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At 74, Elise is looking for her next project

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Elise Outerbridge (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Mother and daughter volunteers Elise (left) and Sarah Outerbridge with replica horses created for an April fundraiser at the Warwick charity (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

For 32 years Elise Outerbridge worked as spokesman, trustee and curator at Masterworks, helping organise shows, smooth over problems and often driving around staff and equipment in her car.

When she left in July, she was not ready for retirement but eager to see what came next.

As it turned out, what came next bored her to tears: a lot of ironing and household chores.

“Just because I am in my seventies, does not mean I am decrepit,” she said. “I still can get up ladders. I can still rake.”

The 74-year-old was thrilled when Ali Watlington asked if she could help organise Tilly’s Filly Fundraiser, an event for the Warwick charity WindReach.

Even better, it gave her a chance to give back to a place that had done so much for her daughter, Sarah.

“I don’t think people realise what the potential is for an organisation like WindReach and the potential of the people they help,” Elise said.

Sarah gained further confidence and a sense of purpose after she started going to WindReach in 1997.

Now 48, she was born with a cleft palate, hearing issues and a hole in her heart.

At six months old, Sarah was airlifted to Boston, where surgeons repaired her heart.

In her teens, doctors diagnosed that she had Charge Syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause a range of health issues.

“Ever since then, she has been healthy as a horse,” Elise said. “When Sarah was born, life had a few challenges for my husband, Stuart, and I, but we had great support from family and friends who rallied around us. We were very happy.

Because Sarah has some communication challenges, people sometimes underestimate her and speak over her instead of to her. It frustrates her and her mother.

“Sarah is really intelligent,” Elise said. “How many people do you know who have read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich several times? She does anything that anyone else does. She doesn’t really have any problems. She is always very positive. She would just like more friends, wine and parties. She is inquisitive and wants to know everything about everything.”

At WindReach, Sarah helps input data and care for the therapy animals.

She was particularly fond of Tilly, a therapeutic miniature horse that died in November.

“Everyone loved her,” Sarah said. “But now I am focused on my happy memories of her.”

Artists decorated 20 fibreglass replicas of the filly for the April fundraiser which, with Elise’s help, raised $250,000 for WindReach programmes.

“They were all really beautiful and individual,” she said.

Outside her work with WindReach, Elise has kept busy with Crit. The programme, created by New Yorker Chase Szakmary, connects local artists with overseas mentors.

“When I was helping to arrange the Charman Prize [with Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art] all those years, I noticed that a lot of artists are hungry for outside feedback,” she said. “Mostly what I have been doing is hand-holding. I have been telling him who to contact and that sort of thing.”

She also received a “trash hero” award from KBB for helping organise an art show the charity held in March.

Elise spent her time between North White Plains, New York, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, while growing up.

She met her husband when they were in their teens.

“I met him through my friend, whose sister was dating Stuart at the time,” she said. “Their brothers were at Trinity-Pawling School in New York and I remember seeing Stuart and his friend, Clive, on Madison Avenue in January wearing yellow trousers and no socks. That pegged them as Bermudian.”

Elise, who had been to Bermuda before, started visiting the island regularly.

“My parents wouldn’t let me go to Woodstock so I went to Bermuda,” she laughed. “I don’t regret it. I hear Woodstock was pretty dirty.”

One day she was standing by the Bird Cage on Front Street when she had what she describes as “an overcoming”.

“I am not a spiritual person,” she said. “But I suddenly thought, ‘Oh my God, I am going to live here for the rest of my life.’”

Her family was dismissive.

“They said, ‘Elise, you are going to marry a doctor or lawyer from Westchester, and that is it,’” she laughed.

But her premonition was correct.

In 1969, after graduating from New York University with a degree in fine arts, she and Stuart married. The couple have two children in addition to Sarah – Lisabet and Slayton. They also have a grandson, Ethan.

Although she has always had a love for art, Elise insists she was never very good at actually making it.

“I don’t know what my talents actually are,” she said. “Enthusiasm maybe. I love thinking of ways to do things.”

She is now looking for her next project.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published June 02, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated June 01, 2022 at 4:18 pm)

At 74, Elise is looking for her next project

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