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Marguerite Schnellbacher Coveney, 1900-1962


"If you would seek her monument or final resting place look in our hearts.” These words in the beautiful memorial sent out by her family were to many the first knowledge that Marguerite was even seriously ill. The month before, in apparent good health, she and her husband had entertained the Council of the American Alpine Club at their beautiful new home in Vermont. Twenty days later an exploratory operation followed and as she faced the end of the trail she did so with quiet courage and serenity as she had always faced the crises of life.

Marguerite was born in Newark, New Jersey on Washington’s Birthday in 1900. She lost her mother at the age of nine and was brought up by

her father with the aid of a Swiss housekeeper. After her father’s death, she made her home with her married sister, Lillian E. Lambert and her family. She graduated from Bradford Academy; Teacher’s College, Columbia University and the Bouvé School of Physical Education in Boston.

She was always strong and active with a great love for the out-of-doors. She was an expert horsewoman as well as a fine skier and mountaineer. In 1923, as one of the members of the Horseback and Camping Trips organized and led by Caroline Hinman in the Canadian Rockies she came to know and love that region and returned again and again. She got her first taste of climbing then and followed it up with a trip to New Zealand where she also climbed. She was home only a month or two when she went to Switzerland to join Lillian Gest and her parents in Grindelwald. There Marguerite really fell in love with climbing. She returned and spent many months there and in the Dolomites mountaineering, skiing and developing into a very fine rock climber.

From 1935 through 1938 she was a regular attender at the camps of the Alpine Club of Canada. Probably the most noteworthy of her many fine climbs were the ascents with Polly Prescott when they traversed Mount Edith Cavell and did Mount Louis. This was the first time that these peaks had been climbed by women alone. In 1938, she and Polly Prescott organized a trip to the then little visited Bugaboos where they made a number of guideless first ascents with a party which included Percy Olton, Lawrence Coveney and Sterling Hendricks.

Marguerite was always interested in photography and for some years owned and operated the Mary Christine Studio in East Orange, New Jersey where she was living. She specialized in portraits of children and was also interested in photographs of animals.

During these years she was an active member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and a regular attender of their weekend rock-climbing trips from New York City. She was one of the first women qualified as a rope leader.

In 1941 she married Lawrence G. Coveney whose work as a foreign trade executive involved considerable travel. A few years after their marriage they moved to San Francisco and had a home in Burlingame, California. She and her husband continued much outdoor activity, mostly skiing with long tours in the High Sierras. She was also active in her church and in community affairs. About 1953 they returned to the east and took up residence in Summit, New Jersey. They have one daughter, Lelia, who is now a freshman at Smith College.

In 1955, the Coveneys attended the Mount Robson Camp of the A.C.C. and returned the next year to the one held at Glacier. They combined these trips with excursions in the Cascades and with visits to their many friends in the West. With their great love for the outdoors, it was not so surprising to their many friends when they bought and moved into their new home at South Royalton, Vermont. Marguerite will be greatly missed by her many friends in both East and West.

Lillian Gest