Obituary — Mary Newhouse, 74

Mon, 02/15/2010 - 5:38am

2/13/10 — Mary Newhouse, who drew from her sense of aesthetics as a working artist a great concern for the landscapes and characteristics of Block Island, died Sunday, Feb. 7, after a long illness. She was born Mary Alice Taylor in Fitchburg, Mass., in April 1935.

She received an MA in fine arts at Smith College and in 1957 married Dr. Robert P. Newhouse, a graduate of Albany Medical College who was then in the Army. Subsequently he was assigned to Frankfurt, Germany, for three years. They returned to New York City with two young daughters and a third was born while Dr. Newhouse pursued a career in ophthalmology.

In 1979 they visited Block Island for the first time and promptly fell in love with it. They went house-hunting and soon Mary became proprietress of the Sea Breeze Inn.

She threw herself into the life of the community, serving as an officer of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, a member of the Garden Club, The Nature Conservancy and the Block Island Conservancy.

When the owners of the Spring House proposed an extensive housing development on their grounds, a group of citizens led by Mary Newhouse organized to preserve the setting of the venerable institution. After succeeding in that battle, Mary transformed the group into Scenic Block Island, which continued to play a leading role in protecting the viewscapes and promoting landscape-friendly building practices on the island. SBI organized well-attended workshops and, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a symposium on these topics.

Mary carried the same interests into her seven years of work on the Planning Board, where she was a consistent voice for development that treads lightly on the land.

Mary was an accomplished painter throughout her life, showing her work in New York and Block Island galleries. She had a series of galleries on Block Island culminating with the Island Gallery in the Post Office Building. She also worked in ceramics and had interests in dance and architecture as evidenced in the Figurehead Building, of which she is a co-owner.

Her ashes will be scattered into the ocean, which she loved so much, and a memorial service will be held in the spring, said Bob Newhouse, her husband of 52 years.

Other survivors include her siblings, Arthur Taylor, Patricia Keany and Jayne Taraski; her loving daughters, Alisa of Los Angeles, Sarah and her husband Steve Mikulka of Watertown, Mass., and Andrea and Eric Moynier of Brooklyn, and grandchildren Olivia Taylor Smith and Jules H. Smith of Los Angeles, Samuel Mikulka, Lucas and Isabelle Moynier.