Denise Claire Remy, 69, an accomplished artist and wonderful wife, mother and sister, died of cancer February 28 in the Hospice unit at Waldo County General Hospital.
She was born in Stamford, Connecticut, the fourth of seven children of Arthur and Marie Remy, and moved to Maine shortly after graduating from Stamford High School.
With her boyfriend Richard Norton and a group of fellow Connecticut escapees, they created a small but influential community on the flank of Patterson Hill, in Thorndike, making the Red House their home. The sunsets and distant views of Katahdin on clear days were attractions, as was the freedom of living close to the land according to ideals they developed as they grew.
An artist from a young age, Denise had designed T-shirts for the rock band Aerosmith, two of which she kept locked away in Maine. While Richard pursued photography as both a career and an art form, Denise painted finely detailed and boldly colored canvases that had a spiritual, even religious sensibility and also, frequently, an edge of humor. She was a co-founder, along with Richard and others, of the Artfellows Gallery in Belfast.
According to Alan Crichton, co-founder of Waterfall Arts and a long-time friend, “Denise always said she was 'untrained' as an artist, but though she never went through art school, she trained herself through her passion for making art of all kinds - heartfelt, fun, joyfully tossed off, as well as carefully observed, creatively composed and lovingly painted. She loved the discipline and plain pleasure of making, and she showed her work with quiet pride and a satisfied quick smile. She had lots to say about her process, thoughts, technique, and she'd share it all with appreciative viewers.”
In 1975 Richard and Denise were married in anticipation of the arrival of their daughter, Carla, who joined them in July of 1976. Richard was a studio photographer taking portraits of Maine high school students until he was hired by the Republican Journal in 1978. Denise worked as a clerk at several downtown Belfast businesses, including the Grasshopper Shop and the Green Store and as a framer at Belfast Framer. She was also a production specialist at the Waldo Independent.
The young family moved to a newly-built home in Bayside in 1976 and later to a house on Harbor Street in Belfast, close to Richard's work for local papers. For the next 13 years he was known as the Camera Man to a generation of county youngsters.
He died in 1988 from a sudden heart condition, devastating his young family. Denise and Carla moved up the hill to a smaller home on Franklin Street, where Carla could walk to school. Denise maintained close relationships with the Midcoast art scene and continued painting. Her work was intensely personal, her subjects often looking right at the viewer. She had exhibits at the Artfellows, Frick and Caldbeck galleries that were well-received.
Love once more entered Denise's life in 2000 when she began dating Walter Griffin, a reporter who covered Waldo County for the Bangor Daily News. They hit it off and lived together on Franklin Street until his death in 2018.
Her sister Janet said Denise was an artist not only as a painter but in the way she lived her life. She was deeply concerned about the environment and wasted nothing. She knew what she liked and what she didn't and surrounded herself with what she liked. She was direct and complex and always open to laughter.
Denise is survived by her daughter Carla, three younger siblings, Alice Remy, Janet Snedeker and Robert Remy, and many friends, including Micaela Grass who was with her at the end.
A remembrance of her life will be held once the weather warms and the pandemic departs.
Memories and condolences may be shared at www.ripostafh.com.