Dear Thamby,

Like so many of you, I’ve spent the last week reflecting on all that James Hubbell meant to his family and community, the world, and to each one of us. Your stories about James recount how he changed your perspective on the many ways art shapes not only a house, a garden, a school, a park, but life itself. His friendships and influence — especially the way he opened hearts — was truly global. Thank you for reaching out to the Hubbell family and all of us who worked with him.

I have an indelible “first meeting with Jim” moment that I cherish. Twenty-three years ago, I visited his home and studios while working as a documentary filmmaker. I was fascinated by his work and life. He graciously shared his home, his work, and his life’s story… and my life would never be the same again. Two documentaries would follow that visit, along with James asking me to be the foundation’s Executive Director.

Despite being photographed and filmed thousands of times, Jim disliked having his picture taken, but on his last in-person visit to Ilan-Lael, October 27, 2023, at age 92, he ignored the lenses. Jim and I talked about this-and-that while photographers Laurel Costa and John Durant, with the assistance of graphic designer Laurie Dietter, bustled about capturing the action. Jim was in his element: the small stone-walled room where he did most of his “creating” for about 70 years. He quickly became engrossed in turning the pages of his last sketch book, organizing his drawing tools, and tracing with skilled hands the rough edges of an unfinished bronze. He was in his most-familiar, most-satisfying place—with art at his fingertips and nature surrounding him. It did my heart good to have seen it in person, and I have re-lived it this week by viewing the footage and stills of him again to share with you soon.

You can count me among the grateful multitudes who have not only learned so much from this humble genius but have promised to carry on where he left off. Thanks to his and Anne’s vision for Ilan-Lael Foundation, we will not encase his life’s work in amber.

Ilan-Lael’s future is bright. Fulfilling James’ life’s work to educate and share art and nature’s jubilation, we will carrying forward his vision. We will strive to make the world a better place, just as he wanted us to. The Foundation has been moving in this direction for decades, and now we will pay this tribute to James. We, and you, and the generations that follow us, will ensure that his amazing and timeless love of beauty lives on. Thank you, James, for everything.

—Marianne Gerdes