ALBANY — She saw her world through a camera lens. The patterns the sun creates on water. The vivid colors of autumn on a cloudy October day. Every season provided a fresh canvas. Her family and nature were her muse, and a very personal view of her beautiful life will live on through her work.
Patricia Hale Whitcomb, nee Patricia Jane Hale, was gently released in the early morning of October 29, at the age of 93. Born in Boston on February 12, 1930, she was the middle child of Roger and Marian Hale and the sister to two brothers, Roger Drake Jr., and Judson Hale.
In the mid 1930s, her family moved to Vanceboro, Me., a small town that bordered New Brunswick, Canada. Sunrise Farm was situated on 1,000 acres. It served as an anthroposophical center as well as a working farm, a school, a cultural center, and a hardwood lumber business. This pastoral setting was the birthplace for Pat’s passion for a life rooted in living off the land as well as her visual expression of beauty through her photography, taught to her by her father. Her first camera was a pinhole camera she made with him. She was very involved in the daily operations of the farm, as well as becoming an accomplished horsewomen and expert hand milker.
With a mind for numbers, in the fall of 1947, Pat enrolled in Bennington College, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree. The fall of that same year, she accepted a teaching position at The North Country School in Lake Placid, N.Y. It was at North Country School where she met the love of her life, Francis Hale Whitcomb (Whit). On August 13, 1953, while they were both leading separate educational trips abroad, Whit to Ireland and Pat to Norway, Whit proposed marriage via Airmail. They were married on December 19, 1953.
After Lake Placid, they landed in New Canaan, Conn., for yet another teaching endeavor for Whit while Pat changed roles to concentrate on motherhood and photography.
In 1966, Whit accepted a leadership role as headmaster of a small, private elementary school, bringing them to Putney. Pat assisted behind the scenes, acting as the school’s bookkeeper, all while continuing her passion for photography and raising three children.
In 1973, the family moved to an idyllic farm in South Albany. The Northeast Kingdom allowed Pat to reclaim what Sunrise Farm began. Their new home sat on 350 acres of rolling hay fields and expansive sugar woods. Pat and Whit embarked on a life of barn chores, milking the one dairy cow, raising beef and pork, maple sugaring and gardening. It was within this community they would cultivate their family, providing their children with a foundation of love, education, and adventure. This was also where they chose to grow old together.
Throughout her photographic career that expanded close to 80 years, her work was viewed in various publications like Vermont Life and Yankee Magazine.
Pat’s life partner Whit predeceased her in 2017. They are survived by their three children, Marian Guihan and her husband Peter, Jennifer Elliott and her husband Clarke, and David Whitcomb and his wife Kim. Pat had eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Due to her long and healthy life, she was blessed with the privilege of bearing witness to their evolution into adulthood. Christopher, Alexander, Benjamin, Kimberly, Annalise, Taylor, Samuel, Grace, and Jayden cherished the warmth and tradition, as well as delicious food and antics that always ensued in visiting “The Farm”.
In the last decade, it took a village to allow them to continue living independently on their beloved homestead. We would like to thank the following: Earl Kinsey for his watchful eye and willingness to be of service, plowing their driveway, providing them with chopped wood for their stove to name a few. Earl was also a continual source of laughter and nonsense, often bringing various critters for visits; Paul Lisai and Andy Paonessa provided a constant supply of cheese and maple syrup; their wonderful caregivers while still at the farm were Danielle Draper, Cheyanne Draper-Pothier, Jessica Locke; all the amazing caregivers and nurses at The Manor. Pat was not the typical outgoing resident and they embraced her for who she was.
We are eternally thankful for Lamoille Home Health & Hospice, specifically Amy Bessett. Pat’s children cannot express enough gratitude for Amy’s compassionate, respectful care as well as always being available during a very emotional and mournful time.
In 2024, there will be a celebration of her miraculous life. It will be a time for friends and loved ones to have the opportunity to witness her capacity to see the beauty of this world through her camera lens.
In lieu of flowers, if you are inclined, please donate to an animal charity of your choice.