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Remembering Fanny, the Matriarch of our family of artists

Today we celebrate the birthday of the matriarch of our Family of artists, Fanny Y. Cory.

Fanny was born October 18, 1887, in Waukegan, IL. She endured many hardships growing up, including the death of her mother and beloved sister, Agnes, from tuberculosis. By her late teens and early twenties she had become one of the leading illustrators in New York City, a profession dominated by men.

She married a Montana cowboy, Fred Cooney. Fred and Fanny raised their three children on their 400 acre ranch next to Lake Sewell (Canyon Ferry Lake), close to Helena, Montana.

To put her three children through college, Fanny took up cartooning. Her daily strip “Sunnysayings”, published by King Features Syndicate in newspapers throughout America for 35 years, was beloved by young and old alike. Besides Sunnysayings, she also illustrated, and sometimes wrote, “Little Miss Muffet” which was King Syndicate’s answer to “Little Orphan Annie.”

You can learn more about her life as an illustrator and cartoonist here.

Fanny had an incredible imagination. She was also a wonderful gardener. Those two things came together in the imaginary world of fairies. During her years in Montana she began a series of watercolor paintings of fairies which after her death was published as the “Fairy Alphabet.” She considered her Fairy Alphabet her greatest artistic achievement. Fanny painted twenty six watercolors of fairies and wrote rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. These watercolors are now stored for preservation in the archive of the Montana museum of history. They are compiled today in her popular “Fairy Alphabet.” Because of copyright, we can’t show the original illustrations. But this “Dancing Daffodil” painting was not used in the series. It shows the soft watercolor and brilliant imagination Fanny had.

In 1952, Fanny moved from her 400 acre ranch near Helena, Montana, to a small cottage on Camano Island perched on a cliff overlooking Saratoga passage and the Olympic mountains to the west. She called the beach below “Montana Beach.” Her cottage was just across the road and down a long driveway from “Sea Crest Farm”, the farm on Camano where my mother, Ann, grew up.

Fanny welcomed her beloved grandchildren into her home, including my mom, Ann. She formed the “Grunt and Groan Art Club” where each member was encouraged to paint a painting every week, and they often painted together at her cottage.

Fanny continued to paint fairies into her 80’s. Even though her eyesight was failing and hand was a little shaky, they are charming.

Fanny also painted a little watercolor every day, a scene from her window, looking out over the water.

And every day into her 80’s Fanny did pushups and sit ups and read a chapter from the Bible. At night she kissed the picture of her beloved sister Agnes that sat on her dresser.

Fanny passed away on July 28th, 1972, at her daughter Sayre’s home in Stanwood, WA. But her creative gifts, her imagination, and her zest for life live on in her family of artists and creatives.

This October, Sunnyshore Studio is celebrating the life and legacy of Fanny Y. Cory by releasing the second season of “Fairy Sightings”. This short videos were shot at the home of Betty Dorotik, just a few hundred feet south of the cottage where Fanny lived. Here’s one of those videos from Season Two:

If you’d like to learn more about Fanny’s story you can check out this documentary I made in 2017.

My son, Julian and I, spent a couple days of vacation in Montana. Visiting the sights and shooting footage. His middle name is “Cory” named after his famous great-great-grandmother Fanny Y. Cory.

Sunnyshore Studio releases inspiring documentary

Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to announce the release of Fanny, the Artist who made America smile.

This full-length documentary tells the story of Fanny Y. Cory who rose from a life of poverty and struggle to become one of the leading American illustrators, cartoonists and artists in the 20th century. Fanny’s life was an incredible testimony to what can be done when you refuse to accept your limitations. She had the rare gift of bringing humor out of misfortune and joy out of the shadows.

Her captivating story is especially inspiring for women, young to old.

The documentary weaves old recordings of herself and her son Bob, her lovely illustrations, cartoons and artwork, and current video of her four grandchildren to provide a historic snapshot of the life and times of a leading American illustrator whose path takes her from Waukegan, IL to New York City, to Canyon Ferry, Montana and finally Camano Island, Washington.

Enjoy discovering Fanny: The Artist who made America Smile.


If you’re interested in reading more about Fanny Y. Cory you can publish the newly released biography by Toni McCarty here.

Purchase Queen of Montana Beach: the story of artist Fanny Y. Cory


Release Announcement of Queen of Montana Beach: the story of artist Fanny Y. Cory.

Sunnyshore Studio announces the release of Toni McCarty’s biography of artist Fanny Y. Cory, Queen of Montana Beach.

In this fast-paced, engaging, captivating biography you will discover Fanny Y. Cory, one of the top illustrators and cartoonists in the twentieth century. You will watch her overcome great sadness and bring smiles to people across America. There is something in this book for everyone! Artists will be inspired by her artistic career, motivated by the desire to provide for her family. History buffs will enjoy snapshots of New York City at the turn of the century, life on a ranch in Montana during the years of the Great Depression, and life on Camano Island in the 1950’s and 60’s. And people who love children will be delighted at a woman who captured them in all of their innocence and whimsy.

You can purchase a copy at our Studio or our online store:



On Fanny Y. Cory’s taste for fine clothes and hunting and turning in the manuscript two days early.

My great-grandmother made it big in New York City in her early twenties, even though her mother had died when she was ten, her formal education had ended in the eight grade, and she had to support her sister who had contracted tuberculosis (and at times her father as well).

In digging into her life I’ve been surprised by how regularly she was written about in the NY Times and other large newspapers. I’ve also noticed from her photographs that she enjoyed dressing nice. Even though she lived for fifty years on a ranch in Montana, with no indoor plumbing or running water, she carried herself with grace and elegance, and liked nice clothes as these pictures testify.

FYC, dressed in fur trimmed winter coat, hat, gloves

She also loved the wild, going on long camping trips, spending days fishing, and hunting too. I hear she was quite a shot. Here is a picture of Fanny Y. a hunting party at the ranch (she is second from the left).

Ted, FYC and unknowns, hunters

And here is a picture of Fanny with a deer she’s shot.


Toni 7

Her story is of a remarkable woman who overcame great odds, motivated by a a deep love for her family and a remarkable gift of art.

And I’m thrilled to share that I turned in the cover and content of her biography to the printer TWO DAYS ahead of schedule. The wonderful, fast-paced, engaging biography of Fanny Y. Cory will be released on Saturday, October 14th at Sunnyshore Studio.

Queen Cover - FINAL

The Story of “My Grandmother’s House” Video by Robert Dodgson


This Judy Collins song inspired me to make this video because she said perfectly how I felt about my grandmother’s house.

FYC looking at pet bird, ranch

My first video version of this was done in the early 1980’s using VHS tape editing but thirty years later the old video tape did not transfer well to the digital format. With Sunnyshore Studio’s publication of the new book “Queen Of Montana Beach” by Toni McCarty, I was encouraged to create a new digital revised version using the same great Judy Collins song.

My grandmother and grandfather, Fanny Y. Cory Cooney and Fred Cooney were known to their family as “Meetsy” and “Popsy”.

Meetsy and Popsie, F Y Cory and Fred Cooney

The video opens with Meetsy and Popsy greeting us as we arrived at their Montana ranch on Lake Sewell from our home which was then in Utah. The Cooney ranch had no running water or plumbing and the only electricity was from batteries and a little gas generator to charge them. However to us kids this was the best place on earth. From 1940 to about 1951, my Dad, Dr. Thomas Dodgson, took the old movies of our visits there with a hand-wound, spring-powered, Bell and Howell 8 mm movie camera.


You can see how much fun the lake was. There was also horseback riding, camping, shooting practice, story reading, story telling and cousins to play with. All the while that we kids were having the times of our lives, Meetsy still had to keep producing to deadline her weekly cartoon strips “Sonnysayings” and “Little Miss Muffett” for King Features Syndicate. She was a world famous cartoonist and illustrator but we knew her as a loving grandmother and the best storyteller ever with the most dynamic readings of classic books like Ivanhoe, David Copperfield and Tarzan.

Grandkids swim at lake Sewell, Robert, Bud, Margaret, Ted Cooney

Sadly, in 1952 that wonderful ranch was flooded to expand the Canyon Ferry Dam. All that was left of the ranch was Meetsy’s log studio, the old bunkhouse and the windmill that had been moved up to higher ground, and left standing like an abandoned sentinel on the hill, still bravely fighting the ravages of time.


The white picket gate at the head of the gravel driveway leads down through the evergreen trees to the summer house that Meetsy bought on Camano Island in 1947 and which she made her permanent home in 1952 after her ranch was flooded. This little 630 square foot cottage was on the bluff overlooking the Saratoga Passage. It was on 2-1/2 acres and included 100 front feet of private beach. Meetsy named her new home “Montana Beach” and it was there that she rebuilt her life and continued her cartooning until she retired at 79 years of age in 1956. On Camano, Meetsy continued having outdoor picnics and parties and enjoying the beaches and company of many new friends on the Island as well as old Montana friends who came to visit. I was raised across the street from Montana Beach on my parents’ farm. Meetsy was and still is the most inspirational person I have ever known.


This video provides a glimpse into my life during childhood with Meetsy and Popsy and visits at the ranch with my young parents and my siblings. It includes my Uncle Bob Cooney and his wife Carol and their kids. The video then transitions to Camano Island, WA, with Meetsy at her new home where she lived for another twenty years. After she died in 1972, my wife Sandy and I had the opportunity to buy Montana Beach, remodel the house and raise our two girls there where they interacted with their nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Bob and Carol Cooney and my Mom and my Dad, who were then the grandparent generation are shown visiting us, the young parents, at Montana Beach.

The circle of life goes on. Once a small child at my Grandmother’s house in Montana, today I am a 75-year old grandparent myself. Through the generations, all who entered Meetsy’s door were fed, entertained, inspired and enriched by their time spent at my grandmother’s house.

Introducing Toni McCarty and her book Queen of Montana Beach

Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to announce it’s next book project Queen of Montana Beach written by Toni McCarty. It tells the story of the matriarch of our family of artists, Fanny Y. Cory. It is scheduled to be released Saturday October 14th. The release of Queen of Montana Beach will correspond with a documentary on the life of Fanny Y. Cory and a Sunnyshore Studio art show of her illustrations, art and cartoons.

Toni has researched and written a very readable, very entertaining story. We caught up with her to get to know her better and to find out what inspired her to write Queen of Montana Beach: the story of Fanny Y. Cory. 

Sunnyshore Studio: Toni, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started in writing.

Toni: I live in Santa Barbara, California with my husband Seymour Weisberg and I have three grown children, Rhonda, Aaron and Phillip.

After studying teaching at Washington State University and the University of Washington, I dropped out of school and started my family. In the mid-seventies I returned to school, obtaining a degree in Filmstudies from University of California at Santa Barbara and later a law degree from Santa Barbara College of Law.

Most of the writing I’ve done has been for performance, from musical comedy to film scripts, even to puppet shows.  In fact, it was as a puppeteer for the City of Minneapolis that I gathered material for a book published by Delacorte Press in 1981, The Skull in the Snow, illustrated by Katherine Colville.  It was written as a folktale book with strong female heroines.  Now in Fanny Cory we have a real life heroine.

Sunnyshore Studio: How did you discover F.Y. Cory?

Toni: By luck I picked up Trina Robbins book The Great Women Cartoonists and there she was.  I was immediately fascinated with her story and intrigued with her art.  I went to the website hosted by Fanny’s grandson Robert Dodson to learn more. It was the beginning.

Sunnyshore Studio: What drew you to her story?

Toni: The quality of her art spoke to me and made me wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before.  Then when I learned of her tragedies as well as her triumphs, I thought her story should be told and that her art be shared with others.  Her vibrant personality and unfailing humor attracted me, as did  her vivid imagination and her undying perseverance. As a mother myself, I was amazed at all she accomplished while devotedly raising three children.

Toni 19 

Sunnyshore Studio: How would you describe F.Y. Cory?

Toni: Raised in poverty, Fanny Cory became a well-known illustrator in the early years of the twentieth century, appearing in the top magazines of the day, and illustrating the works of authors such as L .Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll.  She was one of the few women artists in her day to make it a man’s world.  Living  on an isolated ranch by a lake in Montana, she raised three children with her husband Fred Cooney.

When contracts began to fall off, and hard times hit the ranch, Fanny had to come up with something new.  Her efforts paid off; she became one of the first woman cartoonists, and continued to be syndicated until she retired at age  79.

Known to have a sunny disposition and an infectious laugh, Fanny did suffer from depression more than once. But her optimistic nature won out.  And although she devoted herself to her family above all else, she still kept her art alive.

 Sunnyshore Studio: Is there a message to your biography of F.Y. Cory? If so, what is it?

Toni: The message: Fanny Cory was an extraordinary artist and she deserves to be recognized.

Sunnyshore Studio: Tell us the history behind writing this story? When did you begin? How did you do the research? Etc.

Toni: As I researched her story, I got the idea it would make a good one-woman theatre piece.  I wrote to Bob Dodgson for permission and he kindly gave me the go-ahead.  But as I got deeper into it, it seemed that a book would b a better vehicle for displaying her art, and I changed my goal.

Though researching online brought more material, I knew the most important sources would be her family.   In 2006 I met Sayre Dodgson, Fanny’s daughter, and Fanny’s grandchildren, Margaret Day, Robert Dodgson, Ann Cory Dorsey and Buddy Dodgson in Sayre’s home in Stanwood, Washington.  After interviews with them, my husband and I traveled to Helena, Montana, to speak with Fanny’s son Bob Cooney and his wife Carol.  (I was extremely fortunate to meet both Sayre and Bob before they passed away.) While in Helena, I did research at the Montana Historical Society Museum and was  helped by Kirby Lambert to copy some of her correspondence.   The family also provided correspondence and access to her personal papers including notes for an autobiography, in addition to both audio and video recordings.  As I typed each chapter. I shared it with Fanny’s grandchildren for their comments which were very helpful and encouraging.

Sunnyshore Studio: How does it feel to have Queen of Montana Beach about to be published.

Toni: I feel gratified that Fanny Cory will be introduced to new fans.

F Y Cory

Queen of Montana Beach by Toni McCarty

Book release and signing on Saturday, October 14th at Sunnyshore Studio’s art show and documentary release that celebrates the life and cultural legacy of Fanny Y. Cory.

2803 S. E. Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA 98282

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