Marion Richards Wise


Marion Richards Wise of Sorrento died peacefully at home on Sept. 11 at the age of 98. She was born in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1919, the daughter of John Augustus Richards and Marion Hill Richards. Marion grew up in Minneapolis and in Toronto, Ontario, where her father managed Canadian operations for Retail Credit Co., now Equifax. She graduated from Havergal College, a Church of England preparatory school for girls in Toronto, and received a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass., in 1941. Indicative of her lifelong love of education, she later received a certificate in landscape design from Radcliffe Seminars in Cambridge, Mass., and studied art history, English literature and Canadian history and culture as a graduate student at the University of Maine-Orono, as well as poetry at the College of the Atlantic.

While an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke, she met William M. Wise Jr., a senior at Amherst College. The attraction was instant; their romance blossomed. She and Bill were married at her parents’ home in Toronto in August 1941. They spent part of their honeymoon in the Katahdin area and at Petit Manan — for Marion the beginning of a deep affection for Maine, its mountains, coast and people that lasted for the rest of her life.

After their wedding, Bill and Marion settled in Cambridge, Mass. In 1943, Bill was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy and soon left for the Pacific War; Marion returned to Toronto. Their son, Bill III, was born while Bill Jr. was at sea. After World War II, Bill and Marion lived in Hingham, Mass., Chatham, N.J., and again in Hingham. Two daughters, Sally and Ellen, joined the family. They all spent part of almost every summer in Maine. Bill and Marion moved full time to Sorrento in 1976 after Bill retired from the Travelers Insurance Co. in Boston.

Marion was an extraordinary mother of three children. She was also quite attuned to the changing role of women in American society. She began working in the Art Department of Wheaton College, Norton, Mass., in the mid-1960s where she also taught art history. Subsequently Marion fashioned a career lecturing on the relationship between art history and landscape design. She traveled throughout New England and as far south as Richmond, Va., giving talks to garden clubs, civic and other groups in which she presented visual comparisons of landscape paintings to actual landscapes. Many visitors to Sorrento enjoyed her beautiful gardens at “Windfall.” Marion’s interests were limitless and she pursued them with skill, grace and style.

Marion is survived by her husband, son William M. Wise III and wife, Ronna Freiberg, of Washington, D.C., daughter Sally Wise of Sorrento and daughter Ellen Sivon and husband, James Sivon, of Bethesda, Md., grandson John Wise and wife, Maryanne Wise, of Fairfax, Va., grandson James Wise and Sara Bauleke of Arlington, Va., granddaughter Marguerite Allen and husband, Greg Allen, of Brooklyn, N.Y., granddaughter Julia Murillo and husband, Christian Murillo, of Washington, D.C., and great-grandchildren Caroline and William Wise of Fairfax, Va.

Burial was at Doane’s Point Cemetery in Sorrento on Sept. 17. A memorial service will be held at the Church of the Redeemer, Sorrento, in August 2019. Contributions in Marion’s memory may be made to the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Lower Lake Rd., South Hadley, MA 01075.

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