Rosemary for Remembrance 13
I write this post with a heavy heart. My mom passed away on Memorial Day. R.I.P. Kay Bardsley, 1921-2011. She was a pioneer and inspiration to women everywhere. I am dedicating this post to her courage and fighting spirit. She died as she lived, with strength and grace.
I think of everything she taught me growing up, how she raised me on Greek myths and took me traipsing all over Manhattan in the 60s, spending countless days in Central Park, the museums, and so many other NY landmarks that are gone but not forgotten. How we spent hours in the library, and she fostered my life-long love of reading.
I learned my love of plants from my father, but my mom gave me my fascination of how plants are used in different cultures. I can remember staying up late into the night building a model of an Iroquois roundhouse with her, how she brought other cultures to life, and came into my elementary school and shared her knowledge with other classes. She was a storyteller, and passed that on to me.
She was born in Egypt, of Greek-Cypriot heritage, and came to New York when she was eight, where she helped her parents fill out their citizenship papers. She studied and performed at Carnegie Hall as a featured dancer in the Heliconiades with Maria-Theresa Duncan, one of Isadora Duncan’s adopted daughters (the Isadorables), starting at the age of nine. She would go on to embody the Duncan philosophy in dance, movement, and education throughout her life. She was also valedictorian and editor of the school paper and yearbook at Straubenmuller Textile High School in Chelsea.
She went to Hunter College, where she studied anthropology with Margaret Mead, scouring the Museum of Natural History to find the answers to study questions, and worked the night shift at The NY Times during the war. (She said of her Hunter days, “New York was our campus.”) She was the fashion editor at Woman’s Day, and had a long career in early TV, working with Gloria Swanson and Don Ameche in the 40s and 50s, at WPIX and ABC, among others. She had an office in the Guild Theater, and later one in the Empire State Building. She later travelled all over the country in prop planes doing P.R. at regional stations.
This, and much much more, was all before I was born, at a time when most women were homemakers. She had been offered a great TV job when she was pregnant with me, but her doctor told her she couldn’t have and raise a child at 40 and continue to work. (this was 1960) So she made her decision to put her energy into raising her children (my sister was born 2 years later) and never looked back, continuing to write articles for Dance Magazine and Time Life Library, among others. With Maria-Theresa, she founded the Isadora Duncan International Institute, and continued lecturing about dance history and education.
My son and I were so lucky to have had her living in San Francisco for the last nine years of her life. She has enriched our lives so much, we don’t really know how to carry on. Our family has been diminished. Her humor, resilience and uncommon views will become a part of us.
We spent a week with her in the hospital, and she fought so hard to overcome a massive brain hemorrhage, that at one point we really thought she’d recover, like she had from her other strokes. We were by her side all week, alternating days/nights first, then both sleeping there until she died. Dave was our support, bringing us food and whatever we needed to be there for her, and staying and crying with us. She left peacefully, and we stayed with her for some time, telling her how much she meant to us and how she would live on in us.
So very sad. I know everyone has to do this at some point, but I am just demolished. It feels like the world will never be the same. I still had so much to learn from her and to give her as well. I spent time in the garden for the first time yesterday, and it was the right place to be to heal, but this will take some time. I don’t want to forget anything. This may just be the first of my grieving/remembering posts. I know I can’t encompass who she was and how much I’ll miss her today, but it’s a start.
A beautiful elegy for a beautiful woman written by her beautiful daughter. Peace to you, dear Wendy and know she is dancing with the muses.
I am so sad for you, and so sorry for your loss. You are blessed to have such lovely memories.
Wendy, I am so sorry. Your writing about your mom brought me to tears. It is beautiful writing about a beautiful woman, who made you! I love those pictures and hope I can give you a hug in person soon! Much Love,
Your eulogy for your mother brought me to tears also. I lost my mother 3 years ago and it’s still fresh in my mind. It’s great to have all those great memories. Hang in there.
My condolences on your loss. Grieving takes time, and it is a slow process. I hope your garden can give you lots of solace and time alone to heal.
Your post brought me to tears. I have not lost my mother, but I have lost some who were very close to me. Grief is a very strange place to be, and I know when I have been called to its cave I have felt as if I would never escape its depths. And then one day the sun came out and I noticed… and I soon found my way out of the cave. Your tribute to your mother is very special, and I am so glad to learn about her and how much she meant to you. She was very special! I send you hugs and healing and hope….as you were very lucky to have your mother…she was very lucky to have you.
Beautiful! What an outstanding woman and mother, what a caring and lovely daughter! I’ll always admire the work your mother did for the dance world especially!
Oh Wendy, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom. What a beautiful post you wrote, I had no idea she did all that! She was ahead of her time in so many ways. I hope the healing process continues for you and the rest of your family.
ps. I love the last photo you posted of her. It’s like the path stretching out past her, and the red cones with the path continuing beyond in this beautiful vagueness of sky and clouds, and she’s waving with this huge grin on her face, like she knows a grand adventure lies ahead and she’s saying, “I’ll see you all again soon, down the road!”
My cousin passed this link to me. I do not know you or your Mom but was greatly touched by what you wrote. What a remarkable person your Mom was! Thank you for sharing her with us. We too are of Greek Cypriot heritage.
a beautiful remembrance from a devoted and wonderful daughter – thank you
Love this beautiful remembrance and you dear Wendy!
Ah WENDY- what a beautiful rememberance. I had no idea you had lost your mom so recently. I am wondering if hanging out w me and Tam brought up some difficult feelings – it must have felt hard a bit w her and me being buddies and all. I wish I had understood. She sounds like an amazing, extremely special person. Do allow yourself to keep writing. Thank you.