Author Archive

In Memory of Mary Bayes Ryan

by on Dec.23, 2018, under Letter

Mary Bayes Ryan, Feb. 15, 1933 – Sept. 21, 2018

Mary Bayes Ryan, an artist who in the 1970s purchased the former Fire Place Lodge summer camp in Springs, opening it for use by local farmers, pop-up summer camps, and an extended community of family, friends and neighbors, died at home overlooking Gardiner’s Bay on Sept. 21. She was 85.

Many from that group gathered in October to remember her, filling the 19th-century oak barn she had moved to the property in the mid-1980s. 

“There are times in my life when I meet someone, and I’m aware there’s going to be a long relationship. There’s some spark,” recalled Scott Chaskey of Quail Hill Farm, who farmed the property through the 1990s. “I was completely aware of that happening at my first lunch with Mary.”

“She had a gift for having fun that was absolutely contagious,” said Judith Hope, a former East Hampton Town supervisor. “She was just a joy to be around.” 

Ms. Ryan was born in Surrey, England, on Feb. 15, 1933, to American parents, Ross Bayes and the former Marian Hopkins, both of New York City. With war looming, the family returned to the United States in 1939, and she attended the Fieldston School, and then Sarah Lawrence College, from which she graduated in 1954 — and for which she would later serve on the board of trustees. In her freshman year in college, she met the writer J.D. Salinger at a tea. Salinger, 30, offered her a ride home. The two were soon dating, and then engaged. 

“We all worked in the theater department,” said a friend, Penelope Hall, “and he was always around. We would want to go to the local greasy spoon. He had this little car, and we would all pile in, much to his horror.”

She eventually broke off the engagement, however, and drove cross-country to California after graduation, intent on pursuing an acting career. Landing in San Francisco, she took a job as an EKG technician at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, where she met a young doctor, James Ryan, whom she would eventually marry in 1960. The couple’s first date was an overnight trip to Slate’s Hot Springs in Big Sur. This made such an impression that they returned to spend summers there in the late 1960s, befriending their neighbors, including the writer Henry Miller, with whom she developed a regular table tennis game. 

The couple returned east to New York in 1958, and Ms. Ryan attended the Neighborhood Playhouse acting school, but the arrival of two sons in the late 1960s complicated her acting plans. By then, however, she had discovered painting, which would become her lifelong passion. 

Over 50 years, working primarily in oil and acrylic on canvas, she developed a style marked by abstract landscapes done in warm colors, often featuring dreamlike objects or creatures. She worked mostly out of a 900-square-foot studio on East 75th Street, originally rented for $250 — a rent that went up very little over the years.

“We went to see our landlord, Mr. Cardon, toward the end,” recalled Faith Stern, her studio mate. “When we left, she kissed him on the cheek. He was just madly in love with her.”

She showed her work infrequently, though her paintings were well received by the critics and buyers. She was a regular at annual Guild Hall Artist Members Exhibition, and in group shows at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. 

“She painted for herself,” said Barbara Groot, one of four women artists who met in the early-1970s classes of the Hungarian artist Victor Candell, and who showed their work together over the years. “Her work was really personal. It was so much her — perhaps more than the rest of us.”

The Ryans first arrived in East Hampton in 1966, joining the Maidstone Club and purchasing a summer house on Dunemere Lane. When the couple separated in the early 1970s, however, Ms. Ryan rented cottages in Sagaponack and Springs, and then began looking for something small of her own. She found something big: an out-of-use 19-acre former summer camp along the water at the very end of Fireplace Road, being sold in two parcels. Captivated by the possibilities, she risked her financial stability to buy the whole property, closing on the second parcel in 1979. It was a prescient bet, paying off not just financially, but opening a whole new chapter in her life. Under Ms. Ryan, the property became host again to farmers and campers, as well as a steady parade of weddings and other events of family, friends, and neighbors. 

Paul Hamilton, founder of the Springs Farmers Market, has farmed the land off and on since the early 1990s, first with Quail Hill Farm, and then on his own. He remembers discussing his vision with Ms. Ryan. “She listened, and then she just said, ‘Sure. Have at it.’ It was a handshake. Old style.” 

“She was extremely generous,” said Lisa Tanzman, founder of Camp Erutan, which began running a program on the property in 1993 providing a country getaway for kids caught in the New York City foster care system. “She was a gazzillionnaire in the karma bank.”

In recent years, the property has also hosted a summer camp run by the Our Sons and Daughters School of Sag Harbor. One thing the property hasn’t hosted: new houses. Ms. Ryan granted much of the development rights to the Peconic Land Trust in 1996, and the property remains open, and largely wild. 

“In many ways she was a mentor to me,” said Idoline Duke, who married her husband, Biddle, on the property. “Showing me how to live authentically among all the trappings of privilege in this place we all call home.”

Ms. Ryan had split her time between East Hampton and New York until 2014, when she moved to Springs full time. In the city, she is remembered as the longtime president of her block association, which she co-founded. “The block association became a popular thing,” said Jim Levett, a neighbor. “It was Mary who gave it its character. She had all of these wonderful people that really, really like her, and she really liked them.”

While she never remarried, Ms. Ryan had two long-term relationships, including more than 20 years with John DePoo, a well-known raconteur of East Hampton and Florida, and Chester Hopkins, with whom she lived for 14 years in New York and Springs. 

In recent years, her health had been fading. She suffered from chronic nausea since 2014, and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2016. Though frail, she continued to love the summer in Springs, and managed to hang on for one more. She developed a cold the day after Labor Day, and died at home of pneumonia just a few weeks later. 

She is survived by her two sons, Maxwell Ryan and Oliver Ryan, both of New York, and two granddaughters. She was cremated and the family intends to scatter her ashes on her land. Camp Erutan has established the Mary Bayes Ryan Scholarship Fund, which will support the purchase of art supplies for campers, not just during camp sessions but whenever and wherever they are.

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2018 Message from the Founders

by on Oct.09, 2018, under Letter

It is with a heavy heart that we write to tell you about the best session (8/13 – 8/25) of camp in 31 years.  Mary Bayes Ryan, the lovely lady who owns the property in East Hampton where we have been camping since 1993, passed away on September 21st.  We are so grateful to have had one last summer together but very sad about her passing shortly after camp ended.

Mary represented many things to everyone involved with Camp Erutan:  friend, mentor, grandmother, mother, hope, love, light.  She took the time to look directly into your eyes and give you her undivided, nonjudgmental attention and love.

Mary’s sons Maxwell and Oliver have also been a part of Camp Erutan throughout the years and Mary’s granddaughter Ursula, Max’s daughter, was a responsible assistant during camp this summer.  Max and Ursula invited us to swim in their pool and hosted movie night in their theater.  Oliver put together a silent disco for us on the bluff one evening.  Everyone wore wireless headphones and Mary sat in her golf cart where she kept the beat and greeted campers.  While listening to the song Havana, we set up a soul-train that grooved towards Mary’s golf cart.  We laughed, smiled and swayed with the moon in the sky above the bay, fireflies dancing in the trees, and campers experiencing another first.

Campers had many new experiences on a daily basis this summer.  Not surprisingly, everyone’s favorite day was the day we were guests on a beautiful boat that left from Sag Harbor on an adventure no one could have imagined.  We anchored just off Shelter Island where there was a jet ski and jet boat waiting for us.  The driver of the jet ski gave rides to 2 campers at a time, and the jet boat came complete with a floatation device that 3 people were able to stand on at once while being pulled by the boat.  We were invited to the owner’s house after docking for lunch, swimming, rock climbing, basketball and freshly baked cookies.  This amazing day ended with a shopping spree where each camper picked out a new outfit, shoes included, to be worn the following week when we were to be guests of The Palm restaurant in East Hampton.

Other activities enjoyed during the session included horseback riding camp, dance class, swim lessons, stand up paddle boarding, book making, collage, painting, making happy beads, ropes course, drumming, playing ukulele, chess lessons, farming and our 1st Annual Luis Colon Camp Erutan Challenge held on the last full day of camp.  Luis first attended Camp Erutan when he was 6 years old, 18 years ago, and has been a counselor at Camp Erutan for the past 6 years.  Luis is an incredible role model for current campers, working not only as a physical trainer but also towards completion of his master’s degree.  The challenge started with campers having their feet in Gardiner’s Bay, picking up a rock the size of a large potato, running to the barn, exchanging the rock for a piece of ice from Oliver, running to Max’s pool, jumping in the deep end, swimming to the shallow end and giving Luis the piece of ice to end the race.  The campers loved retelling the story of this event to Mary later that evening.

When the challenge was finished, the campers were excited to put on a Gratitude Show for Mary.  It was an amazing performance filled with song, dance, gymnastics, jokes and most of all, love.  Each camper hugged and thanked Mary, saying goodbye knowing this may be the last time they would see her.

Mary was a talented artist and loved the art projects campers created while at Camp Erutan.  In her memory, Camp Erutan is setting up the MBR Scholarship Fund to provide campers with art supplies so they may continue to create.

As always, we appreciate and thank you for your support of Camp Erutan.  With your continued support, we are all able to make a difference in the lives of our campers.

Lisa Tanzman & Elaine Mermelstein

In addition to online donations, you may also donate via Amazon Smile by naming Camp Erutan as your preferred charity.

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2018 Summer Videos – NY Camp

by on Sep.10, 2018, under Videos

Enjoy these videos of a Camp Erutan dance class with Olivia of Alvin Ailey Dance Company at Tracy Anderson’s studio in East Hampton, an explanation of the 1st Annual Luis Colon Camp Erutan Challenge, and Soul Train on the bluff.

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2018 Summer Photos – NY Camp

by on Sep.10, 2018, under Photos

East Hampton, NY camp in August. Check out the photos here.

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2017 Summer Photos – NY Camp

by on Aug.22, 2017, under Photos

East Hampton, NY camp in July. Check out the photos here.

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Rare Joys for Campers in Springs, NY

by on Jul.25, 2017, under Letter

Please enjoy this PDF article link from the East Hampton Star:

Rare Joys for Campers in Springs | The East Hampton Star

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2017 Spring Photos – CA Camp

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Photos

Cayucos CA camp in May. Check out the photos here.

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2017 Message from the Founders

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Letter

Summer 2017

Camp Erutan is proud to be celebrating our 30th anniversary!

To kickoff the first session of the season, we were invited to stay on the Arfa property where we used to camp in Cayucos California.  The Arfa’s have turned their property into a beautiful retreat,, and welcomed us as their guests.  All of our meals were prepared for us, campfires going day and night, s’mores fixings, luxurious accommodations, and loving hospitality.  Former campers who are now young adults attended this session and were very touched that the photo album at wellspring ranch included pictures of them as young campers.  A great time was had by all of us.

In July we will be holding an extra long session of camp in East Hampton New York.  For this session of camp, it will be the campers 4th year attending Camp Erutan at Fireplace Farm where the Ryan family has graciously invited us back again this year. Our wonderful host Mary Ryan lets us store all of our gear in her attic and is the grandmother figure all campers adore. Maxwell Ryan ( put up a yurt for Camp Erutan in 1993 and we have been camping there ever since.  Oliver Ryan ( shares his barn with us so we have a fantastic kitchen and lovely outdoor shower to use.

None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers.  Karen is the other responsible adult at East Hampton camp who takes the train with the campers and plans great art and science projects.  Luis, who has been coming to Camp Erutan since he was 6 years old, graduated college last year and will continue his tradition of helping us set up and breakdown camp.  Peter, who has been a part of the Camp Erutan family since he was 3, will be coming to NY from CA to be a camp counselor – Peter is now 29.  Izzi has been coming to Camp Erutan since she was 3 and will return as a counselor this summer.  Eva will be joining our counselor staff for her 3rd year in a row.  Isabelle, our newest champion, has found a donor to pay for extra activities this summer like horse camp, stand up paddle board lessons, and a fancy night out to dinner.

It is because of your continued generous support that we are able to offer Camp Erutan free of charge to kids in need of an opportunity to be a kid, and to also stay connected and offer additional programs to former campers as they become young adults.  Making a donation is as easy as clicking on this link or sending a check to CAMP ERUTAN, PO Box 6730, Los Osos, CA 93402.

We wish you and your family and friends a happy, healthy and peaceful summer.

With heartfelt appreciation, we thank you for caring.

Lisa Tanzman & Elaine Mermelstein

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Campers and Counselors

by on Dec.24, 2016, under Photos

Camp Erutan Counselors are still in these campers lives – 16 years after their first session together.

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2016 Message from the Founder

by on Aug.20, 2016, under Letter

August 2016

Dear Friends,

We just finished an amazing session of Camp Erutan in East Hampton, NY that marked our 29th year!  I have to say this was the best week we have ever had, although Elaine is quick to remind me that I say “this was the best week we have ever had” every year!  This is a good thing since if camp didn’t continue getting better and better, I’m not sure it would still exist.

There were many contributing factors to this year’s success.  Mary Ryan, owner of the property in EH, graciously greeted all of the campers and invited us to dine with her on her deck at the beginning and end of the session.  Scott Chaskey of Quail Hill farm, who introduced us to Mary Ryan, met us on his tractor and not only remembered our returning campers, but he and his interns made a lovely lunch spread for us in the Quail Hill Farm apple orchard.  Jim Turner, a local musician, joined us to give harmonica lessons.  Christine Clark of Black Sheep Knitworks, taught the campers how to knit scarves using their arms instead of knitting needles.  Local volunteer Danae, made the most delicious macaroni & cheese for dinner again this year.  Isabelle taught our campers how to make zucchini bread from zucchini we harvested at camp and also invited Jimmy, head East Hampton lifeguard, to join us in the pool at John & Jenny’s (local supporters), where he taught all of the campers how to float on their backs.  Isabelle also invited us to her pool on another day where she and her daughters not only had an awesome snack buffet waiting for the campers but also had Alyssa, a swim instructor, there to give our campers swim lessons.

The biggest shout out goes to our extraordinary volunteer counselors.  Karen has been committing her time, resources and talents since 1999.  Luis started out as a camper when he was 5 years old and has come back year after year – he’s now 22 and a senior in college.  Izzi first attended Camp Erutan when she was 3 years old and this year returned as a counselor.  Eva was happy to come back as a counselor again this year and she loved doing the dishes so much that now all of the campers want to help with the dishes too.

Campers who attended this summer, returned for their 3rd year in a row.  Smiles, laughter, stories, songs, dancing, swimming, exploring and listening to each other were just some of the memorable moments.  These kids are very special individuals who are kind and compassionate.  They love their time at Camp Erutan and everyone shed tears when they boarded the train to head back to New York City.  We’re excited we will see them again later this year when we all get together for a Camp Erutan holiday party.  We are also looking forward to hosting a session of Camp Erutan on the Central Coast of California this fall.

Thank you very much to all of our supporters for your continued support.  Your contributions have allowed Camp Erutan to continue for 29 years and we’re still going strong!

With heartfelt gratitude and appreciation.

Lisa Tanzman
Founder & Director

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