Ann Richardson Stokes, 85, died at her home in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, on November 20, 2016.
Ann was born in Moorestown, New Jersey, on June 9, 1931, the daughter of Dr. S. Emlen and Lydia (Babbott) Stokes. A lifelong Quaker, she grew up in Moorestown Friends Meeting, N.J., where she graduated from Moorestown Friends School and then attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. She had great affection and loyalty to Moorestown Friends School and later served as a trustee of Goddard.
In 1959, she acquired land and built a home on Welcome Hill in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, where her life and outreach centered for the remainder of her life. Ann and some of her women friends designed and built the first studio for women artists on her property – creating Welcome Hill Studios. The story of its creation was told in her book A Studio of One’s Own (1985). She found many ways to support performing and visual artists. Many friends remember listening to a performance by Odetta at her sixtieth birthday party. She acquired nearby land and preserved it for public use. A hiking trail through the land is named for Ann. The natural beauty of her surroundings in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the Adirondack retreat where she had spent time with her family since childhood, always inspired her.
Ann transferred her membership in the 1970s to Putney, Vermont, Friends Meeting. She supported Putney Friends Meeting generously as it built its meeting house, and was instrumental in helping to add more space and benches to the meeting house years later as the Meeting grew. Ann’s profound interest in the spiritual life of others encouraged us to share our spiritual journeys as part of the Adult First Day School. Ann also was instrumental in starting a second, early, Meeting for Worship that thrives to this day.
Ann lived her values and spoke her mind plainly. She was active in many political, environmental and social movements, serving as an important mentor to numbers of young activists. Ann’s profound interest in others brought expression of her values to the Meeting. She was a major influence on Putney Friends in the discernment of approval of same sex marriages under the care of the Meeting. She recalled with pride being arrested and briefly imprisoned with other Quakers in connection with a protest at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire in 1977. Her letters to newspapers, always handwritten, were pointed and often poetic in their impact. In these and other writings, she demonstrated a clarity of vision and expression.
Ann could be a very private person and could also live large. She proclaimed her lesbian identity with power, joy, pride, and grace. She was a generous and outspoken supporter of many feminist and LGBTQ causes. She was a hit in a 2006 production at Sandglass Theater in Putney, Vermont, entitled “Gay and Grey,” featuring the reminiscences of older gay men and lesbians.
It can be said that Ann saw the Creator in creation, both in the act of creating her paintings, poetry, and prose writing, and in the natural world and its inhabitants that she was surrounded by in her mountaintop home.
She was predeceased by her brother Samuel E. Stokes and by sisters Sally Venables and Lydia Willits. She is survived by two nephews and two nieces.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, May 20, 2017, at 10:30 a.m., at The Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont. Donations in her memory may be made to Welcome Hill Studios, Box 84, West Chesterfield, New Hampshire.