A Tribute to a Friend and the Founder of Empty Bowls Martin County
The friend we knew as Mae Slaton was born Mary Alice Rogan to Helen and Edward Rogan on September 12, 1929 in Bear Creek, Pennsylvania. Mae was the fifth of nine children - Dorothy, Anne, Betsy and Ell and Edward, Joe, Paul and Pat. She attended Kutztown State Teachers’ College, majoring in art, and became an artist who also taught art to many people. She taught for two years in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, where she lived in the home of the editor of the local newspaper. He introduced her to the town’s only eligible bachelor, Chuck Slaton, the Tioga County Agent for the Department of Agriculture, State of Pennsylvania.
Chuck Slaton was already a true WWII war hero. He landed on Normandy Beach on D Day. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was part of the army that protected the French in the liberation of Paris.
The couple eventually married and moved to Harrrisburg where Mae taught at the Lower Paxton Junior High School. Mae took six years off and stayed home to tend her babies when they were born. Tegan, now a Judge in Key West, was born in 1957. Then came Maura in 1959, who followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a ceramic artist and an art teacher. Another son, Geary, died at the age of four of brain damage. Speaking of her mother, Maura said, “I never felt anything but loved by her. She was just full of love.”
In 1980 Mae suffered heart failure due to a bout of rheumatic fever as a child. The next year she and Chuck moved to Cape Coral, Florida, where Chuck planted many trees and Mae became a fulltime professional ceramic artist, producing many exquisitely beautiful and useful pieces. Restless, Chuck urged a move to Stuart, Florida, where the couple bought a condominium on Hutchinson Island in 1990. They refurbished the condo and Chuck became president of the Condo Association.
Mae wanted to live on the river but Chuck always loved the forest, so they bought their last home in Palm City, surrounded by native Florida pines and other wonderful trees. Mae began teaching ceramics at the Center of the Arts, where she met many of the artists and dancers who would become some of her dearest friends.
Mae opened her home studio in her garage, with many students in and out through the years. She also served on the Martin County Arts Council Exhibition Committee and the Martin County Art in Public Places Committee for many years. Mae was a natural leader, a born teacher, a fine artist. She had a great and unusual ability to gather people together - a natural magnetism which attracted artists and artisans, those for whom the bond of creativity is essential to life. In her hospice bed, she entertained friends and family with laughter and good spirits until very near the end.
Mae Slaton died October 23, 2009. She had just had her 80th birthday party.
Mae Slaton, always an innovator, was greatly responsible for the establishment of the Empty Bowls Project in Martin County. This project continues this year in her honor and in honor of Lundin Kudo.