On May 22, 2024
Local News

Peter Michael Gish, 98

Peter Michael Gish (“Mike”), age 98, died on March 3, 2024. Mike was born on March 2, 1926, in New York City to Carl K. Gish and Helen Baldwin Gish. He grew up in Westport, Connecticut and attended Staples High School.

Mike joined the ROTC in 1943 and matriculated to Dartmouth College. Upon learning that his older brother, USMC PFC Carl K. Gish II (“Jim”) had been killed in action on Saipan in 1944, Mike left Dartmouth to complete his aviation training with the Navy (USMC). Too young to see combat in WWII, Mike retired from the Marines with his “wings” in 1946 to complete his education and received an AB in Fine Art from Dartmouth College in 1949. Indelibly affected by the death of his brother, Mike decided to pursue art and the military as a career. He continued his art education at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France in 1951 as a visiting student. Mike eventually received a master’s in fine art from Yale University in 1964.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Mike was commissioned to paint the locally famous murals at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction. Known as the “Vermont Room,” the murals portray the history of Vermont, beginning with an acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples and ending with the Civil War. The final haunting figure in the murals is generally understood to represent Mike’s deceased brother. Along with the Vermont Room, Mike also painted a lively mural behind what was at the time the Hotel’s bar. Mike also designed the Dartmouth Winter Carnival poster of 1948, an enduring and popular image of a couple enjoying an apres-ski before a log fire.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Mike was commissioned to paint the locally famous murals at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction. Known as the “Vermont Room,” the murals portray the history of Vermont.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Mike had the opportunity to work with the New England artist Paul Sample, who was artist in residence at Dartmouth during Mike’s years there, as well as the well-known Austrian painter, Oskar Kokoschka. Both artists became important mentors to Mike in the development of his own painting style.

After his studies at Yale, Mike returned to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, initially as a helicopter pilot, advancing to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1967, Mike was sent to Vietnam by the USMC as a “combat artist,” joining a long tradition of documenting war through art. While in Vietnam, Mike also received the Air Medal for flying 24 combat missions. One of Mike’s paintings, “Studies of Helmets in the Sand,” was chosen to be the poster for the National Vietnam Memorial. In 1991, at the age of 65, Mike became a full colonel in the Marines when he deployed to Iraq, as a combat artist, for Operation Provide Comfort where he documented the Kurdish refugees from the First Gulf War. Then again, in 1993, Mike journeyed to Somalia where he continued his documentation of refugees and displaced people during Operation Restore Hope. Many of Mike’s paintings have been displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., as well as the Smithsonian Museum.

An accomplished portrait artist, Mike painted the official presidential portraits of two of Dartmouth College’s presidents: John Sloan Dickey and James E. Wright. A large part of Mike’s work reflects his love of still life and landscapes, particularly New England and his beloved Block Island, Rhode Island. Mike’s artwork has been displayed in many galleries and exhibitions, as well as several private collections. A prolific painter who continued to work well into his 90s, Mike was also a full professor of art at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, retiring from his academic duties in 1990.

Mike is predeceased by his wife, Marguerite (Drouin) and is survived by his three children, Charlotte Wall (Steve Wall), Southport, North Carolina; Peter A. Gish (Robin Kaiser), Hanover, New Hampshire; and Carl K. Gish III (Elizabeth Gish), Palo Alto, California. He is also survived by 7 grandchildren: Carla and Stephanie Wall, Sophia, Miranda and Olivia Gish, and Peter Gish and Henry Gish, as well as his partner of many years, Marilyn Bogdanfy.

A memorial service was held at the Coolidge Hotel, White River Junction at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. 

The event was open to the public with a reception following. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the U.S. Marine Corps Heritage Foundation: marineheritage.org/makedonation.html.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Yale student wrote her thesis on Vermont’s school mergers, found they don’t save much

June 12, 2024
By Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger While studying economics and education at Yale University, Grace Miller found a surprise topic on the agenda: Vermont’s one-of-a-kind school funding formula.  The 22-year-old from Newport and her classmates learned about the Brigham decision, a 1997 Vermont Supreme Court case that found the state’s education finance system was unconstitutional.  In response to the case, the…

Killington road work extends into Saturday morning

June 12, 2024
Drilling and blasting will continue this week at the intersection of Route 4 and Killington Road in Killington. A detour remains in place via West Hill Road.  As the project approaches the scheduled end date of July 8, work to haul out rock will occur on Saturdays till about noon time going forward, Markowski Excavating,…

Hartland board to propose new vendors’ ordinance

June 12, 2024
By Curt Peterson The Hartland Select Board refined a proposed new Vendors’ Ordinance to replace the original that’s been in effect since 1996. According to Town Manager John Broker-Campbell, “There are minor changes which will hopefully help to clear up any confusion or ambiguity on the applicability of the ordinance.”   The Select Board will next…

Building a stronger Killington-Rutland community:Essential nonprofits tackle tough issues

June 12, 2024
Vermont’s vibrant spirit thrives on a network of over 7,000 nonprofits; some 1,500 of them in the Killington-Rutland region alone. Considering that number, it’s not surprising that some of these organizations prompt the question: “Why does that nonprofit exist?” Yet, the ones that tackle tough issues and enrich lives spark admiring comments, like “Imagine how…