Alice Mott Huggins, 96

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 6:00pm
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Alice Mott Huggins, a former Block Island elementary school teacher, died peacefully on February 20, with her family by her side. She was 96.

Alice Ann Rose Mott, a 16th generation Block Islander, was born on August 11, 1924, in New London, CT, the only child of Beatrice Elizabeth Jacques and Frank Milton Mott. Native islanders seldom took commercial ferries, so Alice and her parents were transported across the sound to Old Harbor aboard the Aunt Edie, a fishing vessel owned by a neighbor, Captain Cornelius Rose. Her mother, from Waterford, CT, was an artist. Her father was a businessman. In summer, the family lived at the Bellevue on High Street and in winter St. Petersburg Florida. Frank inherited a family 18th century farm called The Homestead on Corn Neck Road, where Alice resided for most of her life. Her parents divorced when she was eight and she was raised by her father and paternal aunt.

After graduating high school in Providence, Alice attended Syracuse University. At 16 her father died and from then on, she was more-or-less on her own. She joined the war effort, and at 18 was employed as a secretary at the Navy’s top-secret Underwater Sound Laboratory. She transferred to the University of CT, graduating with a BA in 1945.

After college, Alice worked as a stewardess aboard American Airlines DC3’s, a 21- passenger aircraft with a range of 1500 miles per flight, taking 2 days to reach California from LaGuardia Airport. She had a thirst for travel and visited many places in the world throughout her life.

Alice met her husband, Bob Huggins in their teenage years on the drug store porch, when he was working one summer at The Narragansett Hotel. They married after WWII, lived in NYC, and then relocated to Manchester, NH. In the early 1950’s, Alice, with movie star looks and presence, was hired as one of the original teachers on “Romper Room,” a syndicated preschool educational children’s show broadcast live throughout New England on WMUR television in Boston. She also acted in commercials and hosted her own show called “Mother’s Helper,” sponsored by Crayola crayons. In Manchester, she was head of the women’s division of The Manchester Chamber of Commerce, chaired the outdoor arts festival, was a senior associate of the Elliot Hospital, was chairman of the PTA and on the board of the City Opera Company.

Alice felt she had a calling to work with small children. She began teaching in one of the only public-school kindergartens in New Hampshire. She was awarded a fellowship to the University of New Hampshire’s early childhood development program where she earned a master’s degree. She received a grant from Temple University to participate in new, progressive ways of child learning. She and other teachers from around the country visited preschools in 15 European countries. What she observed abroad had a profound effect on her professionally.

Alice and Bob moved to Block Island permanently in 1972 and Alice taught grades K through 3 at the island school for 15 years. She refused to use standard text books and modeled her curriculum on more enlightened ways of learning. Her students tagged migrating birds, studied the life-cycle of monarch butterflies that fed on native plants in fall, and guided children on nature walks along the Great Salt Pond. She encouraged self-expression by having students write every day. It was her idea to edit and publish a charming fact-filled book called “Block Island History Book,” written and illustrated by her students.

After Bob died in 1997, Alice moved to the mainland off-season to live in an apartment her granddaughter Emily and husband Chuck Cummisky created for her in their home in Wakefield. For 10 years Alice lived there as the young family expanded. Alice loved that era of her life, being part of a young family and taking part in the community where she was a member of the Writers Guild in Wakefield. For many years Alice sold her photographs in gift shops and took art courses at The South County Art Association. One summer she traveled to Provence with a group of accomplished plein air painters. She enjoyed being part of an artistic community. She loved NYC and spent long periods at time there attending theater, musical events, and going to museums with her daughters and meeting up with friends.

In her 80’s, in South County RI, Alice met Bill Baker, an easy-going artist and a man with a driver’s license! For years they were happy companions, attending cultural events and often just hanging out together at places like Jim’s Dock in Matunuck, to watch the sun set over a cocktail or two.

Perhaps Alice’s crowning achievements were being a good listener and never saying an unkind word about anyone. She was a generous and loyal friend to many.

She leaves behind two daughters: Susan Huggins of New York City, Maryalice Huggins of Middletown RI, two sons: Robert Huggins of Portsmouth RI and William Huggins of Wakefield RI. She was blessed with 5 grandchildren, Emily, Henry, Julia, Jake and Cyrus. Her grandson Cyrus predeceased her in 2014. In addition, she leaves eight great-grandchildren.

Her companion, Bill Baker also predeceased her.

Alice’s memorial will be held at The Island Cemetery at 12:00pm, Tuesday, June 1.