Remembering Harriet Bedell

Artists portray Everglades where missionary served
May 11, 2009

With the likelihood that Harriet Bedell, a deaconess and missionary to Florida's Seminoles and Miccosukee Indians, will be canonized at this General Convention, her ministry is gaining greater visibility throughout the state thanks to its writers, artists and crafters.

In March, the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City, Florida, highlighted Bedell's ministry in its Women of the Everglades program with a portrayal of the pioneer missionary by historian and Marco Eagle reporter Marion Nicolay. Patti Hough, president of Friends of the Museum of the Everglades, said the Episcopal deaconess was chosen as a woman of the Everglades because of her pioneer spirit and service to Native Americans and people of the county.

At St. Mark's Episcopal Church on nearby Marco Island, where a chapel is dedicated to the deaconess, watercolor artist Hannah Ineson finished last November a 15-feet-high, 10-feet-wide mural of the Everglades. And on Easter, a new altar of concrete, wood and glass, designed by parishioner John Fedor, was installed and dedicated in the chapel.

"The life-size image of Everglades is a setting for [Bedell]," said Ineson, who with her husband, John, an Episcopal priest, have traveled to Marco Island from Maine for the last six winters. "It's as though you have stepped into the Everglades."

The mural shows the colorful vegetation and life in the Everglades – mangroves, palm trees and river grass, a great blue heron flying across the tree tops and, at the base of the mural, a pond that has attracted a raccoon, great white heron and an alligator.

Because the chapel's existing altar hid much of the mural, Rector Kyle Bennett turned to another parishioner to design and create a new altar. "The old altar we had used to be against the wall; it was too massive for that space," said Fedor, a former designer in the machine tool business in Cleveland and, in retirement, engaged in designing wind turbines. "My idea was to create something that would transition into the Everglades scene."

It evolved into a piece of artistry with components of concrete painted with green vines, wood and a glass top that allows an unobstructed view of the mural.

Ineson said her work is not done.

"I plan to work on the side wall of the chapel next December," she said. "The idea is to portray a life-size group of a Seminole family with Harriet Bedell, as though they are standing in the chapel, trompe l'oeil."