Mary <I>Welsh</I> Hemingway


Mary Welsh Hemingway

Walker, Cass County, Minnesota, USA
Death 26 Nov 1986 (aged 78)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Ketchum, Blaine County, Idaho, USA
Memorial ID 9624 View Source
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Literary Folk Figure. A respected journalist, she is remembered as the last of Ernest Hemingway's four wives and as literary executor of one of one of the most important estates in history. Raised in rural northern Minnesota, she graduated from Northwestern University and in 1932 joined the staff of the "Chicago Daily News". She left in 1938 to marry a man named Lawrence Cook, but following the break-up of the brief union returned to the "Daily News" where, in an ironic twist, her boss was the second husband of Hemingway's first wife Hadley. Mary moved to Paris as a correspondent for "Time" and "Life", but when Paris fell she relocated to London, worked for the "London Daily Express", covered Churchill's press conferences, and married Australian journalist Neil Monks. In 1944 Mary met Ernest Hemingway and the two began a sexual relationship despite the fact that she was still married to Monks and he was still tied, at least on paper, to Martha Gellhorn. Papa had a temper and the sailing wasn't always smooth, but after both got their divorces the pair married in Cuba on March 14, 1946. Their relationship was complicated and while they were undoubtedly devoted to each other it was understood that Papa could not financially afford another divorce. The couple lived at Hemingway's Havana home, the Finca Vigia, and in August of 1946 Mary suffered an ectopic pregnancy. Hemingway was never an easy man to live with and by that time he was in decline, aged beyond his years by hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, heavy drinking, and hard living, and the duty of trying to mitigate that decline and hide it from the world fell to Mary. She put up with Papa's drunkeness, bad manners, and verbal abuse, and, at what cost to her self respect one can only imagine, with his six year long infatuation with pretty Italian teenager Adriana Ivancich. Still, Hemingway wrote, working on a massive novel entitled "The Garden of Eden" which would not be released until 1986, long after his death, and then only with major revisions and condensations, and in 1950 publishing "Across the River and Into the Trees", a work felt by many authorities to be his nadir and in which Adriana makes an overt appearance as Renata. Stung by criticism of his book, Papa became depressed and Mary had to encourage him as best she could; indeed, as he worked on "The Old Man and the Sea", "Life" magazine, which had agreed to publish it, secretly hired James Michener to back-check the piece as they feared that what one wag had dubbed "Across the Street and Into the Bar" was now as good as Hemingway could do. Mary had to console her husband thru the October 1, 1951 sudden death of his second wife Pauline, a circumstance made worse by Papa's guilt over having had a monumental long distance telephone fight with Pauline the night before she died. In the event, no one need have worried about "The Old Man and the Sea" as Hemingway had written a classic for the ages, providing "Life" with a one-day sellout of the relevant issue and Scribner's with a massive best-seller, as well as earning him his only Pulitzer Prize. As her husband's spirits were temporarily lifted by his success, Mary accompanied him on an African safari that would be fictionalized in the posthumously published "True at First Light" (1999); in early 1954 the pair survived two small plane crashes in two days with Hemingway sustaining injuries from which he never fully recovered. As he read his premature obituaries, he drank to ease the pain while his mood and manner degenerated from difficult to impossible. When Papa was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that he felt may have been triggered by the erroneous news of his death, he was too ill to attend the awards ceremony and sent a recorded acceptance speech in his stead. Thru all the difficulties, Hemingway continued to work hard on "A Moveable Feast" and "True at First Light", and as rumors circulated that the great author was visiting the Mayo Clinic for electro shock therapy Mary managed to keep the facts from the general public. In 1959 she relocated with him to Ketchum, Idaho, and later that year joined him on a trip to Spain where he covered a bullfighting 'rivalry' between Luis Miguel Dominguin and Antonio Ordonez for "Life", the notes to be edited and published in 1985 as "The Dangerous Summer". Hemingway's father, Dr. Clarence "Ed" Hemingway, had committed suicide in 1928 and he had written as far back as the 1920s that he would probably one day do the same; on Sunday morning July 2, 1961, shortly after his return from yet another trip to the Mayo Clinic, Ernest Miller Hemingway, sick, depressed, and old before his time, blew his brains out with his favorite 12 gauge Boss shotgun, Mary inexplicably having left the gun cabinet key in plain sight. As she had covered-up his illness, Mary, with help, covered-up his death, partly to protect his reputation and partly to enable him to receive a Catholic burial. The absurdity of a firearms expert killing himself "by accident" while cleaning a double barrel shotgun was obvious and Mary eventually had to confirm the facts to the world. In the aftermath, Mary became Hemingway's literary executor, and thus was responsible for the publication of "A Moveable Feast" (1964), "Islands in the Stream" (1970) and "The Garden of Eden" (1986), though with help from Papa's sons Jack (by Hadley) and Patrick (by Pauline). She also retrieved a vast treasure trove of personal papers left behind at the Finca Vigia at the time of the move to Idaho; by the time Mary wanted to get at the material the house had been nationalized and a travel ban to Cuba was in effect, and thus she called on Jackie Kennedy for help. Deals were cut, pushed along by JFK and Castro both being big Hemingway fans, and Mary went to Cuba and brought back what she wanted. Mary's story is told in her 1976 autobiography, "How It Was", in Bernice Kert's 1983 "The Hemingway Women", and in each of the various Hemingway studies. She lived out her days in Manhattan and died following a protracted illness. Today the Ketchum home is a museum, the Finca Vigia has been more-or-less maintained by the Castro government, the Hemingway papers are preserved in a designated Hemingway Room at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, and Papa's entire canon is still, and probably forever, in print.

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 2 Jun 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 9624
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Welsh Hemingway (5 Apr 1908–26 Nov 1986), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9624, citing Ketchum Cemetery, Ketchum, Blaine County, Idaho, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .