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Lady Susana Walton passed away

On March 21, Lady Susana Walton, widow of the composer Sir William Walton, and a charismatic figure in the world of gardening and music, passed away peacefully at her home, La Mortella, on the Island of Ischia. She was 83 years old. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1926, Susana might have led a quiet, comfortable life amid the haute bourgeoisie into which she was born, but she had other ideas. An independent-minded girl full of passion and curiosity about the world, she wanted to work, to challenge herself. At the age of twenty-two, despite the disapproval of her family, she took a job at the British Council in Buenos Aires. It was there that she met William Walton, a well-known British composer, who was then forty-six. He had traveled to Argentina to participate in a conference; Susana organized a press conference to introduce him to the Argentine press corps. There, he noticed this attractive and vivacious brunette with enormous gray eyes amid a crowd of journalists and decided on the spot that this was the woman with whom he wished to spend the rest of his days. That same evening, Walton asked for her hand in marriage. Despite her initial misgivings, after two weeks Susana accepted, much to the dismay of her own family and of Walton’s friends and colleagues, who were unconvinced by this tale of love at first sight. Dspite the naysayers, the two were married two months later, after which they departed for Europe. With Susana at his side, William was able to fulfill his dream of leaving England and making a life in Italy. In October of 1949, the couple moved to Forio d’Ischia. After renting a house for a few years, the Waltons bought a piece of land where they planned to build their own home. They asked the famous landscape architect Russell Page to help them design a garden on this wild plot carved out of volcanic rock. Page, a great admirer of Walton’s music, agreed, and it was he who designed the basic plan of the garden. But the practical realization of Russell Page’s project—the overseeing of the work, the selection and distribution of plants, in short, the actual creation of this wonderful garden of La Mortella—was left to Susana Walton. For over fifty years, she has devoted her legendary energy, her indefatigable enthusiasm, her passion, and her botanical wisdom to this garden. After Sir William Walton’s death in 1983, Susana transformed the property into a living monument to the life and genius of her husband, through the creation of the Fondazione William Walton e La Mortella, which has the twin objectives of promoting musical education and performance by young artists, and the protection of the garden with the purpose of promoting a love of nature and gardening. La Mortella opened its doors to the public in 1992; since then the number of visitors has increased yearly, reaching a peak of 70,000 in 2007. Many of those visitors had the unforgettable experience of encountering Lady Walton as she worked tirelessly in the garden, discussing projects with the gardeners, pulling the odd weed, stopping to admire a flower, or greeting a visitor and telling him a colorful story about a particular plant or about her life with William. Thanks to Susana’s efforts, the Fondazione now organizes visits to the garden and public concerts, courses for young musicians, music festivals, and masterclasses. Until recently, Lady Walton continued to manage every aspect of the garden and the Fondazione’s many projects, the most recent of which was the creation of the “Greek Theatre”, an open-air amphitheatre with a magnificent view of Forio, filled with aromatic plants. In this theatre, symphonic and operatic concerts, showcasing young artists, are held during the summer months. During her lifetime, several honors were conferred upon Lady Walton, including an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Nottingham in England, an MBE (Member of the British Empire), and the title of Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana. She is the author of two books: Behind the Façade, a biography of Sir William Walton, and La Mortella—an Italian Garden Paradise, a history of her garden at La Mortella. According to her wishes, her ashes will be buried in the “Nymphaeum” on the mountainside at La Mortella, near those of her husband. www.lamortella.org This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.