Linda Freaney was always the smiling and smoothly cultured-voiced presence at the Woodstock Artists Association for many years before it added the museum to its name and status. Although, many are noting on news of her passing last Saturday, it was she who got the ball rolling for the new Woodstock Artists Association & Museum via her years as the institution’s first Permanent Collection director, and later its first Executive Director.
Among her dear friends and supporters for all her dozen plus years at the artists association were a host of WAA and WAAM board presidents and members, funders, artists, colleagues, and Woodstockers of every stripe. Among those coming forth with memories this week have been John Kleinhans and Paula Nelson, Bobby Blitzer and Arthur Anderson, Jim Cox and Lenny Kislin, Lisa Williams and Prue See (with whom she worked for years), and the woman she brought in who just left after nearly a decade at the organization, Josephine Bloodgood.
Yet Freaney was much more than what one saw of her in the grand old gallery building over whose basement she ruled for years. “In her earlier years she built a million dollar business out of her garage selling collectible ornaments she designed and crafted,” says her son Ben Suscavage. “She has a comic done of her by the famous cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman. Also, Ty Warner was a student of hers and he went on to create the Beanie Babies.”
Not to forget that she was also an artist, and avid traveler, beyond whatever she was doing over her life for a living.
Freaney was born November 30, 1946 to James and Dorothy Freaney in Boston, Massachusetts and moved to the South Shore community of South Weymouth when she was five. A graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in textiles, Freaney first found work as a TWA stewardess, moved to New York, married in 1968 and started working at Bonwit Teller, the great New York department store of its day. There, as the store’s “leading blouse buyer,” she became a pioneer champion for Lycra…but then stopped working and moved to Westchester County when the first of her children, Ben, was born in 1972.