Nut Lady Dies
Elizabeth Tashjian, Connecticut's "Nut Lady," died on Sunday at the Gladeview nursing home, where she had resided since 2002. She was 94.
Elizabeth was a unique character on the roadside landscape, and not just because she ran the eclectic Nut Museum for decades. She was a witty and gracious host to all visitors, a creative artist and a zealous "nut culturalist." A visit with her would energize any road trip...
We first met her in 1985, researching the first Roadside America book. On her lawn, she launched into an acapella rendition of her "Nuts Are Beautiful" (The Nut Anthem) song, and gave a strange walking tour of the property's nut sculptures.
With Elizabeth's encouragement, we created a mini-website in 1996, The Nut Lady's Home Page (she grew less fond of the term "Nut Lady" over time, but seemed to tolerate our use of it for comedy.). We posted the occasional news item, visit report or note from Nut Central.
When Elizabeth was discovered in a coma in her home in 2002, her prospects seemed grim. The state's conservator bought a coffin in anticipation of her demise. Miraculously, she revived a few weeks later, and found herself displaced from her home -- the property up for sale to pay her bills -- and she was declared a ward of the state. She fought back, eventually going to court. Ultimately, she lost that battle, and remained in the nursing home until her death.
Before the house changed hands, the Nut Museum collection and many personal items were saved by Chris Steiner, a Connecticut College art history professor, and some student volunteers. A video documentary was produced in 2004, "In a Nutshell" by Don Bernier, that helped put the Nut Lady back in the news, including a story in the New Yorker in 2005.
Elizabeth was entertaining and feisty even in her third act predicament. At the New London, CT premiere of "In a Nutshell," she took to the stage at its conclusion and attacked its depiction of her and her home. According to one news account, after 20 minutes of accusations against "the state, doctors, lawyers, realtors, and all others who she believes have mistreated her," the stunned audience began applauding and cheering her on.
They realized this was a command performance of the one and only Nut Lady, Elizabeth Tashjian.[01/29/2007]