Patricia Chapman came of age when frugality was a virtue. She reused tea bags and wrapped her presents in repurposed gift paper, and every summer when she visited family and friends in Provincetown and Wellfleet she brought a wax-paper parcel of homemade brownies and a jelly jar filled with gin for her evening cocktail. She called it “Aunt Pat’s water.”
After seven months of hospice care, Emily Patricia Groves Pitkin Chapman, known by her extended family as “Aunt Pat,” died peacefully in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 21, 2022, with her niece, Chris Chapman, by her side. She was 94. Her death was confirmed by her nephew Josh Groves.
The daughter of Joseph and Mary Groves, Pat was born on July 19, 1927, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her connection to the Outer Cape began in 1930 when her grandfather, Dr. Percival J. Eaton, a distinguished Harvard-trained physician, built a commanding brick house on Commercial Street overlooking the harbor and Long Point. Dr. Eaton served as a director and treasurer of the Provincetown Art Association in the 1930s. He sold the house in 1940, and in 1986 Norman Mailer bought the property.
Pat’s mother, Mary Eaton Groves, a painter and pianist, grew up spending summers in Provincetown. Mimi, as she was known, studied with Henry Hensche, among other notable artists of the time. She met her English-born husband, the Very Rev. Joseph Groves, on an ocean liner traveling from Southampton, England to the U.S. The pair were engaged by the end of the 10-day voyage. Pat later accompanied her mother for lessons with Hensche.
She spent her early years in Pittsburgh, Olean, N.Y., and Guilford, Conn. She graduated from St. Margaret’s School for Girls in Westbury, Conn. in 1945 and started at Bradford Junior College the same year. At a social event, she met her mother’s friend Edward Pitkin, a descendent of William Pitkin, an early Connecticut governor. They were married by the end of 1946 when she was 19.
Pat and Ed spent most of their married lives together in Guilford, where Pat worked at the Green Gallery, a gift shop on the town square. She used her earnings to fund solo trips to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Ed was not a travel enthusiast.
In Guilford, she swam daily in Long Island Sound wearing a sensible bathing suit and rubber swim cap. According to her nephew, she bore a striking resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II, although her sartorial style leaned toward Talbot’s, not tiaras.
In the years before Ed’s death, they spent winters in Sarasota. After Ed died, Pat met James Winslow Chapman, a homespun, wry New Englander from Maine and winter resident of Pelican Cove in the Florida Keys. Pat had put Ed’s bike up for sale, and when Jim came calling a romance sparked. They married in 1993 and lived in Sarasota until Jim’s death in 2003.
Pat came early to the cause of gay rights when she met Jim’s niece Chris Chapman in the 1990s. As Chris struggled to find her balance in world hostile to same-sex couples, Pat was a great support. Chris and her wife, Elaine Cyr, joined Pat on her world travels.
Pat was known, as Josh put it, to “overpack.” When she would visit, he said, she carried a bowling ball in her luggage, “just in case.”
Pat was an active member of both St. Boniface in Siesta Key, Fla. and Christ Church in Guilford.
She is survived by her sister-in-law, Sally Groves of Lancaster, Pa. She also leaves her niece, Chris Chapman, and wife Elaine Cyr of Damariscotta Lake, Maine and Sarasota; nephew Josh Groves of Brooklyn and Wellfleet and his wife, Julie Carlson; nephew Ned Groves and his wife, Deborah Rhodes, of Madison, Conn.; and four grandchildren by proxy: William Groves of New York City, Darcy Groves of Los Angeles, Caroline Groves of New York City, and Katharine Groves, a student at the University of Vermont.
She remained close to her Pitkin in-laws throughout her life, including Patty Harrington Siebert of Maineville, Ohio; Polly Harrington Baran of North Olmsted, Ohio; and Peggy Harrington Vegh of Fredericktown, Ohio. She is remembered fondly by her first cousins Emily Eaton of West Boylston and Ruth Eaton Schemel of Acton.