Mary Fitton Fiore died peacefully at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City on Dec. 27 with her daughter, Susanna and son, Thomas by her side. Mary was born on Dec. 2, 1924 in Hamilton, Ohio to Elaine Jones Fitton and Cyrus Fitton. She was the eldest of three children.
Mary took piano lessons with her cousin Nell all throughout her childhood, as did her brother, John. The family listened to a great deal of music, both at home and also going to concerts.
As a teenager, Mary worked as a typist for the Estate Stove Co. and during the summer was junior waterfront director at the local Girl Scout camp. Mary went to Radcliffe College on a scholarship and also did babysitting and housecleaning while living in Cambridge, Mass. Mary sang in the chorus at Radcliffe and performed there with the famous conductor Koussevitzky. She left Radcliffe to join the Women’s Army Corps where she also did typing and other administrative jobs. She later returned to Radcliffe on the GI bill but chose not to stay there. Mary then went to live with her Aunt Trixie and Uncle Louis in Washington, D.C. where she worked at a day care center.
Mary heard about the Black Mountain College in Asheville, N.C., a pioneering school that made the arts central to learning, and where both faculty and students did most of the work to keep the school running. She applied using the rest of her GI bill and was accepted.
Mary found a community of people with whom she truly felt at home and spent some of the happiest and most stimulating years of her life there. She met Joseph Fiore there, as a student in his drawing class. They fell in love and married and became a faculty couple. Joe continued to teach painting and drawing and Mary studied voice with Johanna Jalowetz and writing with Charles Olson. She also took over as a cook when one of the two cooks left and cooked one day a week for the whole school for a year. Mary and Joe’s first child Thomas was born at Black Mountain in 1955. About a year later, Black Mountain College closed for good and Mary and Joe moved to Manhattan to pursue Joe’s career as an artist. There, their second child, daughter Susanna was born in 1958.
Mary embraced life in New York City and continued to live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan until her death. She and Joe and their children loved Central Park and walked there nearly every day. In 1959 they rented a farmhouse in Jefferson and after a few years decided to buy the house and 40 acres of rural fields and woods. There was no plumbing or central heating in the early years, but Mary loved it there and did not shy away from chopping wood or hauling water.
She also became very friendly with the neighbors, and in particular Hartwell and Flora Jones who owned the surrounding farm land. After Hartwell died, Flora wanted to sell some of the land and Mary and Joe decided that they would buy it, and they eventually donated it to the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association (DLWA). Mary and Joe were involved in many charitable efforts throughout their lives with a particular focus on preserving land in Maine.
Mary liked to garden and was very knowledgeable about native local plants while Joe was an avid bird watcher, and this love of nature was passed on to their children. Mary and Joe were involved in both the New York and Maine arts scenes and were great lovers of music as well. Mary was an avid reader and studied the subjects she was truly interested in, often taking many notes and keeping notebooks. She was a wonderful letter writer and used that as a frequent vehicle of expression. Mary was interested in people from all walks of life and befriended a diversity of people wherever she went.
Mary was predeceased by her parents, Elaine and Cyrus Fitton; brother, Richard Fitton; and husband, Joseph A. Fiore.
She is survived by children, Susanna Fiore, and Thomas Fiore; brother, John Fitton; nieces, Karin Lohiser, Gail Poole, and Jane Barbato; and nephews, Jay Fitton, Mike Fitton, Tom Fitton, Sam Fitton, and Jim Fitton.
A private memorial service will be held at some point in the future.
Contributions in Mary’s memory may be made to Midcoast Conservancy and to the Harrison House of Joshua Tree, Cal.