In Memoriam: Agnes DeKay, 1925-2020

By Anne Donnelly

The Arboretum community and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Agnes DeKay.

I met Agnes when she was in an adult home dealing with mobility issues and failing eyesight. She and her husband Ken were friends of the Arboretum’s founder, Fred Lape. They collaborated on a biography of Lape that contains an insightful look at his personality and his circle of friends. It also included a first-hand account of what later became the George Landis Arboretum and remains an invaluable source of its history.

Agnes and Ken with Fred Lape
Agnes and Ken with Fred Lape

Both Ken and Agnes had a keen interest in art, architecture, and gardens. When age and infirmity robbed Agnes of those pleasures, she was not resentful. After her husband’s death, she donated their collection of watercolor landscapes by local artists to Landis, which was sold to benefit the Arboretum.

Agnes eventually moved to Pennsylvania to be near her niece Janet. She delighted in receiving the Arboretum’s newsletters, and Janet read them to her cover-to-cover. Agnes remembered the Arboretum with a generous gift after her passing.

We reprint a portion of her obituary below:

Agnes A. DeKay, 95, died peacefully on Wednesday, April 1, at her residence in Pittsburgh, PA. Agnes was born in Warwick, NY, to parents Vincent and Veronica (Glowatz) Jurasinski. She was a graduate of the S. S. Seward Institute in 1942, and a veteran of the U.S. Army where she worked as a draftsman. She studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City and continued to enjoy painting and collecting art throughout her life. She married Kenneth DeKay in 1951, and the couple moved to Esperance, NY, where they met horticulturist and poet Fred Lape, who with LeVan Loveland, founded the Landis Arboretum.

Anges and a beloved great-niece
Anges and a beloved great-niece

Agnes and Kenneth shared a deep love of nature and helped plant hundreds of trees during the nascent stages of the Arboretum, of which they remained lifetime supporters. Agnes and Kenneth would later co-author a biography of Fred Lape and his role in the history of the Arboretum, which can be found on the Landis Arboretum website.

Agnes and Kenneth eventually purchased a home in Esperance, a pre-Civil War farmhouse with extensive acreage (now the World’s End Farm) where they enjoyed the beauty and solitude of the countryside for over 50 years. Agnes was a member of the Quaker Street Meeting House in Delanson, NY, before moving to Pittsburgh in 2014. An avid reader, Agnes donated over 250 large-print books to the Carnegie Library for the Blind and to the Vincentian Home library during the last few years.


Fall 2020

Volume 38 , Number 3

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