Miriam “Mirnie” Davis Kashiwa was born March 12, 1925. She died just after first light, Friday, February 9, 2018, one month shy of her 93rd birthday. Her final days were unexpected, swift and peaceful. Following a shoulder injury, she was able to remain at home in “The House that Henry Built” surrounded and tended by her family. Mirnie was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the eldest daughter of Charles Fremont and Miriam Browne Davis. During her childhood, her family moved many times due to her father’s work as a musician and composer. (Her father, Charlie Davis’s composition of Copenhagen, a jazz tune, continues to entertain audiences and enjoys some notoriety to this day.) The Davis family moved to Oswego, N.Y. when Mirnie was 12 years old.
It is a little-known fact, that Mirnie won a Jitterbug High School Championship in 1940. She went on to earn a degree in Fine Arts from Syracuse University in 1947. While at SU, she met Henry “Hank” Kashiwa as they worked together in a dining hall. Family lore is that it was love at first sight.
Mirnie’s first paying job was as an interior decorator, designing store windows and photographing them for her father’s furniture store, Browne-Davis Furniture. It was then that she made the discovery that it was “fun to work with beautiful things you did not have to pay for.”
Hank and Mirnie married on March 27, 1948. They spent the first night of their honeymoon at the Moose Head Hotel (now Hollister’s Trading Post) in Old Forge, and then continued to Keene Valley where they climbed and camped at Mount Marcy in the winter snow. In 1950, after living in New York City, they returned to Old Forge with their two young children; this was their home for the next 67 years.
Mirnie was a woman of extraordinary vision, purpose, versatility, generosity, determination and practicality. She was humble and a hard worker; she never asked anyone to do something she would not do herself. To keep her mind sharp and to expand her exposure to a variety of individuals from near and far, she and Hank built a small international craft shop on State Route 28. It was a perfect vehicle through which to teach her children the skills of budding merchantry and important values for life: being pleasant and interested in everyone, responsibility, punctuality, honesty, social pleasantries, etc. Together, Mirnie and Hank built their functional and cozy, though not fancy or luxurious, “Cabin in the Woods”.
Mirnie furthered her education by attending night school in Utica; she took one of her children to each class, thereby instilling the value of continued learning. One summer she drove 2 hours to Syracuse and back each day in pursuit of a double Master’s degree in Elementary Education and Art Education. She taught art at Barneveld Elementary School for several years, and later was the sole teacher at the Woodgate One Room School House.
In 1952 Mirnie, with the help of some key people (her husband Hank, June Kiefer, Betty Crofut and others) started the Central Adirondack Art Show. At the time, the Kashiwa family lived in the Dutch Colonial house across from what is now the Thendara Pine Restaurant. Mirnie was speaking with a gentleman who said it was so unfortunate that there were no cultural activities in this area. Mirnie spontaneously replied that there was going to be an art show on their lawn in two weeks. “And that is how it began. And that is the truth;” direct from Mirnie’s lips. Hank cut saplings and strung them with chicken wire to create a labyrinth of walls on which to hang paintings. The chicken wire gallery design remained for many years thereafter.
In 1965, Mirnie realized that in order to continue her vision to grow local appreciation for the arts and sciences, they needed more than just people. They needed an organization. Thus, a group of founding members applied to incorporate as The Arts Guild/Old Forge (TAG), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Mirnie described the response of many individuals as “incredulity”; they thought her idea was funny; they laughed at her. Mirnie’s vision has always included bringing the visual and performing arts to everyone; not just a select few. She hoped that all area residents would come to enjoy and take advantage of this opportunity.
The day her second child left for college in 1969, Mirnie established a modified Montessori school, the Kinderwood Preschool, in her living room. Her objective was to instill in her small pupils preacademic learning, including skills for sharing, taking turns, diplomacy, negotiation, as well as music, imagination, and creativity. Hundreds of children, now parents, and grandparents alike recall the lessons they learned at Mrs. Kashiwa’s school.
Mirnie’s next brainchild arrived in 1982, when she instituted the renowned Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors (ANEAW). Like many of her endeavors, she was ahead of her time in knowing what this opportunity could mean to this region, and she worked hard to make it one of the most celebrated watermedia exhibits in the nation. It has become a significant draw for local autumn tourism. Selecting jurors, attracting artists, securing the winners’ medallions and awards, including the prized garnet “chip”, selecting an image for the annual commemorative poster, and then delivering posters to 100 local businesses, driving cross-country to deliver slide carousels to jurors, agonizing over what to write for her essay for the catalog, organizing and feeding countless volunteers, and continually asking for contributions and then writing thank you notes to the Prize Givers and the Centurion Underwriters Club consumed much of her time.
2005 brought the beginning of the culmination of Mirnie’s dream when they broke ground for the new Arts and Sciences Building located across Route 28 from the previous Art Center/Old Forge. Mirnie personally educated herself on every element of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building. This included geothermal, solar, and air energy. She checked the progress almost daily. Construction was completed in January 2011. Shortly thereafter the Arts Center/Old Forge was rebranded View though Mirnie continued to refer to it as the Arts Center at View. For the last 7 years, she has relentlessly sought ways to reduce and retire what remains of the multimillion dollar debt.
In Mirnie’s later years, she impressed others with her continued learning and creative pursuits. She invited accomplished musicians into her home to play her (father’s) 1908 Steinway Concert B grand piano for friends and neighbors. The Cabin in the Woods concert series brought her great joy. 2007, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ANEAW, Mirnie collected and bound “Pondering Art: Beauty is the Bridge”; a collection of all her ANEAW essays. In 2009 she wrote a poem “I Am the Adirondacks” which was subsequently featured in a multimedia CD produced by Carl Heilman II.
Comments prepared for the introduction of “I am the Adirondacks” read: Arts Center/Old Forge Founder and Adirondack Cultural Pioneer: Miriam Kashiwa. “There are a few common threads in all that Miriam undertakes, teaching by example in every instance. Vision, dedication, diligence, optimism, kindness, flexibility, and tenacity are all qualities she shares as she teaches us how to lead in her footsteps to try to make the world around us a better place. Mirnie’s goal to leave a legacy of learning for the future of our community is achievable by following her example; using what is available, contributing what is special in each of us, and encouraging those around us to join in.”
Mirnie merged into the electronic era with grace and enthusiasm. She regularly searched the internet for information about new/current interests. She used facetime and e-mail to maintain her connection with family (especially her great grandchildren) and friends and to continue to share her vast experience particularly with those closest to the art center. She continued to write, and rewrite versions of the ANEAW catalog essay even though, “They probably won’t use it.” In the past two years she took to writing Haiku poetry which she called her “fractured Haiku”. These works will be collected and bound for posterity soon.
Mirnie is a Director Emeriti of View, and Curator Emeriti of the ANEAW. She is known as the “Spark” among her family and colleagues. Mirnie was always quick to give a big smile; she loved to laugh. Those who know her well, will remember her twinkly blue eyes. She was always positive. In recent years, when asked, “How are you doing Mirn?” she always smiled and replied, “100 percent.”
Mirnie and Hank had eight children; 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Mirnie referred to her children as: the “skier” from the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana, Hank Charles Kashiwa, his son, Henry “Hennie” Deutsch Kashiwa (Sonya Bugbee Kashiwa) and their children Heidi and Sophie Kashiwa; the “doctor” from Middlebury, Vermont, Johana “Jody” Kashiwa Brakeley (Peter Brakeley) and their children, August “Gus” Kashiwa Brakeley (Megan Osterhout Brakeley) and their children Hazel and Solomon Kashiwa Brakeley; Dr. Rebecca Miriam Brakeley (Jesse Wall) and their daughter Olive Miriam Wall; and Harlan Peter Brakeley (Maria SchnellBrakeley); the “scientist” from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Bryan “Bucky” Andrew Kashiwa, PhD (Lynda Baker Kashiwa) and their children, Corey Kashiwa, Amy Kashiwa and her children, Riley and Aspen Allsop, and Brandy Kashiwa and her children, Matisse, Samuel and Shintiel Potterton; the “diabetes nurse educator” from Leicester, Vermont, Miriam “Missy” Kashiwa McManus (James McManus) and their children, James Davis “JD” McManus (Teresa Sandoval McManus) and their children Miriam and Grace McManus, and Michael Henry McManus (Melissa D’Addario) and their son James Anthony McManus; and the “musician/audio engineer” from Denver, Colorado, Gannon Christopher Kashiwa (Sallie Barton Kashiwa) and their children, Charles “Charlie” Hudson Kashiwa, Timothy “Tim” Gannon Kashiwa (Stephanie Shaefer), and Chad Taylor Kashiwa.
Mirnie and Hank’s three sons, Tobin William, and twins, Anthony Richard and Andrew Abijah died in infancy. Miriam also leaves her “two smart sisters” Jane Davis VanOpdorp and Charlene “Lene” Anne Davis of Oswego, New York. Numerous other relatives are spread across the country and internationally.
Mirnie had many “angels” who cared for and about her in the past few years. There are too many individuals to name them all; you know who you are. One special note of appreciation to the person who planned her family dinners according to what she thought Mirnie would want to eat, who discussed the national news, who shared their funny dreams with Mirnie and who watched Wheel of Fortune for more years than can be remembered.
Miriam, “Mirnie”, Mrs. Kashiwa, “Nonnie” to her family, would be pleased if those wishing to do so, would make a contribution to the Wetland Walkway Project at View, c/o the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, 2608 Genesee Street, Utica, NY 13502 phone 315-735-8212.
Visitation hours are 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday February 16th, at VIEW 3273 State Route 28, Old Forge, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated, Saturday February 17th at 10:00 a.m., at Saint Bartholomew’s Church, 103 Crosby Blvd, Old Forge, followed by refreshments in Saint Bartholomew’s Hall. The family plans another celebration of life and internment at Riverview Cemetery, Old Forge, when the weather is warmer.
Arrangements are with the Dimbleby Funeral Homes, Inc., Old Forge, N.Y. For online expressions of sympathy please go to www.dimblebyfh.com