Patricia Ann Bashford 1929-2021
Patricia Ann Bashford ended her brave and spirited life in the early afternoon of November 22, after a brief illness. She was with her two sons in Belchertown, Massachusetts, where she lived since 2019. Pat leaves behind many who loved her dearly, including her younger son Ronald Dean Bashford of Belchertown, her elder son and his wife, Rob Carey Burt and Charya Burt of Windsor, California, her sister Mary Lousie (Marilu) Norden of Phoenix, Arizona, her sister-in-law Wendy Bashford of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, beloved nephews and nieces, and many friends, near and far. Pat was immensely proud of her boys and her daughter-in-law; she will always be their inspiration.
Pattie Young (as she was known by her sister), was born in Columbus, Ohio on June 23, 1929 to Carey McCune Young and Mary Josephine Young (née Kent). Her father Carey was a Presbyterian minister and Army Chaplain, and Pattie spent the Depression and War years moving with her family along the east coast from Swarthmore to Baltimore, New York City to coastal Rowayton, and Darien, Connecticut, where she graduated from high school in 1947. An abiding desire to travel and a deep love of the ocean stayed with her all of her life.
Pat loved theater, literature, and visual art, and filled her whole life with shows, movies, drawing and painting, novels, poetry, and her final passion, photography. She also innately believed in fairness, a credo that was the source of her tenacity, optimism, and generosity. Pat radiated these qualities in abundance.
Pat went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama and Literary Interpretation in 1951. She was active in the drama society, the school newspaper, and the yearbook, for which she drew lighthearted cartoons as Art Director. She was elected “Female Most Likely to Succeed” and pictured on the “Court of Beauties” yearbook pages. As president of her sorority, she advocated for the admission of its first African-American member. A lifelong college friend remembers,”Her gorgeous bright smile and happy life attitude was shared with everyone. Everybody was her friend. No other student compared. I silently asked, ‘Where did she come from?’”
Pat was fiercely independent, and became the first woman to be allowed to live in an off-campus apartment (with her new kitten, Derby). While living in Boston, Pat began a life-long theater-going habit. She was in the audience for the Boston tryout of A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy, and she liked to tell the story of how she and a college friend sat silently at a coffee shop for a very long time after the play. Later, Pat would expose her two boys to theater at a young age, and both ended up pursuing theater-related careers.
Pat studied abroad during her senior year, first at the American University of Beirut, and then at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She also traveled to Italy and Turkey with her parents. After college, she and her sister moved to Hollywood, California, where Pat worked as an actress, producer, and editor for an independent film company. She honed her narrative skills as the story editor for a children’s puppet movie company. Also while living in Los Angeles, Pat served residents of a low-income community as a social worker.
In 1956, Pat married the love of her life, Ralph Leroy Burt, a psychologist and Navy veteran of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Their son, Rob, was born in 1957. Following Ralph’s death in 1958, Pat struck out on her own, moving with her small child to Boulder, where she earned her Masters in Speech Communication at the University of Colorado in 1960. Her long career as an educator would eventually touch the lives of thousands of students. In the early years, Pat taught at Iowa State University, the University of Colorado, and Bridgewater State College (in Massachusetts).
Pat married Bernard (Bernie) Dean Bashford, an oboist and music teacher, in 1965, and her second son, Ron, was born in Boulder in 1966. Two years later, the family moved to Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, on the coast of the Atlantic. Pat fondly recalled her walks to the Ned’s Point Lighthouse with her littlest boy, where she could be with him by the sea.
In 1971, she landed a job that she loved at Graham Junior College in Boston, where she taught acting and television production until the school closed in 1979. Following appointments at Emerson College and Boston University, she worked until her retirement at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts, where she established the communications program. She loved teaching the students at Middlesex, because they came from different walks of life and from around the world.
For more than twenty-five years, Pat lived in Reading, Massachusetts. In her spare time, she was active as an actor, director, and lighting and set designer with the Quannapowitt Players, the Concord Players, and other area theater groups. She won the New England Theater Conference Best Actress award in 1987 for her performance in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth.
Bernie died in 1984 after a long illness, through which Pat persevered mightily as breadwinner, caregiver, and mother. A widow for the second time and with her second son grown, Pat was finally free to pursue her own interests fully.
At Middlesex, she taught courses in photography and film studies, and was awarded funding to study the international film industry. In 1991, Pat traveled to film festivals in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, China, and Hong Kong -- all in a single trip around the world. In Beijing, she was a guest of the China Film Association, where she interviewed directors, producers, cinematographers, and actors.
Pat traveled whenever she could, and took photos wherever she went. She also visited Russia, Greece, the Czech Republic, the U.K. (several times), and Thailand. She visited Cambodia to attend her son Rob’s wedding, and photographed the ancient temples there, including, of course, Angkor Wat. At the age of 88, she made her final trip abroad with her son Ron, to Montreal, where they went to the symphony and the theater.
Pat acquired her first camera as a teenager soon after World War II, a gift from her father that she owned all her life. Beginning in the 1990s, she styled herself as “Travels With Pat,” creating unique prints from her world travels. She worked in black and white silver prints and cibachrome, developing prints in her own darkrooms, and later used digital means to experiment with color and create composites. Her photography was featured in numerous juried shows throughout the North Shore region, and she had solo exhibits in college galleries and libraries. Eventually, she began selling her work to private collectors.
Pat fell in love with the nature preserve on Plum Island, and photographed there often. In 1997, she moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts to be near Plum Island and the sea. As a volunteer for the Newburyport Maritime Museum, she restored archived prints for exhibit. She also was a longtime member of the Newburyport Art Association, and displayed her work there many times, winning awards and serving as a judge for juried shows. More and more she turned her lens to nature, creating exhibits and mini-books of photography such as Courting Nature’s Bliss and The Life of Water, which she mounted as her last solo show in 2010 at the Audubon Society. For that exhibit (and book), Pat brought together photos of water that she had taken all over the world, from the Moldau River in Prague to the Neva in St. Petersburg to the Mekong in Cambodia to the Thames in London, as well as the Black Sea, the Pacific, and of course, her beloved Atlantic. She wrote:
Water sustains us, surrounds us, soothes us, feeds us and works small miracles with our emotions — calming us, thrilling us, frightening us. Yet as you watch the sun set over Maine's waters, or follow the reflections of pleasure and fishing boats in the many harbors and marinas on the North Shore of Massachusetts and California and around the world, you cannot fail to delight in water's complexities and beauty.
In 2014, Pat co-created a book of photography and poetry, Living Nature’s Moments, with poet Cristina Norcross. The book grew organically out of their friendship as they traded poems and photos. Cristina writes, “I became a better poet from seeing the world through her eyes and her extraordinary spirit.” Pat’s photos were always animated by her desire to capture vivid moments of spontaneous beauty. They were a reflection of the joy she always felt in seeing the world, while traveling, or even when simply touring the countryside or beholding the sea meeting the sky. Pat was always looking for what she could see next.
In Newburyport, Pat was a devoted member of the First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist, her “beloved community.” For more than twenty years she animated many book group and chalice circle discussions. She continued meeting with her church “care pod” group via Zoom after moving, and it meant so much to her.
Throughout her life, Pat closely befriended many women, who found in her a steadfast source of strength and joie de vivre, and an exemplar of wisdom, fair-mindedness, and independence. She forged these friendships wherever she lived, and more than a few were with former students. Most of her friendships lasted until the end of her life, stretching back fifty, sixty, and even seventy years in some cases. Her unforced enthusiasm for others was remarkable. So many of Pat’s friends will miss her nearly as much as her sons will. Even those who met or knew Pat only briefly were touched by her kindness, perception, and sparkle.
Pat loved many cats throughout the years! In addition to Derby, she fondly remembered Bootsie, April, Molly, Chas & Bunbury, and especially TeeTee, a gentle soul who was a true companion.
Pat spent the last two and a half years living with her son Ron in Belchertown, where she liked to read, play Scrabble, watch the birds, and go for long drives through the woods around the Swift River and the Quabbin. She often spoke of missing the ocean and her friends, though she kept in touch with them as much as she could. She spoke regularly with her much loved sister, “Mouweeze.” She regularly watched PBS News and Great Performances and British detective shows -- and a half-hour “funny” at the end of each day. In the last few months, she was especially fond of watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and As Time Goes By, starring Judi Dench. After all, Mary and Judi played smart, charismatic, caring, independently minded women much like Pat. And she always loved to laugh.
Pat’s remains will be scattered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of her beloved Plum Island.
A public memorial service is planned for June 26, 2022 at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, at the First Religious Society of Newburyport, Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, it was Pat’s wish that those wishing to honor her memory make donations to the First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist, 26 Pleasant St, Newburyport, MA 01950 (or at www.frsuu.org).
“Boardwalk With Angel” by Pat Bashford, taken on Plum Island, Massachusetts.