August 13, 2013
“Famous American Artists Finally Receive Monument”
SOUTHOLD, NY. When someone notable dies, it is usually inevitable that family members or friends erect a monument or gravestone in a cemetery to mark their final resting place. When the famous American artist Irving Ramsay Wiles (1861-1948) died in 1948, his heirs could not afford to mark his burial location, and so his grave remained unmarked. When his daughter, Gladys Lee Wiles (1888-1983), another well-known painter, died in 1983 she was buried next to her father, but her grave was also left unmarked due to a lack of funds. Both graves may have remained unmarked forever, however, if it were not for the persistence of one local historian.
“It just did not seem right,” stated Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director of the Southold Historical Society and author of three books that document the history of the Wiles family of painters, “that these two prominent artists were buried in an unmarked grave here on the North Fork of Long Island,” he continued. Both were members of the National Academy, located in New York City, one of the most prominent artist-based organizations in the nation. Fleming decided something had to be done.
So, he saved up the money – several thousand dollars – to design and erect a permanent marker over the graves of the two artists. “It just seemed to be the correct course of action,” Fleming continued. The staff of Staples Monuments in Greenport, NY, worked with Fleming to create a flat granite marker that would mark the graves of both the two artist as well as Irving Wiles’ wife, May, in the Cutchogue Cemetery in Cutchogue, NY, where they are buried nearby other important American artists, including members of the Prellwitz family.
On the stone, both Irving Wiles and Gladys Wiles are noted as being “National Academicians,” a distinction that is bestowed by the artist members of the National Academy in New York to artists they believe are among the best in the nation. The family included at least four artists, Lemuel and Rachel Wiles, Irving Wiles’ parents, both of whom were painters, Irving Wiles, who became the most famous member of the family, and Gladys Wiles, the last of the family to work as a painter. The family began coming to Peconic, on Long Island’s North Fork, in the 1880s and built a summer home here in the late 1890s. Members of the family remained in Peconic until Gladys’s death in 1983.
“Artist’s as good as Irving and Gladys Wiles were very deserving of having a proper monument and I am happy to have been able to rectify the situation,” remarked Fleming. His next project is to get enough money together to erect a monument to Lemuel and Rachel Wiles, who are buried in an unmarked plot in a cemetery located in Patterson, New Jersey. “There is always another worthy project,” stated Fleming.
For further information on this release, please contact the Southold Historical Society at (631) 765-5500 or view our website at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org