keeping an eye on her children, immersing the family in as much cultural activity as possible, and working when she could. She sewed curtains for Country Curtains, managed a leather shop, and had several antique businesses. She also worked for Edith Wharton Restoration in Lenox, Mass., and told many tales of efforts to restore Wharton’s home, The Mount, and sharing that workspace with the spirited resident troupe Shakespeare & Company.

In 1981 Pat and Chuck happily returned to Vermont, setting up house in Shoreham. She became the business manager at the Vermont State Craft Center at Frog Hollow. She has lived in Addison County ever since, and considered herself one of the very lucky people to live in this brave little state. She sold real estate, ran an antiques business, and published a children’s book before slowing down, just a little. Along with Ireland, she also went to Australia and took several trips to Mexico in her retirement. She lived in Shoreham, Whiting and Cornwall until, when no longer able to live alone, she relocated to Shard Villa in Salisbury. The last few months of her life were spent at Mountain View Center in Rutland.

In her 94 years of life, Pat rarely slowed down. She always had a project (or five) to keep her busy, and often she had projects for everyone else too, whether they had time for them or not. She bought old houses and fixed them up, she read a great deal, especially biographies. Faith was very important to her. She was a seeker, and pursued her faith in God throughout her life, often in unorthodox ways.

She could be stubborn, and when a determined Pat knocked heads with her determined children it wasn’t always pretty, but in the end she was always her children’s champion, especially when it came to pursuing their creativity. She raised a beer- and winemaker, two artists, a childcare specialist and a college professor. All of her children and grandchildren have busy hands, creating in what ways they can, whether it’s knitting, pottery, or playing the saxophone. Without a doubt, she not only adored her grandchildren, she Believed in them, and often provided them with loving insight and advice through their most difficult times.

Her strength got her through abdominal surgery, breast cancer, COVID-19 and 17 years of Parkinson’s disease. Even when Parkinson’s had finally gotten the better of her, her mind was still sharp, and she weathered the frustration of her physical limitations with as much grace and determination as she could muster.

In the end, when she was finally tired of such a busy life and such a long battle with Parkinson’s, Pat went into hospice care and died on Jan. 18, 2023, at Mountain View, with her family by her side and the 23rd Psalm in her ear. She lived through hard times, war, political upheaval, and uncertainty. She lived through FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, watched with dismay Watergate, Iran Contra, and the Trump Presidency. She loved President Obama, David Brooks, The Red Sox and the PBS News Hour. And she always had faith that if she worked hard enough, things would get better.

Pat is survived by her five children, Richard Pope, Johanna Vaczy (Doug Smith), Abbey Pope (Jeff Murawski), Melissa Eden, and Sarah Pope (John McCright); former sons-in-law Paul Vaczy (Barb Karle) and Ted Farrell; her grandchildren, Jeffrey Fournier, Charlie (Mayan White), Seth (Marlaina Rowell) and Dea Vaczy, Eliza (Andrew) McAvoy and Annie Murawski (Otto Magdanz), Fiona and Si Eden, and Emma and Sophie Pope McCright; two great-grandchildren, James and Willem, with a third on the way; and many nieces and nephews. She is also survived by two very special friends, Nancie Dunn (her unofficial sixth child), and Jeanne Marston. She was predeceased by her parents; her husband, Chuck; her siblings James Patterson and Muriel Brown; and her dear friend Maizie Hescock.

A celebration of her life will be held in June at a date yet to be determined.

The family thanks the numerous people and organizations who took care of Pat in the final years of her life, especially the staff at Shard Villa and Mountain View Center. We are ever-grateful for your care and compassion. ◊



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