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Paige E. (Jarvis) Mercer

Paige E. (Jarvis) Mercer, 75, wife of Charles B. Mercer of Topsfield and formerly of Ipswich, died May 16, 2017 in the Salem Hospital following her extended illness.

Paige spent her early years in Connecticut, except for a brief period in NJ. A graduate of Hall High in West Hartford, she matriculated at Radcliffe, but in 1963 graduated from Harvard in the first Radcliffe class to receive Harvard degrees. It sounds quaint today, but she was co-chair of the first class to hold a joint Harvard-Radcliffe  twenty-fifth reunion. After college graduation, she was administrative head of the English Department at NYU until her husband joined the Navy. Her old boss there, still living in NY, was one of those to whom she never failed to deliver Christmas cookies.  While her husband was at Navy Supply School in Athens, GA, she was famous as the pregnant Avon lady, frequently being asked on the street when the baby was due. She devoted her life to the children while they were in school. The kids enjoyed large Halloween and birthday parties.  From kids’ parties to college reunions to garden club parties she enjoyed and was an expert at organizing them all. The Town of Ipswich awarded her a plaque for service to the school; she helped direct plays and musicals, as well as coaching teams.

She had a lifelong interest in singing and dancing. Participating in and choreographing shows in high school and college. She choreographed all the dances for the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan performed by the Ipswich Summer Theatre; her choreography for Pirates of Penzance was called the most imaginative he’d seen by one critic. Blessed with a fine voice, she enjoyed singing in church and played the chanteuse in Harvard Business School’s first parody show in 1974. She twice won the Ipswich town doubles tennis tournament.
After her children graduated from college, her interest in plants and flowers led her to attend Landscape Design courses at the Massachusetts Horticultural to become a landscape critic followed by twelve years of study at the Radcliffe Institute to get certificates in landscape design (1993) and landscape history (2000). She  started Garden Art, designing private gardens in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey  and Idaho. One of the small gardens she designed in Boston appeared in a book featuring the best gardens in America, and a large garden in Sun Valley, in which she did extensive work, was featured in Rocky Mountain Gardening. She also lectured on significant British, European and Japanese gardens visited with her husband as photographer. Recent years were devoted to designing and planting her own garden, transforming an ordinary one into a thing of beauty.

Throughout her life, she was an animal lover, talking to every dog she met on the street, and all the animals in the backyard, including the woodchuck. She supported causes from mistreated donkeys, to homeless tigers to the Audubon Society.  For ten years, she spent significant time caring for her parents at their apartment in Ipswich. She was a 35-year member and three-time president of the Ipswich Garden Club. Her mentor there was president of the National Herb Society. She was also a member and president of the Sun Valley Garden Club and a member of the Nucleus Club in Boston. She died from complications arising from multiple myeloma, a disease she fought for the last five years, always cheerfully and courageously.

In addition to her husband she is survived by a daughter, Nina P. Mercer of Forest Hills, NY, a son, William S. Mercer of Needham, four grandchildren and a sister, of Edwina Eddy of Ottawa, ON.

Her Memorial service will be held at 11 AM Wednesday, June 7 in the Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County Street, Ipswich. Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to Myeloma Research Fund at Mass General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114.

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