Mae Wygant is an artist - an artist with a vision for humanity. Through that
vision and Mae's ability
to carry that vision to
fruition, hundreds of Marin citizens and hundreds
of other Bay Area citizens
have reaped the rewards
of a fuller, more
love-filled life. Mae was born in Erie,
Pennsylvania in 1936.
But the joy over Mae's
arrival was soon
overshadowed by the death of
her mother from complications of childbirth.
Soon Mae was in the custody of her mother's
and four children, who
resided in Toledo, Ohio. For the
next seven and one half years, Mae
lived as a member of this happy,
active, loving family. She was not
even aware that she
a total surprise, then, when
her father re-entered her life with his new wife and announced that she would be
living again with
him back in Erie.
connect again with her
Toledo relatives for many years.
impressionable girl. She was
often left alone with her paternal grandfather who was also
a resident of the
house. She became
often criticized for
her grandfather's situation, for
he too was lonely.
They gradually became closer and often listed to
the radio together. He
taught her the Twenty-third Psiam
and the Lord's Prayer and helped her with her school work.
Her parents enrolled her in Sunday school classes
and she joined the children's choir.
Attending church regularly, she developed her strong faith in God, and
found comfort in the fact that
"God was there for me."
he Sunday school teachers provided her with kind attention and
especially a choir director
Wittlesey. She began to dream about life again; and, in
fact, had many
dreams. She began
to study the violin and
Orchestra. (She has
continued to play
until the recent onset of arthritis). Also during this time, she
discovered that she had a talent for drawing and
she received encouragement from her school teachers.
Art studies were the most
acceptable choice of Mae's parents and by the age of
12, Mae was receiving
private art lessons.
Mae studied privately and in
group classes, walking regularly to the Erie docks to sketch and paint. Often for hours,
she would sit there and draw
with a pencil, moving on to rendering in charcoal and oils.
Achievements in academics were
not highly praised by by
expected. She was a
cheerleader, class queen and secretary of the scholastic
National Honor Mae Society.
Upon graduation from high school, Mae took advantage of an art
scholarship and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. Studying with artist
Paul Travis, Mae's talent
inspired him toencourage Mae's
application for a Guggenheim art scholarship and study abroad.
Since Mae was already engaged to Ted
put her art studies on
hold in order to marry. Mae
had co-hosted a radio show with Ted back in Erie. (It is interesting to note
that Ted is now a well-known
radio personality on station
KGO-AM in San Francisco.) Soon she
was living in Columbia, South Carolina near the Fort Jackson army base. When Ted was stationed in Japan, Mae returned to Erie
and worked a series of jobs. When
Ted returned, they began their
family, with two
daughters, Linda and Laura,
being born within a few years. They moved
often as radio jobs in
became available for Ted.
They arrived in the Bay Area over twenty-two years ago.
began her life-long
numerous community projects,
ranging in scope from volunteering at her church and her
children's schools to being
a scout leader.
"I said 'Yes' because I
liked the person asking and liked the cause."
Her art continued to be a
part of her life, moving
"in and out of being a major
focus." in 1974, as part of
her volunteer involvement
with her church, a friend
asked her to go
to Hill Road Convalescent
Hospital (now Novato Convalescent Hospital) to pour coffee one
week in the dining room. She agreed and grew to enjoy the patients
immensely. However, she felt group visiting
wasn't enough for
ill, lonely people. Her introduction
by one patient to another
patient, Frieda, further
to do something for
lonely, institutionalized people.
Mae now knew just how many of the
convalescents never got out of their rooms.
Friends had to go to them. Vera
Smith, Activities Director at the
hospital at that
time, agreed to Mae's plan to recruit one-on-one friends for weekly visits.
"It came from deep
LITA (Love Is The Answer) was formed after she discussed the need to her
husband. She started by
recruiting neighbors and
friends and eventually the
help of the Volunteer
organizations, schools -
became an incorporated non=profit organization. Mae took
gerontology to learn the
the aging process to better communicate with
health professionals. She did
medical professionals, convincing
"love can make a profound difference
volunteers proved that
dignity, a sense of
self-worth, of contributing and growing and being appreciated can be
restored. Soon doctors were
prescribing LITA volunteers!
More volunteers were and are always needed.
When funds ran short for insurance or newsletters or community meetings,
etc., Mae would sell
a piece of artwork to sustain LITA.
As LITA grew and even more dollars were
needed, Mae taught art
at the Marinwood Community Center and
at the Dixie School District to
help cover expenses. When LITA
needed more volunteers, she would find them. Mae ran
the organization for eight
years without ever drawing a salary.
Her activities became more difficult, however, with the
onset of dizziness, muscle/nerve
sight impairment about five
years ago. Diagnosed
not unlike multiple sclerosis,
made it impossible for Mae to continue as LITA's guiding force.
She keeps her involvement with the local
LITA as a member of its advisory board, and helps with the new LITAs in
both Sonoma County and Contra
Costa County in an
her artwork. Her continued support has kept the
concept of LITA growing,
now available in board and care
homes. She is proud that
LITA in Marin County alone made over two hundred matches in 1988.
Anybody can achieve their goals,
your focus, get the training you need, believe that you can do
it and then go after it one
While her illness has
curtailed some of her
activities, Mae is busy these days setting
up an art studio
home. In addition to
her own art endeavors,
she teaches art to the few
lucky people that she takes
Mae feels blessed with a loving family (she took care of elderly parents
in her own home until recently), good friends and good neighbors - a world of
In the years to
come, Mae wants to pursue
her art career, to travel and spend
more time with her husband, and to
continue to be involved with people.
"I would like to continue growing until I die."