Mary Lynn Rupe is with us now only in our hearts, our memories and in each of the works of art she created over the decades. She died at the Vermont Respite House in Williston, Vermont on Saturday, December 20, 2014, just as she had lived — with grace, beauty, fearlessness and no regrets. Just two weeks earlier, accompanied by friends and family in her room and on-line from venues all over the United States, from Central America and from Europe, Lynn celebrated her 63rd birthday with Chardonnay wine and a humming chorus of “Happy Birthday To You”.
Her's was an irrepressible spirit, someone with a one-of-a-kind mixture of humor and determination that expressed itself in so many ways. Lynn brazenly swam the width of Lake Champlain, played ice hockey for years, windsurfed, played raquetball and learned to roller blade. An accomplished painter, sculptor, glassblower and printmaker, she captured the world around her and gave it to us all. As a teacher, she melded her love of science, color and invention to assemble a world full of wonder and discovery. Lynn could do anything and had the ability to make you feel that you could, too. Each rich moment was a full accounting of history and brand new at the same time.
Bicycling was a special joy for Lynn, always bringing visitors to Burlington's bike path. When she could no longer manage a bicycle, she switched over to a motorized trike and became Queen of the Bikepath, never failing to garner comments like "Cool ride." She also loved to dance and, although her MS progressively interfered with it, she always found a way to move to the music, sometimes just holding on to a chair or a friend and swaying a bit. Lynn knew all the words to songs she loved, especially those coming out of Detroit's Motown. With an unbounded enthusiasm for learning, Lynn read Science News magazine weekly and often regaled one and all with the latest developments and discoveries. And she regularly e-mailed cartoons, jokes and humorous stories to a fluctuating distribution list, some more ribald than she thought the tender ears of her husband could bear.
Lynn traveled the world but her two favorite places were Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Vermont. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in forestry, her interest in the world and people led her to join the Peace Corps and was posted to The Philippines for two years. Subsequent travels took her to multiple countries in Southeast Asia, Europe, Central America, the Caribbean Sea, Canada and places far and wide in the United States — but she always called Vermont home.
It was her love for both mountains and water that brought her to Vermont. She enrolled in graduate school at the University of Vermont and earned an M.S. in Natural Resource Planning, which led to a job as Town Planner for Shelburne, Vermont for two years. She later earned an M.F.A. from Johnson State College and then, having obtained a teacher certification from the University of Wisconsin, went on to a career as a teacher.
Lynn’s art garnered awards from the National Endowments for the Arts, the Puffin Foundation and the Barbara Small Memorial Award and earned her fellowships at the Hambridge Center, Johnson State College and the Women’s Studio Workshop. Her art has been shown at scores of galleries and museums in Vermont and elsewhere throughout the United States and Canada. One of her larger paintings is on permanent display at the Burlington International Airport.
Lynn is survived by her husband, Graydon Wilson, a New Orleans boy who found immense love in Vermont, and by her sister, Jennifer Rupe Cromer, her brother-in-law, Bruce Cromer, her niece, Claire Fairley Moloney and husband Tim Moloney, and their children, Cecilia and Silas, by her “Uncle” Nancy Tharpe and her Aunt Ginny Pressley, her sisters-in-law, Nancy Reid and Pamela Bearce, her cousin, Clem Blakney, and by her guys, Laird Wilson and wife Ashlen Wilson and Timothy Wilson and partner Sarah Horvitz. Lynn is also survived by her posse, by the art community in Burlington and farther afield in Vermont, by the Northshore community in Burlington, by the hundreds of students whom she taught during her long career as a science teacher for the Burlington School District and as an art teacher in South Burlington and by the many, many people whom she knew — people whom she called friend and who called her friend.
Lynn Rupe survives; she lives on in all of us.
In accordance with her wishes, there will not be any funeral. Lynn wanted her ashes spread about in her beloved Vermont — especially in Burlington — and melded into the shoreline of Lake Superior. A remembrance gathering will be held at a later time, yet to be determined. For now, and for those who would like to take a moment and honor Lynn, she would have liked nothing more than for you to do something bold, fun and close to your heart.