The marriage of Betty Jo Ann Paxton to Frank William Slate, was, surely, the climax of the summer of 2001. The ceremony took place on Saturday, August 25th at the island home of the bride. Betty is the daughter of Catherine Paxton.
Frances Garnsey, her step-father escorted her down the lovely winding path to the altar at the river. They were accompanied by Eileen Slate, Betty’s maid of honor, and Jada Lashomb, her bridesmaid. As they wound down the slope Janna Karpel strewed flowers on their way, and Emma Paxton’s little legs kept up with Janna as Emmy dropped handfuls of flowers from her basket too. Little Matthew Karpel carried the ring on a pillow.
At the altar, which was decorated by Emmie Sorth and Kay Duncan with a cross of deep red chrysanthemums, and bouquets of white, red, and blue flowers, the procession was awaited by Betty’s husband-to-be, Frank Slate. Harry Slate, Frank’s best man, and Jeremy Slate, his cousin, stood with Frank, the blue of their blazers looking very spiffy against the blue of the river. The Reverend Richard A. Petry, minister of the Grindstone Island Methodist Church, and the Reverend John H. Marks, the organist at the church, and Professor emeritus at Princeton University, performed the ceremony--
Performed the ceremony to the great joy of a great cloud of witnesses, some sitting on bales of hay positioned like pews on the wide, green lawn in front of the altar, some sitting in folding chairs in the shade of a tree, some sitting in the shade of tents where they would later eat a magnificent dinner, and some way back by the tent that shaded the band that played the processional. The Depauville Firemen prepared their famous chicken. The salads, and vegetables that filled each plate were prepared in Kitty’s own Paxton kitchen, where Hazel Burlew, Kitty’s cousin, was on hand to help, or in the kitchens of many of the friends-of-the-family on the island. Brenda Slate, who is talented with frosting, made and decorated the elegant cake the day before the wedding.
There were impromptu dance performances, there was some Ennis family singing, with Alvin Taylor lending his bass voice to the group, there were groups having picnics on huge rocks looking out to the islands along the north shore of Grindstone, and every single one in the crowd, marveled at the beautiful weather the wedded pair was blessed with. Who could ask for a more beautiful blue than a northeast wind can bring! It was a wonderful event, and more wonderful because everyone wishes both Betty and Frank so much happiness.
Last winter when Kitty called me to ask if August 12th was a good day for a pot luck lunch in the church carriage house to celebrate the fiftieth anniversaries of both Andy and Beverly Davison and John and I, I thought, “How will Kitty have time to even think about that? The wedding will be only a couple of weeks off by then. ” But yesterday, I realized it was part of Kitty’s perfect pitch, part of her thinking of the whole. In this summer’s excitement of her daughter’s new marriage, she must have wanted to think also about the everyday grace of fifty years of marriage. Kitty’s and Salt’s sensitivity to the island’s intricate relationships was evident through the whole afternoon’s festivities. And Betty and Frank were just as sensitive as they mingled with their friends, making everyone feel special.
Watching Josephine Murray’s radiant pleasure in all of the activities of the week was another of the graces that were woven into the pleasures of this Grindstone week. Her care-givers’ tenderness with her, and their attentiveness gave us confidence in the wisdom of her being here this summer on the island she loves so much. And their enjoyment of all the activities gave Josephine the encouragement she, I’m sure, needed to enjoy every minute of the island’s respite and activity and fun. Urch and Harry moved out of their new home, and into Erma’s house, so Josephine and her aides could live in the “farmhouse” she owns there just past Erma’s place. And Erma was right next door, the years of her neighborliness snowballing roundly with support to the nurses and companionship to her friend.
But would you believe it, after such a party, when we went up to the hall about nine o’clock in the evening, there was a crowd of many of the same young people who had been reveling all afternoon, and Debby Donaldson was, again, dancing, this time with Brenda, to the music of River Shack. Buster Faust and Carol were happily cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and the dancers took turns eating them hungrily!
Next Saturday night, by the way, Dodge Hall will sponsor its annual benefit dance, with John Morrow, as disk jockey for the evening. It will be the last dance of the season. We have just said “au revoir” to Jeanne and Norvin Hein, and watched them go off across the water toward home in southern Connecticut, until next year. It is always a sad time of year as good byes are said over and over and over, as we leave the island in the good care of Erma and Brenda and Clara, and Frank and Betty and Jay and Harry and the Browns and all the rest of the staunch winter residents for the cold part of the year that demands their toughness, in the good care of the ones who call Grindstone “Home”.
While some of us were at the rehearsal dinner, many others were at an open informational forum at Dodge Memorial Hall on Thursday night to discuss three bills that are in the federal legislature right now. They recommend that the Army Corps of Engineers do some dredging and blasting to widen and deepen the St. Lawrence navigation channel, and that the Sea Way be privatized, with a private group assigned to operate it. Stephanie Weiss from Save the River was the key speaker, and other knowledgeable members of the Save the River Group and the Grindstone Island Research and Heritage Center were with her. If we want to keep the river as it is, we should get in touch with Save the River, and find out what we can do to protect our riparian rights, to prevent winter navigation, and to safeguard the Great Lakes, one of the world’s most valuable pools of fresh water.
On Friday, August 24th, the schoolhouse was the scene of an exhibit by Greg Lago of many of his woodcuts. He has done a unique collection of scenes in island life. Some have a bit of satire wound into them, some have a bit of pathos. All of them reflect the rhythms of the river’s unpredictable moods, giving them the intense cohesion and the rough beauty of the simple life we live here. The schoolhouse proved to be a good place for such an exhibit. Greg, always having a good sense of where he is, used the school desks for his exhibit space. That meant we had a chance to examine his work and his metaphors in leisure and up close.
The morning church service is always a kind of celebration. We all come delighted to be together even though we’ve just been with each other earlier in the week. This week Mary Petry urged the children to think about the strength of water, how it can drip a hole in rock, save a thirsty man from death, wash our hands clean, and signify in baptism the love God has for each of his children. Debbie Donaldson and her daughter, Jacey danced together, their rhythm explicating God’s gracious love for us. Jacey’s smile just would not be put away in hiding. And Carol Davison could not hide a smile when her baby boy, who was in the care of grandmother while mother Carol sang with the choir, began to “talk” with a lilting gurgle. Jeff Kime passed the collection plate with his Uncle Bill Streets, and he, too, couldn’t hide his smile. Nor could we, throughout the whole hour that The Reverend Petry led us to look for our hearts.
We enjoyed, for one thing, the three pulpit chairs, now reupholstered in red velvet, that was given by Margaret Taylor and put on by Dick and Mary Petry, a work of love. They, in turn, thanked Chris Williams for lending his compressor so they could do a good, tight job of tacking the velvet, and Amy Stail of the Mom and I Upholstery Shop for making the kneeling cushions. Bob Meacham and Sylvia Anderson Shoultes are making a kneeling bench for the cushions to rest on, and for tired knees to kneel on when the church celebrates Holy Communion. Every task becomes a community task. We always have some energetic, generous, imaginative people to thank.
At a church meeting after the morning service, the trustees were authorized to continue the study and planning for the facilities used for Christian education, dinners, and other fellowship activities of the Grindstone Island Church.
Jeff Marra reminds islanders that membership dues for Dodge Hall Community Center should be paid soon for this year. If you have any questions, contact one of the members of the executive committee. Renewal now would also be much appreciated.
Next Sunday, September 2, Remember our Squatters’ Picnic down the road to the Marra’s after our final summer worship service. We will gather, as we do each year, around the big tree in front of the church door to sing and say our farewells before lunch.
If anyone has gifts to add to the Liz Brown Whitten basket, call Dick or Mary Petry and they will see that yours are sent too. (686-3113) Liz, we all say “Hello’ to you every day, in our hearts.
Next year’s Harold Herrick Skiff Race will be held, probably again at Midriver, on August 10th. It would be great if some undiscovered skiff lover got an old neglected sailing skiff out of the boathouse, and had it ready to sail in the race next summer.
And one last note: Katie Carlisle’s grey cat named Stoney (for Grindstone Island) has been missing for over a week. Katie is heartbroken. If anyone finds him, please call Katie, at 686-4075!
So it is, Aminta Marks