Beatrice "Beppie" Spencer Noyes, widow of Newbold Noyes, editor of The Washington Evening Star, died quietly on Tuesday, July 3, at her longtime home in Sorrento, Maine. Born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 20, 1919, Beppie also lived for many years in Potomac and in Hancock Point, Maine.
Beppie grew up one of four children and a professed tomboy, a label she lay claim to all her life. "When I was a little boy...." she used to say. She loved playing contact sports: football, ice hockey and beating up bigger, older boys. Later, this sheer joy of movement translated itself into a love of dancing, riding, golf, and intervening fearlessly in the occasional dogfight. As a child, she let it be known she hated sewing and big baby dolls, so her beloved grandmother, who spent evenings reading aloud, gave her three little dolls instead of one big one, and let her draw instead of sew.
Thus began her lifelong devotion to drawing, painting, drama and the word. After attending Liggett School, she earned her B.A. at Vassar College in theater. When she moved with her husband Newbold to their farm in Potomac, she co-founded The Potomac Almanac, which was full of her illustrations of foxes decked out in fox hunting attire, among many others.
She did fox hunt with The Potomac Hunt, but always rooted for the fox. During her time in Sorrento, she became the Blink Bonnie golf pro, and introduced hundreds to her favorite game.
She wrote many nature pieces for The Frenchman Bay Conservancy, collected in 2004 as "Beppie’s Musings," and two children's books: "Mosby, the Kennedy Center Cat," and "Wigglesworth: The Caterpillar Who Wanted To Fly."
"I remember a time when she wrote a story about her visit to the Queen of England," said Lutie Semmes, former Potomac Almanac editor. "We didn’t know why she was there, but it was a good story."
AS A RULE, Beppie always allied herself with nature, be it fox or cat, caterpillar or Bunch Berry, slender grass or shining water. She didn’t just write about nature or observe nature — she inhabited it, writing as it were from the inside out. She was devoted to her own animals, and they to her. She always had a small herd following her around. In the last days, cats and dog never left her side. At press time they are still waiting for her in her bedroom.
"She absolutely loved, loved, loved dogs. She’d do anything she could do to make sure the dogs were very happy and comfortable," said Cissy Finley Grant of Potomac.
Beppie had many human friends as well, near and far, summer and winter. When people asked after her, you could tell they meant it. Newbold was arguably her best friend, and when she bravely wrote him during World War II to suggest she wanted to accept his proposal after all, he flew home and married her. He simply adored her. They had met as young teens at the Sorrento pool, and finally found their way to each other. Among other things, they literally made great music together, he playing the piano and Beppie singing in her fantastic contralto voice. She had a great range and could sing soprano, but like any tomboy preferred tenor. Newbold’s gift to Beppie on the occasion of her first marriage to another suitor was an upright Steinway. He used to say he married her to get the piano back.
Toward the end of her life, Beppie underwent a transformation of temperament. Still fiery at times, she cultivated a new almost otherworldly gentleness and serenity. While her body grew increasingly frail, her capacity for compassion and peace strengthened. Her death was as quiet and blessed as anyone who loved her could have wished. One of her last questions was "How do I get home?" She has found her way.
Beppie is survived by three of her four children: Newbold (Terry) Noyes III and Elizabeth Spencer Noyes of Sorrento, and Alexandra Ewing Noyes of Marshfield, Vt.; 13 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, one dog, two cats, many wild birds, six gray squirrels (expatriate from D.C.), a newt, and countless extended family and friends.