Mary Helen Armstrong passed away peacefully on October 26 at the age of 94 after a long and successful life as an Impressionist artist devoted to her family and to its political and social causes. Deeply admired and loved by all, Mary Helen has lived her life with intention, generosity and humility. It’s no surprise that in her final days, she spent every waking moment organizing an exhibition of her remaining art in order to raise money for charitable causes.
Mary Helen was born in New York, daughter of Henry Morgan Post and Mary Riker Haskell. She attended Chapin School and Parsons School of Design, where she showed great artistic promise. In 1945, she met Conrad Gustav Hürlimann, a dashing businessman from Zürich, Switzerland, and they married in 1949. Over the following decades, she devoted herself to her family and volunteered in political campaigns and for the Red Cross. She was also deeply involved at the Carver Center in Port Chester, NY, where she helped raise funds to expand their programs and purchase their first building.
It wasn’t until 1971, when her beloved Conrad died of pancreatic cancer, that Mary Helen returned to her art. She started with pastel portraits, but soon turned to watercolors of gardens and landscapes and oil paintings reminiscent of Monet and the Impressionists. She remarried in 1977 to John C. Armstrong and began to paint under the name of Mr. H. Hurlimann Armstrong. As her paintings grew in popularity, she partnered with her daughter Mary Ann to create Hurlimann Armstrong Studios, producing beautiful cards, mugs and products featuring the art of Mary Helen alongside similar artists. His paintings are on display at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut and the Farnsworth Museum in Maine, as well as in collectors’ homes across the country.
Later in her life, Mary Helen separated from John and moved to California where she met George Cator, her constant companion and dearest friend later in life. She has become an active member of Menlo Park Rotary, the Woodside Garden Club and Trinity Church. She taught art to veterans at the VA Hospital and moved to the Vi in Palo Alto.
Mary Helen is survived by her three daughters, Mary Ann Hurlimann, Lily Hurlimann and Sandy Hurlimann Herz, whom she describes as her three greatest masterpieces, and their partners James Bassett and Peter Herz. Additionally, she is survived by six beloved grandchildren – Eric Perret, Cassandra Perret Solberg, Brandon Bassett, William Bassett, Henry Herz and Conrad (Jack) Herz – and three great grandchildren – Wesley Bassett, Alexis (Lexi) Bassett and Logan Solberg – who collectively were the light of her life. She cared deeply for the children and grandchildren of John Armstrong and George Cator and exceptionally loved Andrea Herz, whom she all considered part of her family.
A memorial celebration for Mary Helen will take place at Vi in early January. In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations in memory of Mary Helen to the Carver Center, Fountain House, and California Clubhouse.
Published by The New York Times from October 31 to November 1, 2021.