Friday, March 2, 2012

Muriel Welles Hall - Obituary

Muriel Welles Hall was the sister of my grandpa - Sam Welles. 
Stephen Cox wrote this obituary of her which was published in the 
Oct 2004 issue of Liberty Magazine.

From Left: Sam, Mabel, Mary, Muriel, Bishop Edward
Mabel DeGeer, Canon Sam

Muriel Hall, RIP-- Muriel Hall, one of the last witnesses to the early years of the modern libertarian movement, has died at the age of 82. She was the friend of the libertarian author and theorist Isabel Paterson, and the lifelong exponent of Paterson's ideas.

         Muriel Welles Hall was born in Trenton, N.J., on Nov. 27, 1921, the daughter of Mabel De Geer Welles and the Rev. Samuel Gardner Welles. The Welles family had for generations played a prominent role in the Episcopal church. One of Muriel's grandfathers was an early bishop of Wisconsin, and one of her brothers became bishop of West Missouri. Her father, a priest, worked as a missionary in Oklahoma Territory, where he met his future wife, a pioneer schoolteacher. Muriel was reared in an environment in which the spirit of Western enterprise and the spirit of traditional learning were equally respected.

          After graduation from the New Jersey College for Women (now Douglass College) and staff work for Time magazine, she studied at Oxford University and worked as a "stringer" for Time, interviewing such people as C.S. Lewis. In England she married Edward Matson (Ted) Hall, a distantly related scion of the Welles family who was serving in the American merchant marine. They returned to America, where both pursued careers in journalism, Ted as a newspaper reporter and editor, Muriel as a senior researcher for Time-Life and later for the Reader's Digest. The couple, who divorced in the mid1960s, reared four children, including two young relatives whom they informally adopted.

          It was in 1937 that Muriel first encountered the novelist and critic Isabel Paterson (1886-1961), a friend of Muriel's parents and of her older sister Mary, who had worked with Paterson in the editorial offices of New York Herald Tribune "Books." Impressed by Paterson's intelligence and sophistication, Muriel was first astonished and then attracted by her radical political views. At the Welles' home, Muriel witnessed the great debate between Paterson and another family friend, Whittaker Chambers, later celebrated for his role in the HissChambers case and in the foundation of the modern conservative movement. Muriel joined in the brilliant conversations at the famous "Monday Night" salons in Paterson's office at the Herald Tribune. She was present on the Monday night in January 1949 when Paterson announced that she had been fired from the paper, with whose management she had. long disagreed about political and social issues.

          During the 1950s, Muriel and Ted were frequent visitors at Paterson's farm near Princeton, New Jersey. When she sold the farm, they urged her to move to their own home in Montclair, New Jersey; and Muriel was beside her when she died there in 1961. Muriel executed Paterson's will and, in 1964, sponsored a new edition of her major work of political and historical theory, "The God of the Machine."

          She preserved the memory and the written records of Paterson's life and upheld Paterson's ideal of individual liberty during the many years in which others ignored or scorned it. When the resurgence of libertarian thought took place in the 1970s and 1980s, Muriel shared her knowledge with new generations, creating a unique and vital connection between the past and future.

          In the mid-1980s Muriel retired to her home in the tiny village of Hampton, Conn., where she devoted herself to reading, gardening, and the enjoyment of her family and friends.

         An expert fisherman, she spent summers at a primary location for the sport, Cape Hatteras, N.C. establishing residence there in the late 1990s. "I'm an old woman," she said; "I could die at any time!" - a reflection that did not prevent her from going wherever she wanted with her truck, her fishing poles, her cat, and her latest copy of The Wall Street Journal. When, last September, she developed a rare form of leukemia, she fought back heroically and succeeded in maintaining her enjoyment and control of her life, at one point driving alone through hundreds of miles of hurricane-ravaged territory in order to reach her house at the Cape. On July 13,2004, she at last succumbed, still fearless in the face of death, at the home of her beloved sister, Mabel Owen, in Storrs, Conn.

         Like Isabel Paterson, Muriel Hall was a complex and forceful personality, a woman of passionate and outspoken conviction, yet a woman of great kindness, generosity, and delicacy of feeling. She was also a woman whose serious intellectual interests never restricted her sense of fun. As she said of Paterson, "it was just laugh, laugh, laugh" when she was present. Witty and ebullient, Muriel was at the same time a deeply meditative person, patiently developing her own thoughts and expressing them, when they matured, in words that could not be forgotten. No one who accompanied Muriel to a gallery of art or heard her reading aloud in her deep, resonant, effortlessly modulated voice could fail to remember the experience.

          Superbly competent herself, Muriel revered competence in others, whether it was mastery in building, painting, cooking, or gardening, or brilliance in literature or political thought. She felt that she could never say enough to praise the individual achievements of the men and women, famous or obscure, who created the wonders and pleasures of "this beautiful world."

          Many Americans express devotion to ideas of individual liberty and responsibility, but Muriel saw the full significance of those ideas and embodied them fully in her life. She cherished their history; she grasped their implications, and she rejoiced in anticipation of their final victory. She was, as she said of Paterson, "a great libertarian" - and a very great person.

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