Emma Edwards Parsons, a lifelong resident of Amagansett and an 11th-generation member of the Edwards family, died peacefully at home in Amagansett on April 28. She was 94.
Known to friends and family as Mema, she was born in Amagansett on Atlantic Avenue, which was then called Whippoorwill Lane, on Aug. 10, 1916, to Nathaniel T. Edwards and Sarah O. Schellinger.
On Nov. 3, 1937, she married Elbert Gosman Parsons, a member of the 10th generation here of his line and descendant of Samuel Parsons. She had two children, Elbert and Susan.
Mrs. Parsons graduated from East Hampton High School and attended beauty school in New York. She was the oldest member of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, where there are large stained-glass windows dedicated to both the Edwards and Parsons families.
She was an artist, a great storyteller, and a lover of nature, her family said, but her greatest passion was family.
Mrs. Parsons was proud of her heritage. She came from a long line of fishermen. Her grandfather was Capt. Gabriel Edwards, a menhaden fisherman and offshore whaler. In 1907 he harpooned the last whale caught off Amagansett. The account of this is told in “Whale Off,” which was written by his brother Everett J. Edwards and a niece, Jeannette Edwards Rattray. Her grandfather was the inspiration for Mrs. Parsons’s admiration of and collection of mermaids.
Each year at Christmas Mrs. Parsons decorated her tree with blue lights symbolizing the sea and with her vast collection of mermaid ornaments as a testament to his story. Capt. Edwards also died at the age of 94.
Her father, Nathaniel, was a trap fisherman. Her brothers, Nathaniel Edwards Jr., who drowned in the surf off Amagansett on Feb. 19, 1937, and Richard T. Edwards, who died in 2002, were both dragger fishermen. Her sister, Mary Ellen DiGate, died in 1979.
In her youth the Edwards family spent most of the year in Amagansett. During the summer they moved to the fishing village in Montauk at Fort Pond Bay. Her father’s boat, the Sally O, was moored in front of their house.
She loved the summers there, swimming, diving off the docks, and making fun of her grandfather, who always joined in the antics. She enjoyed recounting those memories for her family.
When Mrs. Parsons was 17 she desperately wanted a car, but her father considered automobiles to be unsafe and persuaded her to opt for a boat. It was a wooden Chris-Craft inboard motor boat, which she named Vamp. She could be seen regularly ripping around Montauk Point with her young brother and Capt. Edwards. A model of Vamp is displayed in the entryway of her house across from a portrait of Capt. Edwards that she painted.
When Mr. and Mrs. Parsons married, they first lived on Hand Lane in Amagansett. Her first child, Elbert, who was known as Terry, was born there one day before the 1938 Hurricane and friends moved her and her new baby into the basement there for safety.
Later they built a house at Fresh Pond, Amagansett. Mrs. Parsons loved the water and taught many to water-ski. She was an expert on one ski and was able to start on the beach, go for a spin around the bay, and return to the beach without getting wet.
A northeast storm in March 1962 caused an electrical fire that destroyed their house. The family was fortunate to escape with their lives.
Mr. and Mrs. Parsons rebuilt in central Amagansett, doing the majority of the work themselves. She lived there until her death, with the exception of a few months a year when she wintered in Boynton Beach, Fla., where she had friends.
Her eye for landscaping has proved itself in her property’s maturing garden over the last 50 years. Her yard is surrounded by large, blooming purple cloudlike walls of rhododendrons, summer seas of impatiens, beech trees, and birches dug from local woods in years past.
She was still planting and designing her gardens when she was 93, singlehandedly planting 22 flats of annuals. This year, at 94, she said she thought she might need a little help.
She began painting when her husband died at 63. Her gardens were the focus of many of her paintings.
She is survived by her daughter, Susan Parsons Knobel of Freehold, N.Y., two granddaughters, and four great- granddaughters. She expected to welcome a fifth great-grandchild in the near future. She took great joy in all her nieces and nephews, her family said. Her son died before her.
Her family gathered on May 1 in her garden to celebrate her life and recount stories about her. In accordance with her wishes there was no funeral. Her ashes will be placed alongside her husband’s grave at Oak Grove Cemetery in Amagansett.