Grace Ashwell Yeomans Thaler
Prominent Decorative Arts Appraiser and Consultant
Grace Ashwell Yeomans Thaler of Beacon Hill and Wellfleet, Massachusetts, died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday, October 27, with her devoted husband, Thomas W. Thaler, at her side. She was 58 years old.
Grace loved being part of the community of Beacon Hill and could be seen walking up and down Charles Street daily; whether going to her office at the Charles Street Meetinghouse or strolling down the street for groceries at Savenor’s or supplies at Charles Street Hardware, Grace was a cheerful, friendly presence in the neighborhood she adored and was unfailingly kind to everyone she met. Those who knew her best recognized that she was the embodiment of her name: she was gracious, lovely, and a lady—albeit a very modern lady who juggled a demanding career with her family obligations and volunteer commitments.
Grace, an independent decorative arts appraiser and consultant, was the daughter of the late Clinton Babcock Yeomans and the late Joan Barrows Yeomans. She grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut and summered in Dublin, New Hampshire. She attended Emma Willard School and graduated from Loomis-Chaffee School and Smith College, where she majored in Art History. Her husband, Tom, had attended Amherst at the time Grace was at Smith, but theydid not meet in Western Massachusetts; rather, they were introduced at a Colonial Dames’reception in 1996 by Grace’s father, whom Tom knew from their mutual membership in the Society of Colonial Wars. She and Tom were married a year later at Trinity Church; they celebrated their 16th anniversary two days before Grace’s death.
Before founding her own independent art appraisal business, Grace held leadership positions at Sotheby’s New York and Grogan & Company of Dedham, Massachusetts. At Sotheby’s, she worked in the Oriental Carpet Department and was later Assistant to the Chairman. At Grogan, Grace was Director of Decorative Arts; she was widely known for her expertise in Chinese Export porcelain. She completed the distinguished Attingham Summer School program of study in Britain, in addition to many other professional courses and certificates.
Until she became ill this summer, Grace served on the Board of Governors and the Furnishings Committee of the Shirley-Eustis House Association in Roxbury and on the Board and the Collections Committee at Gore Place. She was active on the Board of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was the co-chair of their historic headquarters at 55 Beacon Street in Boston, the William Hickling Prescott House. Grace was to become the next President of the Dames in the Spring of 2014.
She was a Proprietor of the Boston Athenaeum, a past Corporator of the Worcester Art Museum, and a past member of the Board of Managers of The Vincent Club. Grace was a perennial winner of the Vincent Advertising Medal during the last decade in which the Vincent Show took place. Given her always gracious, always polite, always civilized demeanor, fellow members were always in awe of her ability to raise more money than more forceful personalities of the club. Grace was also a member of the Chilton Club, where she was an enthusiastic member of the Restaurant Committee. She was passionate about food and cooking, and as a past President of the Smith Club of Cambridge, hosted many gatherings with Julia Child.
Grace’s other affiliations included the Appraisers’ Registry of New England, the French Porcelain Society, and the China Students’ Club of Boston, of which she was a Board member.
Among the things that gave Grace particular pleasure was being part of the close-knit Mailing Committee at the Dames and partaking of the plentiful Wellfleet oysters at 42 Beacon Street.
She and Tom had a house in Wellfleet called Tom’s Bluff. Grace was an avid swimmer and was never deterred by choppy surf, just as she was never deterred by any challenge in her life. When Grace and Tom were there they enjoyed quiet weekends gardening, reading, walking, sailing, and cooking.
Grace spent the last six weeks of her life there by the sea before returning home to Beacon Hill on October 15. She was happy to return just as the seasons changed and she could savor the scent of wood smoke from a cozy fire.
Grace was the loving sister of Carol Conard of Shelburne, VT and Tyler Madden of Simsbury, CT and a devoted godmother to her nieces Lindsey Johnson Vandal, Victoria Sears Cabot, and Eliza Lucy Thaler. She is also survived by her sisters’ children, Adelaide Blair Johnson, Ian Borgman Johnson, Erin Tyler Madden, and Megan Elizabeth Madden; her husband’s nieces and nephews; and many cousins, all of whom she adored.
A celebration of Grace’s life will take place at Trinity Church in the City of Boston, Copley
Square, on Friday, November 8 at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the National Society of Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 55 Beacon Street, Boston, 02108.