Community Celebrates Mary C. Eliot

Mary Eliot, former Shady Hill teacher and administrator, was remembered at a memorial service attended by 150 on Sunday, March 22.
In a gathering filled with heartfelt tributes, amusing stories, and warm remembrances, more than 150 friends gathered to celebrate the life of Mary C. Eliot, longtime Shady Hill faculty member and administrator who passed away November 7 at the age of 91.

The guests were welcomed by Head of School Mark Stanek, who introduced Bob Lawler, former Shady Hill mathematics teacher and chair of the math department. Bob spoke about Mary as a colleague and school leader, and was followed by other speakers including Dick Barbieri, past president of the Independent School Association of Massachusetts; Cindy Taft, former President of the Board at Fayerweather Street School; Jean Menapace, former Shady Hill mathematics teacher; Marian Parry, a friend who studied painting with Mary; and Anne Nash, former Shady Hill school psychologist. The speakers presented varied remembrances: of Mary's friendship and support for others, of her leadership at Shady Hill and in the greater independent school community, and of her as a wise advisor, talented painter, gifted gardner, and gracious host at her homes in Cambridge and Marshfield. Guests were invited to share remembrances and several former students spoke about the impact she had on their lives. Others spoke about her kindness and support in their lives and their work. The assembled guests sang Jerusalem together before a reception in the Assembly Hall.

A special part of the celebration was the reading of Ithaka, a poem by C.P. Cavafy. Vera Nordal, one of Mary's closest friends, read it and explained that Mary had asked that it be a part of her memorial service. We are pleased to share it here.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
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