She was the Queen of the Roycroft Renaissance.
Author, activist, historian, lecturer, tour guide, preservationist, innkeeper — the list is seemingly endless of the many roles which Kitty Turgeon played over the course of five decades on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora.
I was honored to have been her friend and to have been able in 2009 to present her with the Arts and Crafts Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn (pictured).
And, like so many of you, I cherish the many memories and stories she left me as a part of her legacy. In recent months we had been conferring often on one of her latest projects: writing the history of the Roycroft Renaissance. The problem she kept encountering was that she was the Head, Heart and Hand of the Roycroft Renaissance, and her modesty over her various roles often prevented her from recognizing her own importance.
We will now leave that in the hands of someone else, someone who will be hindered, unfortunately, with not being able to do as we so often suggested: “Just ask Kitty.”
I first met Kitty in 1986 when she literally put me in the last available bed for the final Arts and Crafts Conference she co-hosted as innkeeper at the Roycroft Inn, along with Robert Rust, Boice Lydell, and Linda Hubbard Brady. When Kitty announced that she was turning the Roycroft Inn over to the Wendt Foundation for a nine-year renovation, she encouraged me to take what the four of them had started on the Roycroft Campus and continue it at the Grove Park Inn. It was a fitting connection, for as Kitty was proud to point out, Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters were responsible for furnishing much of the Grove Park Inn in 1913.
And it was Kitty who gave validity to an unknown conference director, throwing her support behind me and the Arts and Crafts Conference, not just in urging people to make the journey to Asheville in February, but in coming herself — not just that pivotal first year but every one of the next 27 years.
And in Kitty’s enthusiastic fashion, she was never content to simply come and observe. She always played an active role, either as a speaker, a discussion leader, or an exhibitor. And on Saturday night, after the close of the last seminar of the evening, we would gravitate to her favorite room just off the historic Palm Court where Kitty would relish in her role of mistress of ceremonies: updating everyone on what was happening on campus, introducing everyone in attendance, and noting just how far each one had come to be at the Grove Park Inn.
And gently — or not so gently — reminding us that the Grove Park Inn would not have been an Arts and Crafts hotel had it not been for Elbert Hubbard and his friendship with Frederick Seely, the architect, designer, and first general manager of the famed hotel.
Mine is but one of an endless number of tributes which will be paid to Kitty, not just now but in years to come, for without her indomitable spirit and enthusiasm the Arts and Crafts Revival, just like the Roycroft Renaissance, would not be where it is today.
Kitty, we don’t even know yet just how much we are going to miss you.
UPDATE: A memorial service will take place for Kitty at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in East Aurora on Saturday, November 22nd at 4pm. A reception will follow at the Roycroft Inn. The majority of the Roycroft Campus will be closed so that staff and friends can attend the service. If you are planning to attend it may be in your best interest to arrive early since the church will more than likely be full to capacity. We will keep you updated on any other items relating to Kitty and her remembrance.