Remembering Roy Williams

“June A. Patch” by Roy Williams. Photo provided by Ron Patch

Here, from a 1962 Rutland Herald, is an article from 60 years ago. Roy Williams and his wife, Thad, were close friends with my mother.

I remember both well. Roy was a patient man. Thad could be difficult. As this article mentions, she had been in silent films. Thad was Spanish and Cherokee Indian with high cheekbones. She was exceptionally beautiful.

Doctor Griffith lived in the brick house near the entry to Chester Elementary School. “Griff,” as my mother called him, brought me into this world.

The photo with this article is a portrait of my mother, June Augusta Emery Patch, painted by Roy in 1956.


“Williams Paintings Reflect Maturity Of Long Career”

For many years to come, patients and visitors to the Ellsworth Memorial Clinic will view the portrait of the late Dr. Wayne Griffith, which will be hung there in ceremonies next Sunday afternoon. To all of them, even those with an untutored eye, several qualities will become evident: that the artist has a skillful technique for bringing life and character to his subject; that he has devoted scrupulous attention to detail; and that he has a masterful touch with the medium of oil paints.

These are the qualities, which have made the paintings of 84-year-old Leroy Williams of Chester, treasured art items. Six of his paintings hang in the Bennington Museum, the largest of which measures 12 feet by 6 feet. This historical landscape depicts the capture of British prisoners at the Battle of Bennington and includes the figures of all the military leaders involved. Other of his portraits and landscapes are at Dartmouth College and other institutions as well as those privately owned. Most familiar to local people are the beautiful murals he painted on the walls of the Weston Playhouse.

Roy Williams and his charming wife have lived quietly in a cozy, antique-filled house in Orcutt Meadow for the past 14 years. In spite of his age and the often inclement weather, Mr. Williams’ soldier-straight figure, briskly walking to town, is a familiar sight. Mrs. Williams has been shut-in for two years as a result of a broken hip, but her interest in local and national affairs remains lively. This interesting and affectionate couple are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

Thad Williams in one of her silent films. Photo provided by Ron Patch

Mr. Williams became an artist in spite of family pressure that he study bookkeeping. He says that his ineptitude with figures – the financial kind – soon made it that he would avoid the world of business. During the Spanish-American War he served in the Navy, seeing little action, but gaining a love of the sea and ships, and expanding his talent for drawing. He showed the writer a small notebook which he used as both diary and sketch pad during his Navy years. He contained exquisite pencil sketches of his shipmates by the as-yet untrained young artist.

After the war, in 1901, he went to New York to study art at the Chase school, now known as the New York School of Art, under such famous teachers as Dumond. He was employed at the National Child Welfare Association making lithographs. He also made illustrations of famous actors and actresses, to be used as motion picture publicity by Warner Brothers, the New York Times, and the New York Herald Tribune. He and Mrs. Williams, who was a young silent screen actress of great beauty, struggled through those early years of their careers, full of enthusiasm but often flat of pocketbook.

The great depression of 1929 sent them into Vermont, “To starve in beautiful surroundings.” They bought a home in Weston and named it Tamarack Studio. They sold the place to Bill and Virginia Newhall, whose story of their adopted family, “Children Nobody Wanted,” appears in the January 1962 Readers Digest.

During the ‘30s, times were often hard for the Williams. It was through a WPA art project that many of his most famous paintings were done. For 12 years, Mr. Williams worked as a cartographer at the National Survey in Chester. He retired several years ago and has devoted his retirement years to painting special commissions such as the Griffith portrait.

Several of Mr. Williams’ paintings have been exhibited in the Chester Art Guild. The remarkable quality of life which shines from the eyes of his subjects is a quality which he has brought to the painting which will be dedicated next Sunday.”


This week’s old saying my mother used to say to me: “There is nothing you can do that hasn’t been done before.”


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