We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Cohasset
Mary Cumner Hartshorne, 93, of Cohasset, MA died peacefully at home, beside her beautiful garden on July 24, 2021. She was born on May 20, 1928 in Brookline, MA, the daughter of Prescott Thayer Cumner and Ruth Smith Cumner.
Mary is survived by her daughter, Ellen Hartshorne Whitney and husband, Tim Whitney and by her son, Prescott Cumner Hartshorne and his wife Nancy Hartshorne, and also by grandchildren John and Peter Hartshorne and Anna Hartshorne Whitney — all of Concord, MA.
Mary spent her childhood years on Forest Avenue in Cohasset, MA, in a house next to her grandmother’s. There she played in the large ﬂower and vegetable gardens on both properties, learning from gardener Charlie, chasing her Scottie dog Maggie, and biking around town.
She attended Milton Academy during WWII, living in a Milton apartment with her parents so she could continue to attend despite gas rationing. Later she boarded at the Madiera School in McLean, VA where she was head of student government, and made many lifelong friends.
After attending Briarcliﬀ Junior College in Briarcliﬀ, NY as an art major, she apprenticed with Boston interior designer Dorothy Jackson. She then moved to New York City, where she worked as assistant to Albert Hadley at the interior design ﬁrm McMillen, Inc. and later with Hugh Turner Antiques.
It was in New York City that she met John Fritz Hartshorne, and enjoyed a lengthy courtship with ski trips, sailing, and rustic adventures at the family beach shack in Barnegat, New Jersey, and family Island on Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Quite a change for a city girl! But she embraced the outdoor life, and came to love the Island as only a convert can, spending every August on that unique paradise with no running water or electricity, religiously skinny dipping before a breakfast of oatmeal on the east porch.
When Ellen and Prescott reached school age, the family moved to Bronxville, NY where Mary volunteered weekly in the exam rooms of the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic, and served on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Westchester, and for years, organized their annual antique auction fundraiser. In those busy years, she attended soccer games too numerous to count, and baked each and every loaf of family bread.
After 22 years in Bronxville, Mary and John retired to Cohasset, MA, for the ﬁnal robust chapter of their lives. Here, Mary was president of the Cohasset Garden Club and of the Cohasset Historical Society, and on the board of directors of Cohasset Central Cemetery. In addition, she was a recognized horticulturalist and ﬂower arranger, winning numerous blue ribbons and participating in the Museum of Fine Art’s Art in Bloom.
Mary embraced her former community wholeheartedly, but her greatest joys were on the gem of a spot on the Gulf River, which she and John tended lovingly indoors and out. Her garden was both beautiful and productive, including peaches, Concord grapes, pears, blueberries, the plumpest tomatoes, sorrel for sorrel soup, and apples enough for an annual freezer full of applesauce.
Three seasons of the year, most meals were taken outdoors: on the terrace, under the maple or down on the ﬂoat. Mary embraced the outdoors, launching herself into the Gulf River on hot days right oﬀ the ﬂoat — but she also relished the beauty and joy of indoor pursuits: visits and lectures at the MFA, helping friends decorate their houses, and generally savoring all of the domestic arts along with John. Mary’s eye was keen to the end, and one of the things she enjoyed most in life was discerning the right color or texture or fabric, ﬁnding or creating beauty in everything she touched.