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In appreciation: Whitney North Seymour Jr.

All of us here in Salisbury should take pause.  A truly caring and devoted person recently left us.  Whitney North Seymour Jr. (“Mike”) died June 29, 2019, following his wife, Catryna, by a few months.  

Through their long life together, they pursued their dreams of a better world for all of us.  From his student days at Kent School, Mike felt at home with Catryna among our hills, where they resided on the shoulder of Mount Riga between the old and new villages of Salisbury; and also in New York City, which drew much of their energy and service during their prime.  

Mike’s public service as a state senator and courageous United States Attorney for Manhattan are well known, but less so were his and Catryna’s countless acts of quiet private service. These ranged from alerting the public and galvanizing the successful defense of the Hudson from Con Ed’s attempt to construct a major nuclear facility on Storm King Mountain, to preserving the historic Jefferson Market Court House in Greenwich Village, to humbler services such as adding numerous trees along New York City streets, at times reaching into his own pocket, or creating historic plaques to mark former residences of many of its famous citizens.  Mike led his Parks Association to locate and buy up little gaps in city blocks overlooked by developers to create the “vest pocket” parks which now offer oases to residents and visitors.  They bear the names of several honored New Yorkers, but you will not find mention of Mike, whose genius and hard work created them all. 

Locally, the Seymours’ quiet contributions included their leadership in establishing the Cannon Museum to remind us of our heritage and preserving Steepletop, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s extraordinary home in Austerlitz. 

As always, Mike and Catryna were in the background, encouraging and praising others for their contributions to these causes.  “It’s amazing how much you can get done,” Mike wrote in one of his books, “if you make sure to give others all the credit.”  

We cannot let them go, however, without this fragmentary credit to them. So, a heartfelt thanks, Mike and Catryna, from those of us you inspired and on behalf of all who benefit daily from your lives but have never heard your names.

Marian and Carr Ferguson

Salisbury