I knew Molly Lamb Bobak not just as an artist in my gallery, but as a friend, and I deeply admired and valued her as a citizen of conscience and generosity.

I came to Fredericton in the fall of 1970 and early on would visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery largely because I was drawn to an exhibition on display - a series of floral watercolours by a female artist, named Molly Bobak. I did not know anything about her at the time, nor had I heard of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery or the Beaverbrook family. All would eventually play a large part in my life, but none so meaningfully as Molly.

As it happened, my mother was to turn 50 the following spring, and I was “directed” by my brothers, to find a special birthday gift for her.   When I learned that the artist whose work I so enjoyed happened to live in Fredericton, I set out to find her and buy a painting for my mother. That meeting, and the subsequent purchase, marked the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship.

 And so, in some manner, I think of my friendship with Molly as one more gift from my dear mother, who has so often been at the root of the most important things I have discovered and valued in life. By some further play on life’s many coincidences, they passed away within two months of each other, just as they were, in fact, two months apart in actual age.

I knew, early in my years of knowing Molly, that she was the perfect first friend one could have when moving to a new city.

She made Fredericton her home, and with her inspiration, so did I. Molly captured the best of our lives in this community. Through the joy, colour, warmth, and inspiration of the paintings she created, during the more than 50 years she lived in New Brunswick, she told our story, and opened our eyes to the wonder of our unique corner of the world.

My own first memories of Fredericton are of UNB graduations. Molly captured those momentous colourful processions, moving down the hill, and through the campus gates onto University Avenue, in the days when the graduations were held in the Lady Beaverbrook Rink. She painted sports events, from practices to games; the FREX in the fall, from the Ferris wheel to the crowds; and in winter, skaters on the river, skiers at Crabbe Mountain, First Night, and the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Legislature. Once, around the time of the FREX, we planned a large neighbourhood picnic. And afterwards, there it was: a painting with the lush Fredericton Green, the balloons, the children, the absolute joy of childhood excitement.  It was a precious time in our lives and Molly documented it.

Molly captured history too, as in her large series of works on the Queen’s visit to NB. She did not avoid sadness, but expressed it, for example, in the beautiful paintings of the crowds huddled under umbrellas while attending the funeral of Richard Hatfield.

Molly was there for everything that happened in our lives. She saw it all, interpreted it all, and immortalized it all.

Who could ever do more for a city?  Perhaps it was her training as a war artist all those years previously. She was commissioned to record the times, events, and people of a country as it functioned in war. She never stopped being a witness to life. How fortunate for us, that she continued that focus and perspective and we can relive, remember, and appreciate our lives, through the works and the talent of Molly Bobak.

For those of us who were able to spend time with her, we were truly blessed. Her stories, wisdom, opinions, and humour were the perfect response to so many of life’s worries or challenges. Molly sought joy in life, not because she did not experience loss or pain, but because she chose to dwell on what was wonderful and to help all of us see what was captivating, or beautiful in the world outside our very doors.

Age never stole her appetite for life, or her memory of all she loved and valued, even as she accepted that her own life was ending. Molly taught us to the end of her days, as she taught generations of artists, and legions of admiring friends, throughout her remarkable life. Fredericton is not the same without Molly.  I am so thankful to have been one of the many people who knew and loved her.

Inge Pataki, founder Gallery 78

This appeared in the Daily Gleaner in July 2021.