Elise Quimby, A Fixture In Bridgehampton, Dies At 85

Elise "Weezie" Quimby, right, with her friend Louisette Brown.

Elise Pickering Quimby, who left her mark on the Hampton Library as well as her many friends and acquaintances in her adopted Bridgehampton, died on May 3 in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Quimby, who went by “Weezie,” the nickname given to her as a child in Richmond, Virginia, was 85. She had suffered a stroke last October and been in declining health in recent months, her family said.

“You could have dropped her in any small town in America, and she would have gone straight to the library,” said her daughter, Brooke Pickering-Cole of Stone Ridge, New York.

And that’s apparently what she did soon after moving to Bridgehampton in the early 1980s with her husband, Wallace Quimby, whose family had been summering in the hamlet since the 1870s when the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road made the East End accessible.

After being named to the library’s board of directors, Ms. Quimby lobbied to make the self-appointing board of directors an elective body, a goal that was realized in 2000, with voters in the Bridgehampton and Sagaponack school districts given a say in how the library was run. She served for many years as the board’s president and helped shepherd through a major renovation and expansion project that was completed in 2009.

She was awarded the Velma K. Moore Award by the New York State Library Trustees Association in 2011 for her contributions to library services, and she used the $1,000 stipend that came with it to purchase a table for the room housing the library’s Long Island collection, according to library director Kelly Harris. She added that the room was named in Ms. Quimby’s honor by its underwriters and her friends, Ed and Phyllis Davis.

“Weezie left a lasting impression on all of us,” Ms. Harris said. “She was always thoughtful and able to look at every issue from the perspective of what’s best for the library and the community.”

“She was just an unforgettable positive influence, personally and professionally,” added Debra Engelhardt, who served as library director from 1997 to 2002, and was the first director hired under Ms. Quimby’s leadership.

Gail Davenport, who served for many years on the library board with Ms. Quimby and followed her as president, also sang her praises. “It was hard to fill her shoes,” she said. “Weezie was one of the most respected and important people in Bridgehampton for many, many years.”

“We were all Weezie wannabes,” said Elizabeth Whelan Kotz, another former library board president. “I’m glad I got to know her. She had a way of making everyone feel they were part of the conversation. By getting me involved in the library, Weezie introduced me to a broader community in Bridgehampton.”

It was not only the library that received Ms. Quimby’s attention. She was a member of the Bridgehampton Association, a charitable organization that holds an annual Christmas reception and craft sale and operates the Bridgehampton Book Bay in the former ambulance garage next to the Community House. She served for many years on the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and was a volunteer with the Bridgehampton Museum when her husband served as its president. A gifted editor and writer, she also wrote the weekly Chatterbox column for The Southampton Press for several years.

When asked to describe Ms. Quimby, friends invariably remarked that she was a gracious hostess, often throwing parties for her friends’ special occasions or when newcomers came to town. While she was always polite, they added that Ms. Quimby could let you know what she was really thinking with a discreetly raised eyebrow or a whispered aside.

“If you were wrong about something, and she could see it, she would absolutely tell you,” said one Ms. Quimby’s oldest friends, Anne Riordan. “But she just cared about people and seemed to know instinctively what they needed. She could boil it down and know what needed to be done.”

Gay Lynch and her late husband, Gerald, met the Quimbys when they rented them their home while the Quimbys were completing work on a house they purchased in the early 1980s and had moved from Montauk Highway to Quimby Lane. “We both had Southern roots,” said Ms. Lynch, who was from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “I can’t say enough about how much I came to depend on her as a friend.”

Her stepson, Edward “Ted” Quimby, said, after she married his father, “she never wanted me to think of her as a second mother. It was obvious she was a great person and was going to be a great friend.”

Ms. Quimby was born on May 9, 1934, in Richmond, to the former Ann Catlett and Raymond Power. She attended the St. Catherine’s School there before heading north to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

“My mother wanted to get out of the south,” her son, Will Pickering, said, “but when she moved north, she always complained of the cold.”

She graduated with a degree in English in 1956 and moved to New York City, getting an apartment on the upper East Side. Mr. Pickering said his mother worked in publicity for Harper & Row Publishing, and one of her jobs was to take writers to various events. In that role she met a young Henry Kissinger, Alger Hiss, and the famous stripper Gypsy Lee Rose, among others.

“She moved to New York and she never looked back,” said Ms. Pickering-Cole. “But she retained her accent and close friendships with her buddies from eighth grade.”
Ms. Quimby’s marriage to Russell Pickering ended in divorce. She married Mr. Quimby in 1977. He died in 1996

Besides Ms. Pickering-Cole, Mr. Pickering and his wife, Francine, Ms. Quimby is survived by a sister, Ann Brooke Mason; her stepson Mr. Quimby and his wife, Deborah; a stepdaughter, Melanie Willowheart; her granddaughter Jane Cole; and two step-grandchildren, Kate and Anne Quimby. She was predeceased by her brother, William Brooke Power.

The family has not yet set a date for a memorial and observation.

Donations may be made to the Hampton Library at myhamptonlibrary.org.