Theodora C. Rawle

Theodora C. Rawle (1912-1985) was a graceful and caring person who especially loved the beauty of nature and art.  She is remembered here by two members of her family.


Jamie Neilson

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, II.i.249-252

In 1978, cast as Oberon in a school play, I recited these lines to Puck. I pictured my grandmother’s garden, cultivated by her careful hand into a reckless riot of color and exuberant green. 

The garden was sited on a hill above Noroton harbor in Connecticut, on Long Island Sound. The beds laid north-to-south, so that as the sun passed to the west, the flowers received abundant light. Wisteria climbed the arbor at the far end, and iris, hydrangeas, dahlias, peonies, morning glories, and zinnias occupied terraced beds. In the spring, crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils heralded the coming of warmer weather.


Adjacent to her kitchen, my grandmother kept a greenhouse where the mysteries were hatched. We children were forbidden to enter that space unaccompanied, but the garden was another matter. My sisters and I played in the garden, and the stages of our growth were marked in snapshots taken at the small pool that stood in the garden’s center.

Theodora Crimmins Rawle was a woman of dignified reserve, and her garden was an expression of her passionate engagement with the natural world. Many years later, as a teacher, I would tell my students to pause at the mention of a garden, because in its description would lie clues to the author’s idea of beauty, of the interaction between human consciousness and the natural world. My grandmother’s garden was a template for me in that understanding of gardens and gardeners, an idea of place dedicated to calm reflection and peace.

                                 ‘Aunt Dora’

                                 ‘Aunt Dora’

Christine Andreae

My Aunt Dora (who was really my mother’s first cousin, not her sister) had the kindest eyes of anyone in our family and the kindest voice. When she sat at the front desk at Stamford Hospital in her volunteer’s smock, she must have brought relief from anxiety to visitors and patients alike. She was not conventionally pretty – her features were angular, austere even. Rather, she was beautiful and her beauty was a light from within, quiet and private as her garden. 

The other gardens I knew as a child were sunlit borders of bright flowers or beds full of vegetables, persistent weeds encroaching between the rows. But Aunt Dora’s garden was a shade garden, a long rectangular walk under a turquoise blue arbor. On either side of a flagstone pathway, lush plantings of green foliage. 

I never saw a weed. Clearly she did not allow them in. At the far end of the walk, a mossy basin dripped dark water. Between the blue posts of the arbor, views of Noroton harbor, pale in noonday heat, busy with the business of boats. Her garden was like her, a place of order and symmetry, of beauty and peace.