As a girl, when I didn’t know what to do or where to go to find peace, I would go sit on the sand cliffs and look out over the great waters of Puget Sound. The music of the waters lapping at the shore would quiet my heart. When I close my eyes, I can still see across the waters to the distant shore and forested peaks of Whidbey Island rising up to the sky.
Can you guess where I was? I was at Montana Beach, your home. My parents Robert and Sandy moved there from their Seattle houseboat on Lake Union a year after you passed away. My sister Heather, who you held as a baby, was two years old then. As I was born in 1974, you and I never met.
Yet, throughout my life, I’ve heard stories of you from Grandma Sayre (your daughter) and my parents. As long as I can remember, I’ve always known you were my great grandma. Just recently I heard the lilt of your voice for the first time. It was on a voice recording Dad had made. You were telling stories about your early years in Montana as a girl and time in New York City. I feel like I know you now, so I wanted to write to tell you a little bit about me, my favorite memories from Montana Beach, and your legacy in my family.
In 1976, Mom and Dad formed a corporation called F. Y. Cory Publishers to preserve your Fairy Alphabet watercolors as a set and endeavor to publish them as a book. Grandma Sayre and Uncle Bob (your son) also joined the corporation with their spouses Tom and Carol.
When I was around three years old, we invited all of our local dearies to Montana Beach and took pictures. We got a great portrait of Grandma Sayre and Grandpa Tom. Family photos were taken for each of their kids (your grandkids): Margaret, Bud, Dad, and Ann. There was even a photograph taken of all sixteen of us grandkids (your great grandchildren) on the steps of the cottage. Looking back on it now, I realize this took place around 1977, one hundred years after you were born in Waukegan, Illinois.
Over the years, F. Y. Cory Publishers had cards and prints made from your Fairy Alphabet paintings which adorned the walls of our cottage and filled my young heart with wonder. I always thought “B” for Baby looked like me trying to put on my socks. Since I was five years old, my favorite has been “L” for Lullaby. As you wrote in the accompanying rhyme, “L is for Lullaby the robin sings, while the old gray spider the hammock swings.”
During Summer, I would spend as much time as possible down at the beach with my parents, sister, or cousin April. It reminds me of the rhyme you wrote for “N” of your Fairy Alphabet. “N is for Nymph, who lives by the sea, where the waves go ‘boom’ and the gulls go ‘skee.’” I remember sunning myself in the sandy slopes and then racing to cool off in the icy waters.
On rare and most treasured occasions, Dad set up his Marx electric train set on the cottage living room floor. He would tell how you gave it to him and Bud for Christmas when they were boys. I would watch with amazement at the working front light and how it sparked as it went flying around the metal track. He even showed me how to work the transformer to make the train go forward and backwards.
In our family, there is a most famous tree that stands tall as a legend. In your seventies, fresh from your ranch life in Montana, you decided a particular tree on your Camano Island property needed to be cut down. So, you set your ax at the base of the tree. Each time you walked by the tree to your garage or back to your cottage, you took a single swing at the tree trunk. Eventually, you felled the tree. I remember this story from time to time when there is a daunting task before me and smile.
Great Grandma, you and I were born almost 100 years apart and forty-three years have passed since my birth. So much has happened. In 1986, my family moved from Montana Beach to a home in Bothell, Washington where my parents still happily reside. F. Y. Cory Publishers successfully published your Fairy Alphabet book in 1991 and again in 2011. What a labor of love it has been for my parents to preserve and share your artwork with the world for these past 41 years.
Lord Jesus gave me a strong and kind husband named John in 2008, just over nine years ago now. We have a seven-year-old son named Johnny who knows you are his great great grandma. He also very much enjoys that Marx electric train set on the rare and treasured occasions we have played with it.
I miss you.
Written by Megan Dodgson Weidler for her Great Grandma Fanny “Meetsy” Cory Cooney
What a lovely story! You wrote it so well.