‘We’ll pack when we get there’: Valley artist, jazz lover Mary Noone remembered

Cassandra Ballard
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Mary Noone sets up her easel and paints near Carbondale.
Ed Kosmicki/Glenwood Springs Post Independent file photo

Mary Noone had a talent for adding new colors to every aspect of her life.

She saw the colors in the world that others couldn’t always find, embraced being present and never took anything too seriously along the way. 

“You couldn’t contain her even if you wanted to. She was just unbothered by the logistics or necessities of life,” Claire Noone, Mary’s daughter, said. “Which was great. It was fun.”

Mary saw the world as a blank canvas asking to be filled, she said.

“Her angle, which I am so grateful for, was that everyone is an artist,” Claire said. “There is nothing precious or special or necessarily different about what she did; she just liked color, she liked expressing herself and she went out and did it.”

A staple in the Roaring Fork Valley since she and her husband Bob Noone settled in Carbondale in 1982, Mary Noone died peacefully in early August, a week after experiencing one last of a favorite annual event, Carbondale Mountain Fair. 

Mary was a renowned painter, a well-recognized member of the community and a co-creator with her husband of Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz, which had a 25-year run from 1985-2010.

“Growing up, that’s just what you do: You go out, you see something, you start painting it,” Claire said. “There was no hesitancy, like a blank canvas is just asking to be filled.”

When the Noones settled in the Roaring Fork Valley, they started in Carbondale because it was the community they both wanted to be part of. 

When they moved to Glenwood Springs, it was for the home they wanted to grow a family in. They had three children, Claire, Vallee and Charlie.

For many years Mary Noone’s body would shake and move involuntarily from Parkinson’s disease. But, a series of surgeries several years ago gave her the ability to move about and relax again.
Kelley Cox/Glenwood Springs Post Independent file photo

The problem was, Mary missed the community in Carbondale. 

The Noones decided to organize a jazz concert without having any idea what they were doing. 

“They decided to start a music series that none of them had any idea of how to do,” Claire said. “They just decided, and that was kind of how my mom did things. She was like, ‘This is just what I’m gonna do, and I’ll figure it out.’”

Although the Noones came for Carbondale, Mary was glad she found Glenwood. 

“Famously, one of her slogans we say is, ‘We’ll pack when we get there,’ which is quite literally what we do,” Claire said.

She reminisced about throwing everything in the car and driving to the airport while booking the tickets on the road or spontaneously taking a last-minute camping trip.

“She wasn’t the kind of person who needed all the right gear or even needed food. Like, she would call good Chinese and go up and sleep at the parking lot of the base of Sopris,” Claire said. “We’d camp in the back of the truck, have a good dinner, lay out under the stars.”

That mentality went hand-in-hand with how Mary lived her life. 

Being whimsical can sometimes hold bad connotations, but, for Mary, it was embraced beyond shame, and one of the most beautiful aspects of being in her presence. 

One of Mary Noone’s many paintings, “Fresh Produce.”
Glenwood Springs Post Independent file photo

“I don’t think she ever really lost her childlike wonder and joy about getting outside whenever she could,” Claire said. 

One of her closest friends, Martha Cochran, would go with her to paint the colors when the seasons would change. 

“She would paint in her own colors,” Cochran said. “I used to find it so funny — like in the fall, all the golden aspen trees in her painting would be blue or red. What she saw were the contrasts, I think, and, then, she used her own colors to portray that.”

Constantly adapting with any situation, Mary switched to acrylics after she had Claire, so she could paint with something that would dry fast, so she could get right back on the road. 

“That was kind of my adventures with mom as a kid. We go to beautiful places in the Roaring Fork Valley, pop up, she’d set up her easel, we’d run around, play and she’d do a painting in like a half hour, an hour, we’d jump in the river and head on,” Claire said.

The ability to find time to enjoy and appreciate the moment and then moving on is reflected in multiple aspects of her life. Even being diagnosed with Parkinsons and, later, cancer, she never lost her optimistic and strong disposition.

Claire said her family saw a lot of change and development growing up in the valley, and her mom chose to embrace the change, capturing spaces by painting the areas that were planned to be built on. 

“I kind of got my first eye into conservation work, and the beauty of landscape by going with my mom to these places before they were developed,” Claire said. “She’d take it upon herself to try to capture an undisturbed landscape as much as possible before it was bulldozed.”

Knowing that it was something that wasn’t going to be there forever, Claire said she would paint with urgency — not only to capture these places through art, but also to almost archive these landscapes before they were gone.

The Noone family celebrates the final Summer of Jazz concert in 2010 as they dance together in front of the stage at Two Rivers Park. From left are Claire, Charlie, Bob, Vallee and Mary Noone.
Kelley Cox/Glenwood Springs Post Independent file photo

One memory Claire cherishes was her mom painting the landscape where the community center was built. There was an old cottonwood tree they both loved, and Mary fought to keep. 

The builders mistakenly cut it down after Mary worked with the city council to salvage it. Claire said she still has the painting of the cottonwood tree hanging on her wall as one of her favorites. 

“I’m very fond but also have very heartbreaking memories of sitting among the survey stakes at Wulfsohn Ranch before Glenwood Meadows was built,” Claire said.

Mary taught her family that these aspects of life could be embraced without being dwelled upon. She taught all of her family to think more like artists and to never hold on too tight to what they can’t change. 

“You can make mistakes, you can have a bad painting, throw it out and keep going,” Claire said.

Mary’s final project was painting one of the outdoor booth kiosks across from the Hotel Colorado. Her mobility was limited, but her will and a strong bond with a close friend prevailed. 

Cochran knew how to capture what her friend wanted, and Claire agreed.

“That was kind of her last project I tried to do with her,” Cochran said. “She’d mix colors and point to a page, and that was really a fun project, and she was happy to have that done.”

It’s a Mary Noone that can’t be missed, they both said separately.

There will be a celebration of life for Mary Noone on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 3 – 5 p.m. at the Two Rivers Park bandshell. The event is informal; preferred attendance for those who knew and loved her.