OBITUARY: Thirza Jane Farrow

October 13, 2017
By Marcy Shortuse

Thirza Jane Farrow died on September 8, 2017 in Venice, Florida at age 91, vibrant and engaged in life to the end. A resident of Martha’s Vineyard for many years, Jane and her husband Ted Farrow wintered in Boca Grande for decades before making a permanent move there in 2000. After her husband Ted Farrow died, Jane moved to Aston Gardens in Venice. She will be greatly missed by her family and her many friends in Boca Grande and Venice and on the Vineyard.
Jane was born in Baltimore, Maryland and was the eldest child of Dr. Harry D. Wilson and Thirza N. Wilson. After attending Goucher College, Jane asserted her independence by moving alone to New York City and joining the staff of Life Magazine. It was there that she met her first husband Bill Damroth. She introduced him to Martha’s Vineyard which she had loved for years from summer visits during her childhood. In the mid-1960s Bill and Jane built a home in Chilmark on the Vineyard. When their marriage ended, Jane moved there permanently with her sons Peter, David and John.
Shortly afterward, she reconnected with Ted Farrow, a Vineyard friend from childhood, and they partnered in opening Tashtego in Edgartown, a modern design and gift store fondly remembered as a treasure trove of gifts, kitchen supplies, antiques and more. They quickly recognized each other as kindred spirits interested in the arts and travel and as romantic partners. In 1974, they wed and began a life filled with love, laughter, friends, work and travel. Jane had an artist’s eye that she expressed both at home and in her store, creating an environment full of color, cultures and contrast in. Through Tashtego, Jane and Ted also offered interior design and architectural services and their work beautified countless homes on the Vineyard. They particularly loved spending time each winter collecting pottery, art and artifacts in towns and villages across Europe and South America, some to sell and some to display in their home in Chilmark and then in Boca Grande.
Jane had a big smile, a kind heart and a gracious spirit. She made and kept friends of all ages who all benefitted from her warmth, humor, thoughtful advice, and generosity. She also had an adventurous streak. In her teens, on a Colorado camping trip, she shot a rattlesnake threatening her horse. In her twenties, she defied her father to move alone to New York City to start a career. In her forties, she and Ted survived a serious earthquake in Guatemala, spending days sleeping on the ground outside of unsafe buildings until they could leave. She also paddled a canoe to a small distant island off the Vineyard (and back!) with Ted.
They both enjoyed simple beauty and shared a love of walking both Vineyard and Florida beaches and picking up shells and stones. Jane combined this love for natural beauty with an entrepreneurial spirit. A lifelong collector of beautiful stones and shells, early on she taught her sons to notice the beauty of nature and to develop the skill of close observation. When they were young, she often set them to collecting beach glass and beach stones which she polished and set into bracelets. On many occasions, her sons came home to find a cookie sheet of linked-stone bracelets resting in a warm oven to set the glue. She sold her beach stone jewelry on the Vineyard using the honor system and a coffee can. In Boca Grande, she continued crafting unusual items out of shells which were very popular in local gift stores.
Jane will be deeply missed by her children and their partners: Peter and Amelia Damroth of Raleigh NC, David Damroth and Barbara Lee of Chilmark and Cambridge MA, and John Damroth and Trisha O’Connell of Chilmark and Watertown MA; her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Jessie Damroth and her children Logan and Ayden Nairn of West Tisbury MA, Timothy Damroth of San Francisco CA, Aaron Damroth of Sarasota FL, and Amos Damroth of Brooklyn NY; and her two brothers Dr. Harry Wilson and Dr. Thomas Wilson and their families. In addition, for decades at Tashtego, Jane hired, trained and served as surrogate mother to a host of summer and year-round staff. Of these, Blue Cullen and Nancy Rogers became true daughters and share this loss with her family.
When Jane lost Ted, she was greatly tested. She persevered with strength and grace through that loss and into a new life, continuing to travel and make new friends. She missed him every day but was thankful for her life and the love they shared. Her appreciation for the natural world never flagged. Her world view is captured in a wood carving of a scallop shell created by a close friend that she held dear, inscribed with a quote from a poem by Emma Mayhew Whiting: “Who am I that I should have the earth and sky?”