Pat Stokes in a family photo. (Photos courtesy of Stokes family)

by Len Lear

The family of Patricia (“Pat”) Schriever Stokes, the late columnist for the Local, business owner on the Avenue, jazz and culture buff, aesthetic window designer, watercolorist and tireless Chestnut Hill promoter, has made a significant contribution to the non-profit Chestnut Hill Community Fund to be designated for the operation of the Chestnut Hill Local. The contribution was made in honor of Pat, who wrote the popular “On the Avenue” column for several years.

“My mother loved the Chestnut Hill community and its commitment to keep it from looking like a shopping strip,” said Elizabeth Stokes, one of Pat’s five children. “She loved writing the column about Chestnut Hill businesses.”

Elizabeth, 64, a graduate of Harvard/Radcliffe University in 1978, moved back to Chestnut Hill in 1981 and still lives here.

“My mom taught me on the piano,” she said. “Her mom was a piano teacher. Mom showed me different chords. She played the Great American Songbook, and I sang. She loved to play Cole Porter and George Gershwin songs and talk about them. I learned a lot that I did not know before those talks. In fact, she put on presentations about that music at Cathedral Village (where she lived for the last seven years of her life).”

It should be mentioned that Pat was no timid wallflower. She had strong opinions about politics, music, popular culture, aesthetics, etc., and she was never hesitant to express those opinions. After having many conversations with her in the Local’s offices, which she visited periodically, I would say she was a liberal politically but a conservative on social and cultural issues.

In other words, she could be simultaneously feisty and elegant. She believed in good manners, articulate speech and traditional values and rejected anything vulgar or unsightly. Some might call that elitist, but I would call it civilized.

Pat is seen with her family at Christmas, 1986. (Back row, from left) Elizabeth, Stephanie, Anne, Art Hochber (Anne’s now ex-husband); (front row, from left) Pat, Tom, Kabira on his lap (Anne’s daughter, Pat’s granddaughter) and John.

Pat’s interest in nutrition led her in 1970 to open Concept Natural Foods, one of the first health food stores in the city, on Gravers Lane. The store, which later moved to 8617 Germantown Ave., was a popular source of health foods, supplements, books and lunches for 25 years. Some frequent customers were acclaimed artists Paul Rickert, of Chestnut Hill, and Sara Steele, of Mt. Airy, as well as WHYY’s “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross.

“My mother really missed her customers after she retired from the business,” said Elizabeth.“My mother was full of energy and creativity. She was happiest when she was working on a creative project. At Concept, she was able to combine her passion for good food, nutrition and holistic health with her love of art and design. She loved working on the displays for her store window. Also, design of the store itself was very important to her — the type of wallpaper, decorations about the shelves. She wanted it to appeal to people at all levels. She also wanted to create community, and I think Concept provided that as well. It was always fun to have lunch on the little patio that Hill & Company allowed Concept to use; such a pleasant space.”

Pat, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, died March 20, 2014, at the age of 92 at Cathedral Village, where she had lived since 2007. She was a passionate devotee of the arts that she expressed in artworks in media that ranged from watercolor to fabric collage, window decorating, interior design, custom-made lamp shades and flower arrangements.

Pat Stokes in the 1940s, when she was in her 20s.

Pat was a graduate of Ursuline Academy in Cincinnati and attended the Cincinnati Art Academy from 1939 to 1942. She designed advertising and displays for retailers, including the Gidding’s Department Store in downtown Cincinnati. She also lived for a short time in New York City, where she was a layout designer at Junior Bazaar magazine. At an art show opening in Cincinnati, she met John Stogdell Stokes Jr., of Philadelphia, who was in the city on business at the time. They were married in June of 1947 and settled in Chestnut Hill, where they raised five children. They divorced in 1972.

Beginning in 1959, Mrs. Stokes was active for many years with the Guild House, the activity center for Our Mother of Consolation Catholic Church. She worked with a local decorator to give its interior a makeover, and she planned and installed a monthly changing exhibit of art prints and arranged monthly art lectures there. She also created flower arrangements for the OMC church altar.

Before she opened Concept, Pat created window displays for several shops along Germantown Avenue and participated in the Chestnut Hill Flower Show, for which her window displays won Best in Show and other prizes.

In addition to Elizabeth, Pat’s children are John B. Stokes 3rd, 70, of San Diego; Anne Hochberg, 72, of Haverford; Stephanie, 60, of New Orleans (a former editor for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans), and Tom, who died in 2012 at 59 of a brain tumor.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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