In memoriam: Violet McCandlish

by Robert Ganz

Longtime departmental supporter Violet McCandlish passed away recently. Professor Robert Ganz has compsoed this tribute

For many of us in the department, Violet McCandlish was a very supportive, colorful, warm and essential presence. In 1966, the year after George McCandlish took over the early American “slot”—which he filled so well—Violet and the kids left their interesting house in Cambridge, MA, a square former auto garage that they converted, arranging the bedrooms etc. around the large central space; and took up residence on Thirty-third place in Cleveland Park. That large house became the location of many a sumptuous and exciting party after the Tupper Shakespeare lectures and other occasions. Violet was a spectacular cook. It was because of the McCandlishes that Annie and I put several of our children into Sidwell Friends School and also moved to Cleveland Park. They were our kindly models and mentors. During several successive summer sessions, when Annie and I had rented out our own house, I stayed gratis at the McCandlishes while they were away. One summer, David McAleavey and I were roommates there. Although Violet was a very proper Bostonian Brahmin—a member of the well-to-do Brooks family that the John Adamses were so happy to marry into—she decisively pulled up roots and planted herself permanently in Washington. After George’s untimely death in Italy in the spring of 1975, during the third or fourth year of his chairmanship, Violet eventually moved to a different house in Cleveland Park, which was the scene of a series of lovely annual spring parties—gatherings of old friends–that spilled out into her interesting yard. Every year in the same season she and several of her cronies put on an exhibition of their paintings in the Deanery during the annual spring fair at the Cathedral. She also took painting trips to places like St. Bart’s island in the Caribbean. She summered in her old stone house in Southwest Harbor, Maine. She was a regular attendant at the D.C. concerts and operas. She had interesting little dogs. For many years, she was Precinct Captain of the Cleveland Park polling station. During the war, she was a driver in France with the WAAC’s; and I believe that that was where she and George met. It is something of a consolation for me that my last meeting with Violet, like my last meeting with George many years earlier, was a very pleasant one. We had as our guest for Obama’s Inaugural one of George’s former PhD students from Japan; and Violet took us all to the Black Salt Restaurant on McArthur Boulevard. Violet’s son, David was also there along with his wife, Lonnie, and daughter, Georgia. As we left, I noticed that David had on George’s old Inverness of the sort that Sherlock Holmes used to wear. It looked to be in perfect shape. We had a fine time and Violet was very much in charge. What a gap she leaves behind her!

Similar Posts