Our dear friend and heroine Eleanor Mailloux passed away peacefully this morning. Just a year ago we posted a film of her in full regalia (above) for the wild Fasnacht Festival in her tiny Appalachian settlement of Helvetia where folks dress up in homemade masks to scare away Old Man Winter (this year’s took place last Saturday). She was angry that we had included her age in the post. “It doesn’t matter what my age is. It just matters who I am.”
Who she was was a fiercely creative and original person. She had traveled the world but her great love and work was helping the tiny, unique village of her childhood thrive, preserving its Swiss culture and running the Helvetia’s only restaurant and inn. Over the thirty-plus years that we knew her, when times would be really tough she would say simply, “It’s all right. It’ll be all right.“ Somehow, it always was.
Her next project was to be a Museum to preserve the wonderful masks people made for Fasnacht. She wrote us this letter, full of her off-the-cuff wisdom:
I’m fevered with dreams for the Mask Museum. I wonder why.
I had a dear old Chinese friend on Guam. His name was Charlie Corn. One day I asked Charlie: “Charlie, why do you keep building on to your pavilion?” His answer was: “When I’m building, I’m growing and when I’m growing I’m alive.”
We’re going to take some time off to remember her.