Rex Prescott Walden (“Bus”) died peacefully at his family home on Joshua Point in Guilford, CT on November 18, 2022 surrounded by his family’s love. He died the way he lived: with grace and gratitude.
Born on September 16, 1947 in Concord, MA to Joseph Whittelsey Walden (“Joe”) and Katherine Gesell Walden (“Tassy”), Rex inherited his father’s New England values and steady habits and his mother’s exuberance. He found his grounded place in the world over summers spent at Joshua Point and claimed it permanently when the family moved to Guilford. There, Rex developed a lifelong love of and eye for the natural world – the Connecticut shoreline, in particular – that infused, informed and inspired by his life and his work.
Rex attended the University of Denver. There, a life and career in art came into focus and led to a BFA (1970) and a Teaching Certificate (1971); Later, he earned an MS from Southern Connecticut State University (1977) and a master’s in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University (1993). He joined the faculty at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, CT (1973) and taught classes in painting, photography, drawing, sculpture and ceramics. Between 1991-1992, a Fulbright Teacher Exchange brought Rex and his family to Sale, England for a year of teaching art at Our Lady of Mount Carmel RC School in Salford, England. Back in Connecticut, and always taking his students seriously as artists, he began the tradition of student shows at the Essex Art Association. He chaired the Fine Arts Department at Valley Regional for nearly twenty years before returning from his first career in 2002.
Rex’s transition from art teacher to artist was total and instantaneous, and over the next twenty years he created the photography, drawings, silk screens, collages and, especially, the paintings – abstract renderings of seascapes that incorporated nautical charts — that became his life’s work. His own journey was a lot like the one he sought for those who viewed (or, for many, owned) paintings that were “about serenity and calm and a sense of order.” And, although the work changed over the years, the sea remained “his muse; [as it was] ever changing and corners.” He hoped that each interaction with his work “would be fresh, and that the story continues to be told.” Over the years, Rex has exhibited his work in dozens of galleries and museums across the state and contributed to the permanent collections at the Florence Griswold Museum, New Haven Paint and Clay, and the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital. His civic and community commitments were numerous and included the Guilford Foundation, Guilford ABC, the Women and Family Life Centre, the Shoreline Arts Alliance, the Essex Art Association, the Guilford Art League and the Friday Night Painters.
Rex Walden was defined by the things he loved: his boats; travel; his dogs; everything and anything nautical; good friends; great art; all music – he played drums and a mean washboard. He was a vocalist and played the harmonica for the Crystal Palace Guard. He was an avid collector of walking sticks, loved a good steak, an Iceberg wedge, and the oysters he harvested off Joshua Point. He treasured his thirty years of fly-fishing on Montana’s Madison River and the brotherhood of fellow fishermen, his father’s 1934 Ford and that red, white and blue 1976 Cadillac El Dorado convertible, and archives his life in stories.
Love of the family above all the others. Rex met the love of his life, Wendy Hoyt Walden, and they married on September 12, 1970. Together, they spent the next fifty-two years loving and nurturing their family: Shane Hoyt Walden, his wife Erica Gordon Walden, and their daughter , Leah Gordon Walden; Skye Walden Lee, and her children, Scout Tassy Lee and Cove Walden Lee. It was with the advent of his grandchildren, who knew him as the “captain,” that Rex’s name evolved again, to “Cappy.”
Rex Walden would have been the first to say that he lived a charmed life, but it was everyone who had the great good fortune to know him, to be known by him, whose lives were charmed. For, over the years, Rex brought beauty into those lives, all the while showing his family and friends how to live. In the end, he was still teaching, reminding us what life is about and showing us how to close it with grace, dignity, and, most importantly, love.