JUNE FERRIN | 1930 – 2023
June Diane Ferrin passed away at home in Cummington, MA on April 20, 2023, after gracefully enduring a stage four cancer diagnosis for more than three years. She spent her final months reminiscing with pictures and papers and telling stories of her life to her many visitors and her family.
June was devoted to her family and countless friends, a dedicated gardener, accomplished painter and a beloved teacher. Everyone whose lives she touched enjoyed spending time in the world of beauty she created.. In her own words, at 93 she could have “gone all the way,” having also survived two broken hips and avoiding COVID-19 during those last years. In her final months, she let us all know that she wanted to “come back as a tree,” to live near her perennial gardens with the endless blossoms that surround her home.
June Ferrin (neé Draper) is survived by her three daughters Leslie Ferrin (Cummington, MA), Melanie Ferrin (Dalton, MA) and Jane Fischer (Indianapolis, IN); four grandchildren, Graeme and Lucy Sloan, Rachel Montgomery and Rebecca Fischer Tripodi; and four great-grandchildren Chloe, Benjamin, Emma and Ella. She is predeceased by her older sister Dolores Simonek, whose eight children, dozens of grandchildren and great-grand children comprise the Los Angeles-based family who lovingly remember the two sisters.
June was born March 21,1930 to Katherine Olive Draper (neé Mason) and Ira Durias Draper in Los Angeles, when it was still a farming community. Her parents and their extended families had moved from Iowa in the early 1900’s in search of work in the nascent film industry. Through the Great Depression, June’s family depended on the generosity of relatives, government relief – and like so many of that generation they learned skills to make-do with what was available. The backyard fig tree and fresh mackerel Ira brought home from his work as a commercial fisherman kept them fed. They fixed, repaired, sewed and saved what they could to get by – all traits that June passed on to others throughout her life. No one forgets her story about the time they had to eat her “pet chicken”.
at the During the Second World War she watched her Japanese schoolmates disappear into internment camps, kept the lights off at night and collected materials for the war effort. She earned the honor of Salutatorian of the class of ’48 at Gardena High School, and garnered numerous awards for her art and leadership. June was among the first women from her school and in her family to attend university.
A graduate of UCLA in the class of ‘53, June majored in art and social studies, and took classes with renowned mid-century ceramist, Laura Andreson. At UCLA she lived in a YWCA co-operative dorm, serving as the president for a period, and meeting friends Noel Osheroff and Betty Reiss with whom she remained close throughout her life. In one of her many personal writings–Learning to Cook at 86–she recalls the standing ovation she received in the YWCA dining hall for preparing and serving a proper tapioca pudding, after many before her had served “tapioca soup.” The organization was socially progressive during the McCarthy era, and through her leadership positions she met many artists, folk singers, ethicists and other social activists, as well as her future husband Kenneth Ferrin.
The couple married in 1954, and while Ken pursued a PhD in Mathematics, June supported the couple by teaching art in public school. During this time their bohemian friendships took them on road trips into Mexico in the 1950’s, marking the beginning of a lifelong interest in international travel and architecture. June’s extensive collections of art, knowledge and materials began during these trips, eventually including modern art, design, decorative and applied arts, material culture and cultural anthropology.
When Ken was hired by IBM in 1960 they moved East, settling in New York City in 1962. They relocated to Croton-on-Hudson a few years later, where they lived until their divorce in 1974. June and Ken’s first daughter Leslie was born in 1958 in Los Angeles, and their second, Melanie, in 1963 in New York City. Summers were spent at Pine Lake, a bungalow community popular among Jewish refugees. Jane Fischer joined the family in 1963, first as a summer mother’s helper then, having been orphaned, she was adopted.
June continued living in Croton after her divorce and later moved to Brewster and Katonah where she became a licensed real estate agent. She began painting again at the insistence of art dealer Concetta Nardin, Nardin Fine Art in Cross River New York, where she presented her first solo exhibition in 1992. Later, June helped found an artist co-op in 1997, The Village Gallery in Katonah, with her friend Patty Rueger. In 2000 she moved back to Croton to live next door to her daughter Leslie and her family. Throughout her life, June was a dedicated advocate for her daughter Melanie and joyously welcomed grandmotherhood with the arrival of Jane and Leslie’s children.
Throughout her life, many considered June their second-mother, including Nina Roth-Wells whose father was June’s partner for many years during her childhood. Their times together included family travel abroad to discover for themselves some of the artistic, culinary and architectural wonders of the world.
June’s last travel adventures were with her sister Dolores to Italy and France, and a cross country road trip they considered their “Thelma and Louise” journey to see the sights of America. June maintained a close relationship with her California family and friends, regularly visiting for reunions at the family’s summer cottage in northern California’s Seiad Valley, for big weddings and escapes from the Northeastern winter to paint in Palm Springs.
In 2006, June moved to Cummington, Massachusetts, where Leslie established Project Art with sculptor Sergei Isupov. June lived next door and played an important role in raising her grandchildren. Melanie also moved to the area soon after. June’s passion for gardening transformed the grounds of the former mill site with magnificent flowers and trees freed from the constant battle against the voracious deer that plagued her earlier efforts in New York.
Once settled in Massachusetts, in 2008 she was invited to teach watercolor painting at IS183 Art School at the Lichtenstein Center in Pittsfield, MA and developed a loyal following of students. Eventually her classes moved to Cummington, and in this relatively remote location, she took immense pride in cooking, hosting and serving carefully curated lunches presented on her extensive collection of dishes and table linens to her art students. An exhibition “Wednesdays with June” featuring work by June and her students took place in 2017 at the Cummington Community House. She taught until 2019, when the closed elementary school was permanently shuttered. After the pandemic abated, the class resumed under the direction of her friend Barbara Konieczny, who made it possible for June to attend and enjoy “emeritus” status through 2022.
June’s dedication to beauty and love for her family and friends was expressed in every aspect of her life and wherever she lived. All who joined her at annual gatherings – Easter Egg hunts, Thanksgivings, Christmases, or as the children who were the focus of themed birthday parties – experienced her boundless love, creativity and her many special touches. June’s generosity, gentle leadership and endless kindness were integral features of her life. In her final years, despite the challenges of the pandemic and her health, she enjoyed spending time with close friends and family, reminiscing and gardening.
June’s artwork, gardens and life will be celebrated at Project Art in Cummington in Fall 2023 during Hilltown Open Studio Tour on the last weekend in September.
The family thanks the caring staff and doctors at Williamsburg Internal Medicine, the Cancer Center and Hospice at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton for their many kindnesses during these challenging final years.
Read more about June “Art Maker June Ferrin – Painter – Teacher
In lieu of flowers, two of June’s favorite causes are:
Tributes & Memories
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Thank you to the friends and family who contributed to the remembrance – the stories continue to flow. We hope you will add yours and come visit her gardens at Project Art to remember her in person, surrounded by her beautiful flowers and the trees she planted and marveled at.