In Memory

Mary O'Donnell (Fulkerson)

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07/31/20 12:48 PM #1    

Thomas Hamilton

I knew Mary at two different times in my life. First of course was at Cumberland and WFB. Since I was a music student I was most aware of her studying the violin and remember that she began her school lessons a year earlier than the rest of us.

I was not in contact with Mary for the next 20 years after high school. But in 1984 I attended our 20th reunion and read a letter from her that had been posted. I discovered that our professional and artistic territories had intersected at different points. Then after meeting a friend in common in 1986 I decided to write to her. We kept in touch infrequently for another 30 years. My career has remained mostly in experimental music and I’ve lived in New York for many years. I gradually met more people who knew her as a friend and colleague, and I came to learn what a remarkable contribution she had made to the world.

In 2008 I gave her a CD of one of my pieces and she used it as the score for her dance video, Arctic Fox. She presented it in a performance in New York, one of only 2 times I saw her in person in all those years. 

Today I found the last email exchange we had in 2014. Mary described at length the events surrounding her mother’s passing and seemed to be very much at peace with it. She wrote: “We’re of the ‘dying generation’ now.  Our parents and relatives are going or gone, and our lives are culminating in the harvest years.  It’s time for meaningfulness to be present in all that we do.”


07/31/20 01:25 PM #2    

Anne "Ahna" Cleveland

Thomas,  thank you for your comment regarding Mary. I wish I had known about your being in NYC during the years that I was there as well from 1968 until 1973. It would have been fun to connect and know more about your music. I had a dance studio there in SOHO on Crosby Street.

07/31/20 04:35 PM #3    

Sheri Cohen

I think I'm having an out of body experience.  Of course, I don't actually believe in that sort of thing, but I'll continue with my story anyway.  I did not know Mary O'Donnel well.  In fact, I have no clear memories of her in high school.  But about two days ago, I was thinking about my childhood and concluded my thoughts with one particular experience that involved Mary.  Perhaps this incident speaks volumes about her character.  Those who knew her better can be the judge.  Anyway, Cumberland had organized an ice skating race when we were about 12 years old.  It was mandatory and I had no way of avoiding it, even though I knew my ice skating skills were pretty poor.  Sure enough, I fell very shortly after the take-off.  The other skaters not only got far ahead of me, they actually passed me on their second round and I finished last, after only going once around the track. Just about everyone avoided eye contact with me after that fiasco.  After all, it was embarassing and humiliating for me and children are hardly equiped to handle such moments.  But I remember one girl who sought me out, put her arm around me in a maternal way, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said something comforting, although now the words escape me.  Then, a just few days ago, I asked myself, "who was that little girl who engaged in such a memorable act of kindness that I can recall it decades later"?  And the name came to me. "Mary O'Donnell!"  I can actually picture the way she looked at that age.  Clearly, Mary was a person who not only demonstated empathy and compassion at an early age, she had the remarkable maturity to act on those emotions when the rest of us were just sorting it out.  Not having thought of it, or Mary, for so many years, I am sorry to hear the news of her passing.  And I am sorry to have missed the opportunity to tell her this story.  





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