Mary Cheever, Longtime Ossining Resident, Dies at 95

Mary Cheever was feted at the Hudson Valley Writers Center. Source/Vimeo
Mary Cheever was feted at the Hudson Valley Writers Center. Source/Vimeo
Neighbors and friends reminisced about Mary Cheever, who was a local historian, artist, author and teacher as well as center of the famous literary Cheever family. She died Monday.

Cheever lived in Ossining for many years, staying in the Cedar Lane home she and her husband John bought in 1961 after living for a few years in Scarborough. 

She loved the house, gardening and working in the studio her husband had built for her. It was the only house they ever owned, said family friends Jane and Barrett Clark. 

Mrs. Cheever also loved the community where she taught for several years at Briarcliff College, writing "The Changing Landscape: A History of Briarcliff Manor" (1990)  in addition to her 1980 book, “The Need for Chocolate & Other Poems.” She gave talks at the Ossining Library and elsewhere about the buildings, people and stories she had discovered in her research.

Andrew Zeigler, who grew up next door to the Cheevers and played with Federico, their youngest, said he most remembers Cheevers' creativity.

At one of Federico's birthday parties, she had constructed an intricate web of ribbons all over the second floor of the old Colonial, he said. She assigned a color for each child, and starting at one end of the house, the kids each followed their colored ribbon all through the rooms, under beds, around furniture. At the end of each ribbon sat a special party gift for each. 

Ziegler said she never lost her spirit for fun and hospitality, even in her nineties. A year ago, when he moved back to Ossining, he visited her. She said to him, "it is so wonderful to have you back in Ossining, Andrew. I shall have to host a tea for you and your friends."  

She presided over the soup tureen at the Clark's Christmas Eve gatherings for years, Clark said, greeting and feeding everyone. 

Clark remembered years of caroling with the Cheevers and other friends, piled into a Volkswagen van and singing at every place they could think of, even the Croton train station.

She sat in front, John sat in back—a small sign of the complex relationship they had, which he sometimes chronicled in his books, letters and diaries. 

"She hung in there with him," Clark said. 

When the Ossining library dedicated the John Cheever Room in 2009, she spoke briefly, simply thanking everyone for the remembrance, Clark said. 

In addition to her son Federico, Mrs. Cheever is survived by son Benjamin and daughter Susan; seven grandchildren; and her brother, William Winternitz, according to the New York Times.

Christopher Cavanaugh April 11, 2014 at 01:56 PM
You do nice work Lanning.
Bill Cruse April 12, 2014 at 08:46 AM
Well written. A beautiful tribute.


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