Friday, November 11

Silver, 1935-2011

Silver Stanfill passed away following complications from heart surgery. My photograph of Silver from the summer in Montrose, Colorado.

I met Silver in July 1993 at Jeremiah Tower's restaurant Stars in San Francisco, an appropriate venue for a larger-then-life personality. I did most of the talking, I recall, having decided to defer business school for a couple of years to be in love with Silver's daughter. Silver listened patiently with a knowing smile as if to suggest : this is the one for my Sonnet. She gave me the same look when, two years later, Sonnet and I announced to our families that we were to be married and again at Eitan then Madeleine's birth.

Silver from a serious family : her father a medical surgeon who served in the Second World War which rendered him unempathetic, and three sisters , each of different generations, owning their respective movements of the '50s, '60s and '70s. It is not surprising, then, that Silver went to Vasser to study Latin and drama. Her friends and compatriots were Nancy Graves (first women to solo at the Whitney), Patricia Rakic (neuroscientist) and Jane Fonda. Silver's life changed again when she met, and married, Stan inside two weeks - Christmas Eve would have been their 50th anniversary.

Stan and Silver moved to Alaska in '61 for the work and the adventure - Alaska had become a state in '59 - just in time for the Good Friday Earthquake , measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, which ripped Anchorage along the fault line. Silver described the city "melting" and 40 foot tree-tops whipping back and forth touching the concrete.

Soon following their arrival, Silver became a literature professor at the University of Anchorage, including a Fulbright to Split, Yugoslavia, and a teaching year in Sheffield, England; she took a sabbatical for her Masters in Boulder, Co, and a leave of absence to teach at the Lycee in San Francisco. With two children, and -40 degree winters, she graded papers, smoked cigarettes and hosted cocktail parties to know the other frontiersmen and women : like the Manhattan debutante who lives in a remote log cabin and can skin a moose.  Silver's course , "Women's Autobiography," contributed to the Feminist Movement; I have met alumnae in London and Paris who tell me this class changed their life's direction.

Silver had no time for fiction. She loved the New Yorker ("A cool bath on a warm day"), local crafts catalogues and any writing on women and artists , often supporting their work esp. if Southwestern or Native American. In Alaska, she made sure her children appreciated theatre, ballet, Europe and culture with frequent trips abroad when the jets went to London over the North Pole. Later on, Santa Fe became her favorite place and she and Stan went for the summer opera, a shared passion. She adored fashion and was remarkably proud of Sonnet's job at the V and A: Silver personally greeted 600 guests at the launch celebration of Sonnet's first museum exhibition, Ossie Clark, in '03.

Silver's last 12 years spent in Montrose in a home she and Stan designed , with views of the snow-capped mountains, and surrounded by art. Silver's influence on Eitan and Madeleine, limited by geography, profound : a hard-earned belly chuckle for a clever comment from either child left each glowing; a stern look sent them slinking away.

Me, I love Silver's eccentricity , which remains with me, her vitality and intellect. For the first five years of our relationship the latter made me, well, terrified. We looked across a great divide of age and interests. Once , however, we found our middle-ground, which included England, museums and family, I became able to appreciate her unique and particular qualities : Dusting the plants whilst wearing a gas mask. Eating salad and ice cream for dinner, nothing else. Reciting complete poems learned at Vassar 55 years ago. I posted her Royal bric a brac and she quoted me passages from Shakespeare. We enjoyed each other's company. I respected her. She was a special person. Erit ipsum.

now is a ship

which captain aim
sails out of sleep

steering for dream
--ee cummings