MITZI VALENTINE GOWARD, 87, of Panton, VT, passed away at home on Friday, March 10th surrounded by her wonderful caregivers. Born January 3, 1930 in Flushing, New York, she was the only child of Edward and Marguerite (Sanner) Valentine. She enjoyed the love of family especially her maternal grandparents who shared their home. As a child she was fascinated with sculpture and art in general and her mother instilled a love of music in her which lasted all her life. As a child she enjoyed needlework of all descriptions, making clothes and knitting, later making draperies, refinishing furniture and designing and hooking rugs for her home. Architecture was also in the forefront of interest and that manifested itself into building small buildings and finishing their basement in New York and then here in Vermont. Her varied interests included classes in the Japanese art of Bonsai at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and creating a number of examples of the art and also studying Chinese painting at the China Institute in New York. She studied oil painting for years with Frank L. Spradling and Edmund F. Ward, both well known artists and illustrators in their day.
Mitzi attended the Franklin School of Professional Arts studying interior architecture and design for three years and worked in that field in New York City. In 1956 she met and married Joseph Goward and while vacationing at Basin Harbor they found a piece of property they fell in love with and eventually purchased. Trips to Bar Harbor with hiking and exploring and skiing here in Vermont were some of their favorite vacations. But the challenge of building their own home took precedence. So she fulfilled a vision and accepted the challenge working as her own architect and working along with the builders to the final completion of their dream house.
Attention to the property led to landscaping and construction of a large patio with stones dug from surrounding pastures. Turning what was a rough pasture into a garden took quite a few years of energetic work; digging and planting birches around the pond and pines for a grove she had always wanted as a child. Her motto became “If you can’t afford to buy it, make it or do it yourself.”
The landscape work led to the beginning of “The Rock Garden,” a business begun in 1970 and expanded quickly with the sale of dwarf conifers and perennials. A small barn and two greenhouses were added and Mitzi continued this business until poor health put a stop to it at the age of 78. Some of her happiest times were spent with a crowbar and shovel searching thru tree lines and woods for rocks and boulders to add to the locations in five rock gardens scattered around the property. Moss and lichen covered rocks were especially treasured. She was a member for many years of the Vergennes Garden Club, Green Mountain Bonsai Society and the U.V.M. Horticulture Farm. Her love of nature extended to deep concern for animals as well. She was always surrounded by pets, especially dogs, and an occasional stray cat that came to stay as part of the family.
All thru life Mitzi continued to paint and exhibited in New York as well as here in Vermont. She was a member of the Southern Vermont Artists as well as the American Artists Professional League for many years, and a member and director of the Hudson Valley Art Association. She was also an enthusiastic baker and cook and she looked forward to giving cookies to family and friends as Christmas presents each year.
Mitzi’s interest in the community was fulfilled by becoming Panton Town Auditor in 1978 and a member of the zoning and planning board for many years. In 1982 she was instrumental in restoring the bronze plaque honoring Benedict Arnold taken from its original location at Arnold Bay. She contacted the “Sons of the American Revolution” who replaced it with its original stone to a new location overlooking Arnold Bay. It was rededicated in 1983.
There will be no viewing, with internment next to her husband in Lakeview Cemetery, Addison. In lieu of flowers, donations to Homeward Bound (Addison County Humane Society) would be appreciated.
Mitzi would want to thank her loving and attentive caregivers who became, in many cases, some of her best friends’ especially Kay Norris. They brought her food, books, shared stories and lightened her last years. She always looked forward to visits from an attentive dog/Harley. Special thanks also to Dr. Jean Andersson-Swayze.
Arrangements are being handled by Brown-McClay Funeral Homes of Vergennes. A graveside service will be celebrated in the spring, when the ground thaws.