Musician, artist and world traveler Manette van Hamel, 98, of Woodstock, died Sunday, June 17, 2012 at Kingston Hospital. Born in Deventer, Holland in 1913, she was the daughter of the late Hendrik and Maria Heyligers Cramer. Considering the vast cultural experience Manette assimilated during her long, productive life in many different countries and through two World Wars it reflects well on Woodstock that she and her husband, the diplomat Diederik van Hamel, chose to settle here upon his retirement in 1972. The van Hamels enriched the town as well.
Manette’s dramatic “Sculpture to Wear” jewelry is in the Permanent Collection of the 20th Century Art Department of the New York Metropolitan Museum; three pieces are in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Holland, and a large bracelet is in the collection of the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. A founding member of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, Manette played violin and piano. She reorganized the Kleinert Gallery in 1979 into a Multi-Arts Gallery to present lectures and music, prepared the “Artwalk” display for the Woodstock Bicentennial in 1987, and served as a member of the town’s Civic Design group.
During the summer of 2000, an exhibition of Manette’s non-objective geometric paintings was shown in Bergen Holland, where 14 large oils were sold. She also wrote short stories and an impressive memoir. Deitrich (Dick), who died in 1987 after 58 years of marriage, built instruments and played the viola in chamber concerts with Manette and their friends.
Manette described the details of her remarkable life in a candid memoir titled The Flamboyant Tree, printed in 2000 by Tri-State Associated Services. She was a creative powerhouse who spoke several languages and was at ease in many cultures throughout the world. She entertained hundreds of people at a time, cooked, sewed, raised vegetables and even kept bees! She traveled first as her parents’ circumstances changed and as an adult with Dick, who was stationed in Europe, Southeast Asia, and North and South America. Each of their three children was born in a different city and country: Alfred in London as bombs fell, Jan-Willem in Edinburgh, and Martine in Brussels. Dick retired in 1972 as Council General to the Netherlands in New York City.
Woodstock was a motif woven into Manette’s life. The Cramer family had moved to New York City from Holland when Hendrik, a journalist and surrealistic writer, was assigned to cover America for a Dutch newspaper. Manette’s first experience here was as a child of 9 in 1923, when her family was invited by Hervey White to live at the Maverick. Although the Cramers separated shortly after coming to the Maverick, Manette and her brother Wim stayed on with their mother for a few years and attended Woodstock’s one-room schoolhouse.
“Our school was quite a long walk from the Maverick, but we took a short cut through fields with a few fruit trees,” Manette recorded in her memoir. “Our walk to school came out at the bridge in the village. In the back of the school were pine trees where we played and had the lunch we brought with us. No lunches or school buses existed in those days, no matter how far away you lived.”
It was in their house across from the Maverick Theater that Manette felt her first urge to draw. “I made a secret place in the stone wall along the road where I kept paper and colored pencils, so I could draw whenever I felt like it. From there, I could see Overlook Mountain always changing color, sometimes purple from grapes and sometimes blue from large flocks of blue birds swerving along the mountainside,” she wrote.