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A Personal Recollection - Jean Lasher Gaede, February 9, 1925 - November 14, 2020

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

by Joan Clancy

Jean Lasher Gaede

Historical Society of Woodstock


Joan Clancy was close friends with the ultimate Woodstocker, Jean Lasher Gaede, who passed away in mid-November and had a long period of involvement as a researcher and writer exploring the Woodstock and Maverick art colonies. Jean and Joan met in the 1970s through Gary Hill, the artist and videographer, who has since gone on to establish an international reputation. Jean worked with Gary on an unfinished video called “Broken Madonna.” Tobe Carey more recently interviewed Jean about this project—see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k4mGX-ozsE.

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Jean was a storyteller, amateur historian, and an artist herself. She was the Margaret Mead of Woodstock—fascinated with the lifestyles and lores of the artists who flocked here in the early 1900s, looking for that utopian community. And she was enamored with the artists who arrived later at Woodstock to study in the mountains, at the Art Students League. Rather than meeting up with other children after school, Jean visited artists in their studios. Over the years she recorded audio interviews, mapped their residences, and documented an important history. Preserving this unique history of Woodstock’s artist community was Jean’s first passion.


She loved unconventional ideas, loved that eccentric and creative people could be integrated into Woodstock, a farming town. She was always exploring, researching and writing. Jean was fascinated by creativity, humanity, and the concept of communes, of people thriving together. She could talk non-stop about Byrdcliffe, Hervey White, and the Maverick festivals. She was opinionated and idealistic. She was infatuated with creative people, and was flirtatious with almost everyone. She was very much alive.


Jean had an appreciation for beauty, whether it was rustic or elegant. She had flair, style, was always well-dressed in capes and hats, and wore bright red lipstick. She loved to support the local shops and bought her wild and stylish shoes at Woodstock Design—and she never looked for a bargain. She had a great sense of humor and would laugh a lot. We really did laugh a lot.

Jean Lasher Gaede at Brochante International De Durtal, Durtal, France, 1990

Historical Society of Woodstock


Jean created beauty with everything she touched. She kept her fresh eggs in a beautiful bowl in the refrigerator. She decorated her house with pine boughs, candles, and tiny lights all year round. She used pink light bulbs to instill a warm glow. It made everyone look good. Jean kept an African woven basket by the door, filled with wool knitted shawls and big-thick warm socks for her visitors. These were well received during cold winters, especially when she lived in the barn at the corner of Rock City Road and Meads Mountain Road.

Jean Gaede, Cover of Woodstock Recollection by Recipe, 1966


She cooked delicious and beautifully presented meals, sometimes just from a baked potato. Her salads were color balanced often with red kidney beans. She was the best, most creative cook I knew. (Woodstock Recollection By Recipe was her first book, with proceeds donated to the March of Dimes, followed by Woodstock Gatherings; Apple Bites and Ashes, an amazing collection of stories and recipes from friends, representing all of Woodstock’s hamlets.)


Arriving at your house, Jean would present a beautiful basket, lined with linen, and something decorative from nature to accompany her delicious appetizers. She credited the artist Jane Jones for teaching her about food presentation. Jean boasted that as a teenager she was hired to assist Jane and and her artist husband Wendell Jones with their elegant house parties. But Jean learned as much about food and aesthetics from her own mother who, when funds were low, could create a scrumptious dinner from an apple pie. (Jean’s mother was a model and Gibson Girl. I imagine Jean observed a lot from that image of beauty, glamor, and manners.)


As many Catskills families did, Jean’s family took in boarders in that gorgeous farmhouse on Cooper Lake Road. They invited Jewish families as well, which was rare at that time.

There at Cooper Lake, is an historic plaque that mentions the tax uprisings. (Well, it was Jean's grandfather who was the tax collector at that time, for the wealthy Livingstons from across the Hudson. It was her grandfather who was tarred and feathered and almost died from the burns.)

Jean Lasher Gaede and Fritzi Striebel

Map of Hervey White’s Maverick Colony, 1905-1944


As a child she attended the early Maverick Festivals with her parents. Later she became one of Hervey White’s greatest fans; and she spoke to anyone who would listen about the gaiety, the first wild parties, the costumes, the picnics, the music and wine, insisting that we all know that the first real Woodstock music festival was held many years before 1969. She and her good friend Fritzi Striebel collaborated on their unpublished book, Woodstock; Festivals Mavericks, and Hervey White, which resides at the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz. Later, Jean created the “Maverick Notebooks,” which she donated to the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s archives for any researcher to access. Jean also donated valuable material to the Historical Society of Woodstock. To see material relating to the Jean Gaede and Fritzi Striebel Archive of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, go to https://www.newpaltz.edu/museum/exhibitions/maverick2007/. Jean also donated jewelry to the Woodstock Artists Association that she acquired by Gary Hill when he was living in the area.

Gary Hill (born 1951)

Untitled, 1969

Wire

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum,

Gift of Jean Lasher Gaede


John Flannagan was her favorite artist. She would exclaim, “But he was a drunk!" She was mesmerized by the Maverick horse he carved that now stands in the Maverick concert hall. And she was disappointed because Flannagan could have accomplished so much more.


I sometimes drove Jean around the Maverick. We trekked that sacred land as she refined her map, scouting and noting the location of each of Hervey White’s hand-built homes. (Jean and Fritzi Streibel created the map and Jean refined it.) I remember how giddy she was when we found a well pump signifying a certain dwelling. She was devoted to accuracy and preservation, and always driven to complete her projects. (She was not one-hundred percent certain if Isadora Duncan lived on the Maverick, but I believe there is a notation on the map.)


Jean had strong opinions and could be quite cantankerous. She was fierce about protecting her town and promoting the idealism of the Maverick community. She was always generous, never covetous and she wanted to leave a legacy of her research.

Jean Lasher Gaede

Historical Society of Woodstock


In her later years Jean continued to write poetry, and she became more philosophical. I can’t say I always knew what she was talking about, but it didn’t matter. She was a storyteller and she was happy to have anyone listen.


She loved Woodstock, the streets, the mountains and Cooper Lake. She loved her sons and her friends. I will always miss her sense of humor, her sense of design and beauty, but most of all her sparkly eyes and her laughter.


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I would like to thank Joan for her beautiful and valuable contribution, and Chet Gaede, Janine Fallon-Mower, JoAnn Margolis and Mikhail Horowitz for the additional assistance they provided.


Part 2 of the Blog on the Artist John W. Bentley will appear next week.




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