H. Dudley Thayer and Trit Johnson circa 1975
As a product of a girl's school and a women's college, I have been around and known some pretty remarkable women, but one in my life stood out amongst them all. Senior to me by about 30 years, Patricia Johnson was introduced to my life by my beloved step-father, Dudley Thayer. Known as Trit or Tritsel to most of us, she was unique in the truest sense of the word.
Trit never married but was the life-long companion of my step-father's best friend. She was a devoted companion and loyal friend to them both until their deaths many years ago. Never one to tolerate boredom or suffer fools, Trit surrounded them and herself with interesting, intelligent, and entertaining people, especially around cocktail hour, when she would invite a mixed group of people over for "a smile" before they all went their separate ways for dinner.
Trit owned several properties over the years around Pleasant Bay and each was given its own moniker, like The Mother Goose or The Barge which morphed from its original name L"Auberge. Her own property perched on the edge of Pleasant Bay had a Main House, a Boat House and the Treehouse, from which she could dive into the bay each summer morning for a long leisurely swim.
Her father had hoped for a son, or at least that's what I recall her saying, and the result was that Trit became quite capable at all manner of things including sports and home repairs. My memories of Trit in years past all involved motion whether she was painting a bedroom or scraping outside shutters, readying the skiff for the summer season, jumping onto the dock after a great sail, or returning home after figure skating (something she took up in her 60s). She also loved to dance and the vision of her on a dance floor, to me, was magical.
Trit loved the company of men, and they too enjoyed hers. I never knew her to be without a companion several of whom she'd known since she was young. She was interested in them and their interests, capable of matching their wit and energies, a devoted friend, and she was beautiful, all of which made many women envy and sometimes distrust her. She was her own person - independent, confident and full of life - something that some women found threatening. Having said that, Trit's friends who were women were generally a little like her - independent and intelligent, and she was equally as loyal to them as she was the men in her life.
Trit had beautiful water-blue eyes and a captivating smile that radiated her thorough enjoyment of life and those around her. Her face, weathered by her outdoor lifestyle, reflected the active life she'd led and was framed by naturally wavy, early-gray hair, and of course, with all that energy - she was athletically trim.
When Trit was a young woman, she worked as a stewardess, I think for TWA, and I loved hearing the stories of how friendly the skies were in those days and how she helped make them that way. Trit was one of the first women I ever knew who'd had a career which was quite inspiring to me. As my graduation from college approached, Trit was interested in what I thought I might do afterwards and I told her I was thinking of returning to the Cape - perhaps working at my father's store in Chatham - The Mayflower Shop. Trit questioned why I would do that at such a young age and encouraged me to go out into the world, saying "we'll be here when you come back". That single conversation had a material affect on my life as I took those words, from a woman I respected and admired as a role-model, to heart. Within a year, I was living in Manhattan embarking on what became a 27 year career in banking on Wall Street. I saw a lot of the world and met a great number of interesting people thanks to that affectionate nudge from Trit.
Trit passed away this week after a long, amazing life of 90 plus years. I, as many, will miss her deeply but her remarkable spirit, character and joie de vivre will continue to be an inspiration for me for the rest of my days.