Josephine <I>Couch</I> Del Deo

Josephine Couch Del Deo

Pierrepont, St. Lawrence County, New York, USA
Death 25 Aug 2016 (aged 90)
Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 169002712 · View Source
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Josephine Del Deo of Provincetown passed away Thursday, August 25, 2016 after a short illness. She was the wife of Salvatore Del Deo.

There will be a Testimonial Remembrance in the Stanley Kunitz Room at the Fine Arts Work Center from 3-7 this Sat, August 27. In lieu of a wake, friends will be encouraged to read or say something by or about Josephine.

On Sunday, August 28, there will be a Graveside Ceremony at 1PM in the Provincetown Cemetery, officiated by Mary Jo Avella. This will be followed by a Farewell vigil at the Beachcombers Club .

On Sept 16th at 7PM she will be posthumously honored at the Provincetown Library with the Rose Dorothea Award.
Josephine Del Deo, Who Fought to Preserve Cape Cod Shoreline, Dies at 90


Josephine Del Deo, a writer and preservationist who helped safeguard the embryonic Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts and preserved the historic character of Provincetown, at the cape tip, died on Thursday in Provincetown. She was 90.

The cause was complications of a stroke, her son, Romolo Del Deo, said.

Ms. Del Deo and her husband, the artist Salvatore Del Deo, were leading figures in the bohemian aristocracy that dominated Provincetown’s vibrant cultural life in the decades after World War II.

Today, it is easy to take for granted that the cape’s “back shore” appears much as it did when Henry David Thoreau walked it in the mid-1800s, and that Provincetown, however much it has changed, still looks like a cozy fishing village and art colony of the early 20th century.

But neither outcome was assured in the late 1950s and early ’60s when Ms. Del Deo and others fought the redevelopment of the Province Lands — 3,200 acres of beaches, dunes, marshland, forests and ponds that had been a common public asset since the days of Plymouth Colony.

Though it was clear by 1961 that the federal government intended to designate large portions of the cape’s coastline as a national park, the fate of the Province Lands was still in doubt.

Developers were counting on state and local officials to carve out half the acreage — opening it up to motels, housing subdivisions, shopping centers and recreational facilities — before it could be turned over to the federal government.

An ad hoc citizens’ committee headed by the painter Ross Moffett, with Ms. Del Deo as executive vice president and spokeswoman, took them on.

“What we sought was seemingly unrealistic from the contemporary view: non-acquisition of land to develop; non-satisfaction of investment interests,” Ms. Del Deo wrote in “Figures in a Landscape: The Life and Times of the American Painter Ross Moffett, 1888-1971.”

At a town meeting on March 13, 1961, Ms. Del Deo asked the voters of Provincetown to reject any efforts to pare the Province Lands and, by extension, the prospective national seashore.

“We still have the mandate to decide this issue,” she said, “and we are going to decide once and for all to keep these lands in the condition in which we inherited them for ourselves, our children and our children’s children, forever and ever.” The preservationists carried the day.

Ms. Del Deo was just getting started. “I have inherited the disease of the ant, constant industry,” she wrote in 1966.

She was born Josephine Couch on Oct. 24, 1925, in Pierrepont, N.Y., in the state’s northern reaches. Her mother, Osma Gallinger Tod, was an authority on basketry and weaving. Her father, Frank Byron Couch, was a landscape painter. Josephine grew up in Hartland, Mich., northwest of Detroit, and graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.

She moved to Provincetown in 1951 after teaching art at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia and apprenticing at a theatrical repertory company in Moylan, Pa.

On Cape Cod she was introduced to Mr. Del Deo by the ultimate bohemian, Harry Kemp, known as the Poet of the Dunes, who christened her the Muse of True History. The Del Deos wed in 1953.

Besides her husband and her son, she is survived by a daughter, Giovanna, and two grandchildren.

The Del Deos opened two restaurants, Ciro & Sal’s (with Ciro Cozzi) and Sal’s Place. They were among the founders in 1968 of the Fine Arts Work Center residency program, and they collaborated on “Compass Grass Anthology,” a book sketching some of Provincetown’s eccentric characters and institutions.

In the mid-1970s, she helped compile an inventory of structures that served as a basis for the creation in 1989 of the federally recognized Provincetown National Register District and the adoption of a municipally regulated local historic district in 2003. The two districts have the same boundaries.

Ms. Del Deo led the creation of the Provincetown Heritage Museum, which opened in 1976 in a beautiful but abandoned former church. The museum centerpiece was a 66½-foot-long model of the schooner Rose Dorothea, built largely by Francis A. Santos. Ms. Del Deo knew that no one in the future would dare raze a building with a boat inside. The museum closed in 1999, but Rose Dorothea is still berthed in what is now the Provincetown Public Library.

Paradoxically, Ms. Del Deo’s last big battle pitted her and other residents of more than a dozen ramshackle oceanfront dune shacks against the National Park Service, which runs the seashore she fought so hard to protect.

The struggle came down to whether the shacks and their dwellers’ minimalist way of life, going back generations, were part of the seashore ecosystem, as Ms. Del Deo argued in “The Watch at Peaked Hill: Outer Cape Cod Dune Shack Life, 1953-2003.” For years, the park service regarded the shacks as an intrusion that ought to be eventually eliminated from the natural landscape.

An accommodation was reached in 2012 with the official recognition of the Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, protecting the shacks and with them, as Ms. Del Deo wrote, “the idea that man could inhabit nature with intelligent accommodation to the ancient patterns of species other than his own.”
Osma P Couch
United States Census, 1930
Name Osma P Couch
Event Type Census
Event Date 1930
Event Place Suffern, Rockland, New York, United States
Gender Female
Age 35
Marital Status Widowed
Race White
Race (Original) White
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original) Head
Birth Year (Estimated) 1895
Birthplace New Jersey
Father's Birthplace Pennsylvania
Mother's Birthplace New York
Sheet Letter A
Sheet Number 10
Osma P Couch Head F 35 New Jersey
Josephine A Couch Daughter F 4 New York
Sadie Ross Lodger F 18 New York
Frank B Couch
United States Census, 1900
birth: April 1868 New York
residence: 1900 Potsdam Township (south part) Potsdam village, St. Lawrence, New York, United States
father: Erastus Couch
mother: Josie B Couch
other: Jessie B Couch

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  • Created by: Mayflower Pilgrim 332
  • Added: 27 Aug 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial 169002712
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Josephine Couch Del Deo (4 Oct 1925–25 Aug 2016), Find a Grave Memorial no. 169002712, citing Provincetown Cemetery, Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Mayflower Pilgrim 332 (contributor 47081711) .