Marie St. John

Marie Landry Race St. John (94) died in hospital, Westerly, Rhode Island on July 27, 2021, following a brief illness.
The eldest of six children, Marie Annette Landry was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Dr. Benedict Bernard Landry, a prominent Hartford surgeon, and his wife, Margaret Landry, who came from a leading Boston clan. From an early age, Marie showed an affinity and passion for art and the architectural design and decoration of houses. During the design phase of the new family home to be built at Fem Hill in West Hartford when Marie was 12 years old, she followed and copied the architect’s drawings, imagining her future dream house.
Marie attended Beach Park School and Oxford School in West Hartford, and in 1948 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and major in Art from Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York. Her love of design and her evident artistic talents led to a 23-year career in interior design under her own banner, The Marie L. Race Company. Her portfolio included both commercial and residential projects.
Good friends played a role in Marie meeting both of her husbands. Introduced by mutual friends on a blind date, Marie and Frederick ‘Scot’ Henry Race III were wed in 1948 at The Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut and briefly lived in Sewickley, Pennsylvania before settling in West Hartford where Marie and Scot enjoyed 38 years of married life until Scot’s untimely death in 1986. Winters of ski weekends in Vermont and summers in Nantucket with their four children, as well as gatherings for dinner and dancing with their friends, filled a long and happy married life.
Some months after grieving Scot’s death, it was recommended to Marie by friends that she get a change of scene and travel to Florida to take in the sun, the social scene, and, of course, the tennis at Hobe Sound. Preceding her arrival, a friend sent a letter of introduction on Marie’s behalf to Seymour St. John, whose wife, Margaret, had died the previous year. That now famous letter inaugurated the romance between ‘Mazie’ and Seymour, culminating in their marriage at the Weekapaug Chapel in 1989. Over the 18 years of their marriage until Seymour’s death in 2006, Marie and Seymour participated in numerous events related to Choate Rosemary Hall, where Seymour served as headmaster for 26 years, as well as in the service of several land conservation non-profits. Marie and Seymour traveled widely, with trips to Bali, China, France, Germany, and Great Britain among their itineraries. After Seymour’s death, Marie intrepidly set out on travels of her own or with alumni trips organized by Yale University (Seymour’s alma mater).
In 1993, on land given to her by Seymour, Marie built the first of two houses that she would share with Seymour until his death. Working with a local architect, Marie was finally free to realize her dream of the perfect house. The landscaping featured her favorite blue hydrangea and boxwood and she kept a birdfeeder filled on the lawn for the lovely and vibrant birdlife that frequented her garden.

In 2011, at the age of 84, Marie paid a visit to her daughter and son-in-law in Nova Scotia, where she promptly fell in love with a circa-1790 Cape house which she purchased and lovingly restored. The Marriott’s Cove neighborhood, into which she settled for three months each year, provided her with a new community of friends to entertain with the stories of her life.
The overriding passion of Marie’s life was tennis. At the age of five, she began a long history of social and tournament play in the sport at The Hartford Gold Club, The Nantucket Yacht Club, The Weekapaug Tennis Club, and The Jupiter Island Club. In each place she made a bounty of friendships, with tennis as the common denominator. Consistent with her passion for the sport she most loved, she played a few sets with friends just weeks before she died.
An enthusiastic party-giver for whom significant birthdays were a cause for vibrant celebration, Marie arranged parties at the Jupiter Island Club, both for Seymour and for her own birthdays, events that usually included a jazz trio playing standards, with Marie taking the lead vocals, camping it up with her inimitable style and verve and, de rigeur, a feather boa. A phrase that encapsulates Marie’s approach to life and her love of meeting new people was given as an admonition to her children, coined at a daughter’s college graduation: “Mingle, don’t linger”.
Marie is survived by her son, Frederick Race (and Christe a Byrne) of Lighthouse Point, Florida; daughters, Margaret Race (and Paul Halley) of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and Marie Race (and Edward Kayfus) of Bakersfield, Vermont; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. A daughter, Laura Race Hasty, predeceased her mother in 1998. Marie’s remaining surviving sibling, her sister Marcia Landry Hagan, resides in Aubrey, Texas.
Marie also leaves a stepson, Gordon W. St. John (and Linda Scheibner) of Lavonia, Michigan.; a stepdaughter, Margaret St. John (and Rohn Eloul) of Tucson, Arizona; five step-grandchildren; and ten step-great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 31, 2021 at 2 p.m. at The Weekapaug Chapel, 106 Noyes Neck Road, Weekapaug, Rhode Island. A reception will follow the service in the garden behind the chapel. An additional event to celebrate Marie’s life is planned for late fall in Hobe Sound, Florida. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Weekapaug Foundation for Conservation or Blowing Rocks Preserve, a project of The Nature Conservancy

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