Mary Grace Canfield
1924 - 2014, Santa Barbara
Mary Grace Canfield, veteran actress, mother, grandmother and friend, who was grateful for every day of life, died February 15, 2014 in Santa Barbara. She was born September 3, 1924 in Rochester, New York. Mary Grace grew up in “the most beautiful house ever” on Lake Canandaigua in upstate NY. As a shy child, she read voraciously. Discovering plays, she knew by age nine she wanted to be an actress. She attended the renowned Hedgerow Theater in Pennsylvania, studying with Jasper Deeter for three years. She then moved to NYC acting on and off Broadway. There she met producer Charles Carey, who took her on as an apprentice at his summer stock theater in Surry, Maine for six years. At the end of her first summer, The Bangor News had dubbed her as “Surry’s Favorite” at age 21! During this time, she married Charles Carey and her first daughter, Phoebe, was born. Back in NYC, she continued her stage career and her second daughter, Alison Carey was born. After a divorce, and struggling at times to find work, life changed dramatically when David Swift, director/producer for Disney films, called and asked her to come to Hollywood to play “Angelica,” the upstairs maid, in the movie Pollyanna. When filming finished, she bravely moved to Hollywood with two little girls a move that brought this talented actress a successful career in L.A. for the next 20 years. Although her resume is long, she became most recognized for playing “Ralph Monroe,” the inept female carpenter on the series Green Acres, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. She was in over 40 episodes which ran from 1965 – 1971. In 1968, tired of the city, she took a solo drive north with no particular destination. She found herself driving up San Ysidro Road towards beautiful mountains, passing smells of orange blossoms and then a sign on the side of the road: “For Sale by Owner.” She pulled into the driveway and bought a 1912 CA craftsman for $36,000! There she lived happily for many years involving herself in projects, community endeavors and politics. In the mid 80’s, her Yankee background beckoned. She had a long-held dream to spend her last years living in the rural area of Maine she loved, with the changing seasons. She lived her dream in Blue Hill when she bought an 1865 Cape Cod house on a knoll with 8 acres. She was ecstatically happy once again. In 1989, she married John Bischof and rediscovered her second passion – sailing. On both coasts, she made friends easily and always had creative projects: writing, volunteering, recorded an oral history of the town and cared deeply about saving the planet from man-made destruction.
She was a loving mother and extraordinary grandmother to her three grandsons. To them she was known as “Mimi,” and they were the loves of her life. She enriched each of their lives with many trips, music lessons, books, dinners and her time. As a result, each has turned out to be exceptional young men with talent and compassion and a deep love for their “Mimi.”
MG returned to Santa Barbara in 2011 to live with her daughter. She reunited with old friends and made many new ones. During the last year of her life, she wrote a novel and had just completed it, when, sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer
She impacted the lives of so many who loved being in her company. She was spunky, smart, independent and had a brilliant sense of humor, but could also be vulnerable.
Tears have been shed, as it seemed too soon for her to go in spite of her age. She said that “at 89, life is still as precious as it was at 39. Inwardly, I still feel 40.” She will be loved forever! She is survived by her daughters, Phoebe Alexiades and Alison Carey, grandsons George Alexiades and his wife, Abby, of Montecito, Andre Reinero, Valentin Santana and her husband, John Bischof of Maine. A very special “thank you” to Jill Davis and Susan Jorgensen of The Friendship Center for making every Monday the happiest day of her week.
All who knew and enjoyed Mary Grace are invited to a Celebration of Life on Saturday, April 26 at 2:00 P.M. at the Friendship Center in Montecito, 89 Eucalyptus Lane across from All Saints by the Sea Church, near the bottom of San Ysidro Road. Info: 969-1396. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Friendship Center in Montecito or to an animal rescue charity.