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Shelter Island Reporter obituaries: Allen, Johnson

Mary Elizabeth Holt Allen

Mary Elizabeth Holt Allen passed away in early September, 2021 at her home on Shelter Island. Born on September 26, 1939 in Ottawa, Canada, she was the fourth out of five children and only daughter born to Percival D. Holt and Gertrude Eugenie Holt (Moloney). She attended St. Theresa’s Primary School and Notre Dame Convent High School in Ottawa before attending St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, from which she graduated in 1961 with a degree in English.

Immediately upon graduating from university, Mary set off to fulfill her dream of moving to New York City which she did, bringing a small suitcase and her empty guitar case filled with clothing. She took up residence in a women’s hotel and within two days, found a job working as the assistant to a radio producer and met her future husband, Robert J. Allen (Bob), a television producer, who worked in the same building. They were married in Ottawa on June 2, 1962.

Mary and Bob lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where Mary started out caring for their daughters, Barrie and Jennifer, full-time. Eager to go back to school and focus on a career path, she channeled her passion for literature into a career as a librarian, earning a Master’s in Library Science from Columbia University and then becoming the Prep School Librarian at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in 1970.  Mary’s career at CGPS was long and rich and expanded well beyond her library’s walls. Over a fifty-year career there, she served as a student club advisor, occasional Canadian Lit teacher, trip chaperone, seamstress and cast member in multiple musicals, acting and singing, and dug in, literally, to building projects such as constructing the senior lounge and creating a school garden.  Mary made valued life-long friends at CGPS and served as guide and mentor to numerous students. Her library was a safe space in which she broadened the intellectual horizons of her students and comforted and supported them when they needed it, always with compassion and a sense of humor.  The love and admiration felt for her by colleagues and former students was conveyed in kind and supportive messages upon her retirement in 2020 and in those her family has received since she passed away.

Mary was a true intellectual and her passion for books expanded beyond reading; she authored a novel entitled Clairvoyant in 2004. Passionate about the Arts, she could often be found at the Met and MOMA. She loved the theater, PBS, British TV, movies and especially opera, subscribing to the Met with a friend, annually. Avid travelers, Mary and Bob enjoyed trips to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  She was an adventurous eater; no food was too exotic or too spicy for her to try.  A dual citizen, Mary loved New York and the United States but never lost her love for Canada and its beauty and values and visited as often as she could.

Bob had visited Shelter Island as a teenager and was reintroduced to it in the 1960’s through a friend at work. Mary and Bob rented a cottage on Burns Road in 1970 and eventually built a house in the Heights where they summered for fifty years. Mary felt strongly about the environment and was a supporter of the Nature Conservancy; she loved Mashomack, long walks, and reading on her deck surrounded by the woods and watching the sunset on the water.  She was a regular visitor to and strong supporter of the Shelter Island Library, most frequently visiting the fiction section. Mary enjoyed raising her children and then her grandchildren on the island, going to yard sales, eating at island restaurants, going first to Hay Beach and later to Crescent and the Heights Beach Club for family time and swimming lessons, taking the ARTSI and house tours and bringing her grandchildren to concerts at the Perlman Music Program.   Monday Burger Night at the Islander with friends was a particular favorite activity in recent years.

Mary’s greatest love was her family and she most valued spending time with them, going for long walks, playing, hosting cookouts, going to museums and shows or just talking. Her “grandma hugs” were the best and will be particularly missed. She was also committed to supporting philanthropic and human rights causes. The list of humanitarian organizations to which she donated was extensive but above all was her devotion to Women in Black, a group of women who stand weekly in front of the New York Public Library to silently protest war. Mary’s involvement spanned over twenty years and only severe weather or illness kept her and her fellow members from holding their “Women in Black Against War ” banner high every Wednesday. That weekly protest was almost the only time Mary was seen in any color other than her signature red.

Full of energy and a lover of life, Mary’s mind was a sponge and she never stopped her pursuit of knowledge. Predeceased by her parents, her husband Bob in 2016, her three older brothers Ron, Barry and David Holt and her sisters-in-law Pat Holt and Pat Allen, she is survived by her brother Richard and his wife Sharon, her sisters-in-law Mary Holt, Julie Foster, Mary Bock, Peg Murphy and Arden Allen, her brothers-in-law John Bock, Bill Allen and Ray Murphy and many nieces and nephews who admired her intelligence, wit, beauty and elegance.  Her daughters, Barrie and Jennifer (Peter) and grandchildren, Nathan Wilson and Sarah, Phoebe and Leah Allen-Cheng, as well as her many friends, extended family and former students, will miss her and will always think of her and her love for them, New York City and Shelter Island with a smile. Spring celebrations of her life are planned for both New York City and Shelter Island with interment of her ashes with Bob’s in the Columbarium at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Shelter Island.

Gillian P. Johnson

Gillian P. (Gil) Johnson passed away peacefully at her home on Shelter Island Sunday morning, Nov. 14, 2021 after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 85 years old.

Gil is survived by her husband of 48 years, Michael.

Born in Brooklyn, Gil was raised in Flushing and was a full-time resident of Shelter Island for the past 35 years, and a summer resident for many years living at Westmoreland Farm.

Gil is a graduate of Marymount College of Manhattan and St. John’s University.

As a retired school teacher, Gil became a part-time reading teacher for the Shelter Island School.

Always ready to help people, she became an EMT and served her community as a member of the Shelter Island Red Cross Ambulance.

Her proudest tenure was serving for many years as the chairwoman of Our Lady of the Isle Outreach program.

The Liturgy of Christian Burial wasbe celebrated on November 18 at Our Lady of the Isle Roman Catholic Church, officiated by Father Peter DeSanctis. The Rite of Committal will be private.

In lieu of flowers, any gifts can be sent to Our Lady of the Isle Outreach program.