Paige E. (Jarvis) Mercer, 75, wife of Charles B. Mercer of Topsfield
and formerly of Ipswich, died May 16, 2017 in the Salem Hospital
following her extended illness.
Paige spent her
early years in Connecticut, except for a brief period in NJ. A
graduate of Hall High in West Hartford, she matriculated at
Radcliffe, but in 1963 graduated from Harvard in the first Radcliffe
class to receive Harvard degrees. It sounds quaint today, but she
was co-chair of the first class to hold a joint Harvard-Radcliffe
twenty-fifth reunion. After college graduation, she was
administrative head of the English Department at NYU until her
husband joined the Navy. Her old boss there, still living in NY, was
one of those to whom she never failed to deliver Christmas cookies.
While her husband was at Navy Supply School in Athens, GA, she was
famous as the pregnant Avon lady, frequently being asked on the
street when the baby was due. She devoted her life to the children
while they were in school. The kids enjoyed large Halloween and
birthday parties. From kids’ parties to college reunions to garden
club parties she enjoyed and was an expert at organizing them all.
The Town of Ipswich awarded her a plaque for service to the school;
she helped direct plays and musicals, as well as coaching teams.
She had a lifelong interest in singing and dancing. Participating in
and choreographing shows in high school and college. She
choreographed all the dances for the complete works of Gilbert and
Sullivan performed by the Ipswich Summer Theatre; her choreography
for Pirates of Penzance was called the most imaginative he’d seen by
one critic. Blessed with a fine voice, she enjoyed singing in church
and played the chanteuse in Harvard Business School’s first parody
show in 1974. She twice won the Ipswich town doubles tennis
After her children graduated from college, her interest in plants
and flowers led her to attend Landscape Design courses at the
Massachusetts Horticultural to become a landscape critic followed by
twelve years of study at the Radcliffe Institute to get certificates
in landscape design (1993) and landscape history (2000). She
started Garden Art, designing private gardens in New York, Vermont,
Massachusetts, New Jersey and Idaho. One of the small gardens she
designed in Boston appeared in a book featuring the best gardens in
America, and a large garden in Sun Valley, in which she did
extensive work, was featured in Rocky Mountain Gardening. She also
lectured on significant British, European and Japanese gardens
visited with her husband as photographer. Recent years were devoted
to designing and planting her own garden, transforming an ordinary
one into a thing of beauty.
Throughout her life, she was an animal lover, talking to every dog
she met on the street, and all the animals in the backyard,
including the woodchuck. She supported causes from mistreated
donkeys, to homeless tigers to the Audubon Society. For ten years,
she spent significant time caring for her parents at their apartment
in Ipswich. She was a 35-year member and three-time president of the
Ipswich Garden Club. Her mentor there was president of the National
Herb Society. She was also a member and president of the Sun Valley
Garden Club and a member of the Nucleus Club in Boston. She died
from complications arising from multiple myeloma, a disease she
fought for the last five years, always cheerfully and courageously.
In addition to her husband she is survived by a daughter, Nina P.
Mercer of Forest Hills, NY, a son, William S. Mercer of Needham,
four grandchildren and a sister, of Edwina Eddy of Ottawa, ON.
Her Memorial service will be held at 11 AM Wednesday, June 7 in the
Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County Street, Ipswich. Memorial
contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to Myeloma Research
Fund at Mass General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114.
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