In Memory of Mary Elva Congleton Erf
Mary Elva Congleton Erf, 89, a longtime member of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, CT, died on July 31, 2021 following a life full of grandchildren, faith, weaving, gardening, reading, and embarrassing her children.
The youngest of three children, Mary Elva was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 25, 1932, to Harriet Blackburn Congleton and Ernest Congleton. Throughout her life she had fond memories of spending time in Kentucky with dozens of aunts, uncle and cousins. She attended Denison University and Michigan State University, where she graduated with a degree in teaching.
After several years as a second grade teacher, Mary Elva and her late husband Robert Erf settled in Glastonbury, CT. There she developed her artistic essence and began teaching crewel embroidery. Her creative interest expanded to weaving, taking classes and becoming a talented weaving teacher. As an active member and president of the Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut, she shared her love of textiles. She meticulously documented Shaker patterns and textiles while lecturing around the world on weaving. Her talent led to her being commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to reproduce textiles for a Shaker retiring room that opened as an exhibit in 1981. She wrote numerous articles and two books: Tiny Textiles and Weaving Shaker Rugs. She volunteered at The Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, warping looms and teaching individuals with visual impairments. Her woven rugs, blankets, and coverlets continue to be treasured by her children and sons- and daughters-in-law, Keith and Louisa, Karen and Chuck, Kate and Joel, and Frank and Joy, along with ten grandchildren and the many infants for whom she wove baby blankets.
As to embarrassing her children, she and Bob loved creating rhymes for all occasions from zany game-themed parties that led guests on treasure hunts all over Glastonbury to ditties recited for weddings and baby showers. The most mortifying moments likely occurred when she co-taught sex ed class to the high school youth group at South Congregational Church, starting when her oldest was in high school and continuing right on until the youngest child suffered the extreme discomfort of attending youth group with his peers to learn reproductive anatomy from his mother.
Mary Elva loved walking along the Connecticut river (weather permitting), watercolor painting, reading mysteries and Jane Austen (multiple library books consistently sat on her bedside table), playing cards with her children and grandchildren, picking strawberries in the farmer’s field behind Carriage Drive (25 cents a quart), nurturing her garden, swimming at Orchard Hill Pool Club, visiting her grandchildren at summer camp in Maine, speaking her mind and getting things done.
Mary Elva was predeceased by her parents, her sister, Ernestine, her brother Edward, and a grandson Robert Kyle Erf.
Her family extends deep gratitude to the Handweavers’ Guild and Congregational Church in South Glastonbury— communities that she considered family. Her life will be celebrated on Friday October 1 at 1:30 in the afternoon at the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, CT. In lieu of flowers, the family suggest that donations be made to The Hartford Artisans Weaving Center (weavingcenter.org), The Handweaver’s Guild of CT (handweaversguildofct.org), Welles-Turner Memorial Library (wtmlib.info), or the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury (southcongregational.org).