Iten Noa Fales of Cambridge died on Jan. 6 in East Hampton, N.Y. She was 97. Mrs. Fales was a year-round and later a seasonal resident on the Vineyard, from 1945 to 1986.
Born Ida Judith Noa on May 7, 1916, in Berlin, Germany, to Hermann and Emilie Frehde Noa, she grew up in a spacious second-floor apartment overlooking the River Spree, on the corner of the Moabiter Bruecke, known locally as the Bear Bridge, for the bronze Prussian bears at either end. Herr Noa was a partner in John Loewenherz, one of Germany’s oldest private investment banks. He let little Iten (a nickname he gave her) and her elder brother clamber up and “ride” the bears. The children played in the Tiergarten and in the winter skated on its pond. Iten attended the Dorotheën-Oberlyzeum (an academic high school for girls) until Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, when her father sent her to England to continue her education. By 1937 she was enrolled at the University of London, but her formal education — her life — was interrupted when, while visiting her mother, now a widow, in Berlin that summer, she was forcibly expatriated by the German National Socialist state. Through the sponsorship of a German-American friend of her father’s she was able to emigrate to the United States. She worked for Macy’s in Portland, Me., and later in Boston for Filene’s.
She met Albert Scott Jr. at a meeting on war and peace in Europe held by the Society of Friends, and they were married in August 1940 at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. After stints living and working on farms in Cornwall, Conn., and Topsfield, the Scotts and their two eldest children moved to the Vineyard. In the fall of 1945 Iten wrote to Elizabeth Bowie Hough to let her know that the family had finally “attained our desire of living on this Isle of the Blessed.” They lived in The Nest, the Scott family’s summer home in Bayside, before purchasing the Red Farm in Lambert’s Cove from Beatrice (Bambi) Butler, and moving there in December 1946.
Tom Thatcher first met the Scotts in 1949 at the youth hostel. “Iten and Albie came to folk dance. We danced there and at the old Chilmark Tavern. And took evening swims sans suits — daring for that time! Iten was most always upbeat and open to whatever, especially, meeting interesting people,” he recalled.
She was a self-described “culture vulture” who missed no opportunity to enjoy and support cultural events wherever she found herself. “There was a lot going on the Vineyard, in a small-town way,” recalled Mr. Thatcher. The Scotts became active in the Martha’s Vineyard Little Theatre, where they found friendship and creative expression with an eclectic group of Island newcomers and old-timers. They appeared in a number of productions, among them Fumed Oak, The Ghost of Gramercy Park and The Madwoman of Chaillot. Iten sold tickets for the Van Koppenhagen concerts in Edgartown, developed a fundraising plan for a Community Concerts series, attended performances of the Rice Playhouse in East Chop and befriended actors who performed there, and made destination trips to the Borrowdale Book Shop to browse and chat with the owners, her friends the Chittendens.
“Iten created around herself and her family the Martha’s Vineyard equivalent of a Paris salon,” said Phyllis Meras of West Tisbury. “She sought the company of artists and writers as well as musicians and actors, and numbered among her friends the Swedish artist Elsa de Brun, whose stained-glass windows decorate the interior of Carnegie Hall in New York, and her companion, Patric Farrell, the president of the James Joyce Society of New York,” she said.
“Everything was interesting to her — everything!” recalled Ruthie Stiller of Vineyard Haven. “We got along well because we both liked to read a lot. We both liked birthday parties. My husband Leon, Broni Lesnikowski, and Iten would celebrate their birthdays together, on May 7.”
In the winter of 1956-57, after the Hungarian Revolution, Iten and Mr. Stiller, who spoke Hungarian and Polish, joined forces to assist two brothers who had participated in the uprising and had ended up on the Vineyard. Lazlo and Zoltan Kis spoke no English, but one of them spoke German and the other spoke Polish, and they were overjoyed to find two people with whom they could converse. Like her German, Iten’s English was flawless.
Although she wasn’t terribly interested in cooking, over the years her brownies snagged quite a few blue ribbons at the Agricultural Fair. Prominently displayed in her kitchen was a carved plaque proclaiming her credo: “Chocolate makes life better.”
Iten served on the program committee of the planned Chilmark Community Center and, when it opened its doors, worked as secretary to the program director for a number of summers. With the end of her first marriage, she was determined to widen her and her children’s horizons. After moving her family to Boston in 1959, her work included stints at the Boston Athenaeum and at two Harvard University libraries while she worked toward a bachelor’s degree in German literature at the Harvard Extension School. Hired by the fledgling public radio station WGBH-FM as program secretary to its director, Tom Connolly, soon she was also reading German and French literary classics on the air. “Her capacity was dazzling. She could do everything,” recalled her WGBH colleague Caroline Isber. Ultimately she produced her own show, Iten Scott Presents, for which she created the content: drama and music reviews and interviews with interesting people in the arts.
“She valued education and erudition above all, and she was so interesting to talk to because there were so many reference points,” said the author Priscilla Johnson McMillan, her longtime neighbor in Cambridge.
In June 1966 Iten married DeCoursey Fales Jr., an archaeologist who specialized in the red-on-black style of Greek vase painting. After they moved to their house on Hilliard street in Cambridge in 1967, Mrs. Fales became active in civic affairs and was recognized locally for her outspoken advocacy for the preservation of her neighborhood, which included Harvard Square. Her handwritten notes and badges expressing her often iconoclastic views on national and international affairs, which she taped to the panes of her bay window, were a neighborhood fixture.
She was a devoted patron of local cultural institutions, including the Cambridge Music Club, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and especially the Greek Institute. Greek history and culture and the Greek people were very dear to her and her husband. Mrs. Fales remembered being taken by her mother to the long-awaited opening of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin in 1930. At her family dinner table she read regularly from Bulfinch’s Age of Fable at the end of the meal so that her children would feel quite at home with the Greek pantheon. The Faleses traveled to Greece every summer and together edited the scholarly journal Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies.
She had a deep love of the ocean, the beach, the sun. High points of her childhood were summer vacations on Helgoland in the North Sea. “The god I worship is Apollo,” she would say, only half in jest. Every beach day in the summer she trekked with her four young children from the Red Farm along wooded roads down to the creek at Lambert’s Cove. Even in the dead of winter she sat outside on sunny days, and was widely admired for her year-round tan. She was a good swimmer, enjoyed sculling on the Charles River and continued to skate into her late eighties, at the Cambridge Skating Club.
“I ran into her on the street several times in Cambridge years back,” said Kate Taylor of Aquinnah. “She was always glad to stop and chat with me and she made me feel connected and good.”
She was survived by her four children: Margaret Scott Hammond of East Hampton, N.Y., Abigail Higgins of West Tisbury, Katherine Scott of Falmouth and Vineyard Haven, and Albert Lyon Scott 3rd of Newburyport and San Juan de Dios, Costa Rica; by nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren; and by her first husband. An infant daughter and Mr. Fales predeceased her.
Donations in Iten Noa Fales’s memory can be made to the Greek Institute, 1038 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138. In her honor the institute has established an annual event, to take place in the spring, involving Greek drama and dance. A memorial service in Cambridge will be announced.