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Grace Ashwell Yeomans Thaler

Mrs. Thomas W. Thaler (Grace A. Yeomans) of Boston and Wellfleet, MA, died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday, October 27, 2013, with her devoted husband at her side.

Grace, an independent decorative arts appraiser and consultant, was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Babcock Yeomans (Joan Barrows). She was born in New York City on June 13, 1955, grew up in West Hartford, CT, and summered in Dublin, NH. She attended Emma Willard School and graduated from Loomis-Chaffee School and Smith College, where she majored in art history. 

Her husband, Tom, was at Amherst College at the time that Grace was at Smith, but they did not meet in western Massachusetts; rather, they met in 1996 at a reception given by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Grace’s father, whom Tom knew from their mutual membership in the Society of Colonial Wars, made the introduction. A year later, Mr. Yeomans walked his daughter down the aisle of Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square. Grace and Tom celebrated their 16th anniversary two days before Grace’s death.

Before founding her own art appraisal business, Grace held leadership positions at Sotheby’s New York and Grogan & Company of Dedham, MA. At Sotheby’s, she worked in the oriental carpet department and was later assistant to the chairman. At Grogan, Grace was director of decorative arts and was widely known for her expertise in Chinese export porcelain. She completed the distinguished Attingham Summer School program of study in Britain, in addition to many other professional courses and certificates.

Until she became ill this past summer, Grace served on the board of governors and the furnishings committee of the Shirley-Eustis House Association in Roxbury and on the board and the collections committee at Gore Place. She was active on the board of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was the co-chair of their historic headquarters, the William Hickling Prescott House, at 55 Beacon Street in Boston. Grace was to become the next president of the Dames in the spring of 2014.

She was a proprietor of the Boston Athenaeum, a past corporator of the Worcester Art Museum, and a past member of the board of managers of The Vincent Club, which raises money for women’s health education and research. Grace was a perennial winner of the Vincent Advertising Medal during the last decade in which the Vincent Show took place. Given her understated, civilized demeanor, fellow members were always in awe of her ability to raise more money than more forceful personalities of the club. Grace was also a member of the Chilton Club, named for Mary Chilton, the first woman to step ashore from the Mayflower, where she was an enthusiastic member of the restaurant committee. Grace was passionate about food and cooking, and as a past president of the Smith Club of Cambridge, she hosted many gatherings with Julia Child. Grace’s other affiliations included the Appraisers’ Registry of New England, the French Porcelain Society, and the China Students’ Club of Boston, of which she was a board member.

Grace and Tom had a house on Cape Cod on family land in Wellfleet called Tom’s Bluff, where Grace reveled in her role as caretaker; she was just as comfortable fixing a sink as she was assessing Chinese export porcelain. She was an avid ocean swimmer and was never deterred by choppy surf, just as she was never deterred by any challenge in her life. As a young girl in Dublin, she was captivated by local lore that Isabella Stewart Gardner had lost her pearls in Dublin Lake a century earlier; hence, she trolled the depths of the lake in search of them. Though she never found Mrs. Gardner’s pearls, Grace was never seen without her own! Grace and Tom enjoyed wonderful Wellfleet weekends gardening, reading, walking, sailing, and cooking. Grace never found a pearl in the Wellfleet oysters harvested in front of the beach house, but she and Tom savored them just the same, either on site or at the Somerset Club on Beacon Hill, right near their in-town digs.

Grace spent the last six weeks of her life by the sea before returning home to Boston on October 15. She loved being part of the community of Beacon Hill and, before her illness, she could be seen walking up and down Charles Street daily; Grace was a cheerful, friendly presence in the neighborhood she adored and was unfailingly kind to everyone she met. Those who knew her best recognized that she was the embodiment of her name: she was gracious, lovely, and a lady — albeit a very modern lady who juggled a demanding career with family obligations and volunteer commitments.

In addition to her husband, Grace is survived by her sisters, Mrs. David W. M. Conard (Carol Yeomans) of Shelburne, VT, and Mrs. Mark R. Madden (Tyler Yeomans) of Simsbury, CT; and by her three godchildren, niece Lindsey Johnson Vandal, and Tom’s nieces Victoria Sears Cabot and Eliza Lucy Thaler. She is also survived by her sisters’ other children, Adelaide Blair Johnson, Ian Borgman Johnson, Erin Tyler Madden, and Megan Elizabeth Madden; her husband’s nieces and nephews; and many cousins, all of whom she adored.

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