MONHEGAN ISLAND – Off the coast of Maine, this island has become a host to artists throughout the year.

This past weekend, the island community, friends and surviving family members gathered to remember the life of one of the artists, Fred Wiley.

“We all have mixed emotions,” his grandson Ben Wiley said, as they all gathered for lunch before the ceremony Sunday. “It’s fun to be together, but it’s bittersweet. It’s the way Fred would have wanted it.”

Fred Wiley, who had been a fixture on the island for about four decades, died Jan. 3 at the age of 93. With his family scattered around the country, his widow, Faryl Wiley, decided to hold off on any type of funeral until they could all return to Monhegan Island.

With “summertime being the best” on the island, his daughter Dede Wiley said it was also decided to be the best time to celebrate his work and remember his life.

Rays of sun peeked through an overcast sky as the family gathered at the Wiley Studio and Fred and Faryl Wiley’s home before the ceremony. Tourist walking past his gallery may have been disappointed to see a “Closed” sign hanging on the door, but around the back of the small home, laughter could be heard as the family bantered back and forth with various “Fred stories.”

“He was always generous giving his paintings (to the family),” Dede Wiley said.

However, with his talent, some of the paintings she told him he wanted were sold before she could actually claim them.

“He had to paint something two or three times before we told Faryl to wrap it up,” she said, because while he gave his children many paintings over the years, he was always flattered by an art sale.

Working mostly in watercolor, Fred Wiley would walk the island every day through his later years of life. Often weighed down by his easel, painting supplies and cans for water, a fellow artist, Don Stone, said you always knew he was coming.

“He sounded sort of like a cow,” with those tin cans clanking as he walked, Stone joked during the ceremony at Monhegan Community Church.

When he came to Monhegan Island during the mid-1960s, Fred Wiley was thrilled to have “discovered” it, Dede Wiley said. From then on, he shared its beauty with his family whenever they would visit.

When “first timers” would visit, Fred Wiley would hike, although slowly, with them to the far side of Monhegan Island for a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

His family remembered how he knew exactly where to find deer, showing them fairy houses built within the Cathedral Woods or teaching them how to judge sunsets on a scale of one to 10 — 10 being excellent, which he claimed happened only once a season. 

His grandsons echoed each other’s sentiments when they arrived on the island at the beginning of the weekend. 

“It’s definitely been wonderful seeing the family, but it’s striking how big a hole there is. It settled in for everyone on the boat,” grandson Tom Rubottom said, because this time Fred Wiley was not waiting at the dock.

At the Lupine Gallery, a blank greeting card with the print of a work by Stone may have depicted Fred Wiley the best, sitting amid dunes with his easel set and eyes focused. Friends at the ceremony remember how he would make them pause on a path so he could paint them into whatever he was working on.

“He was a very special guy. He stood out in the crowd,” Faryl Wiley said. 

After the ceremony, island residents, family and various friends poured out of the church. As they filtered down the street and into various galleries or stores, they commented on how much he will be missed. 

“He was definitely an institution here,” Dede Wiley said. 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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