Mercedes (Catapano) Freed, 76, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 from Covid-19 at the Oak Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pawtucket Rhode Island. The eldest daughter of Orlando and Mercedes Catapano, Mercedes was born on March 1, 1944. She was raised in post WWII Long Island when it was still an idyllic haven of working farms and horse breeding stables.
Following graduation from Westbury High school in 1962, Mercedes commuted to NYC to attend LIM College, where the curriculum and experiential education prepared her for a career in the retail and fashion industry. Mercedes’ first “grown-up“ job combined two of her favorite loves, fashion and travel. She moved into the City and worked for a large, established fabric design manufacturing firm on the lower Eastside. A primary responsibility was for Mercedes to travel each season to Paris and London, where she would attend the prestigious design collections and then report on trends from the continent that would influence American fashion.
While living and working in New York City, Mercedes met and married her first husband, Paul Lazarus, in 1967. They later moved to his home state of Maine, where he pursued his writing career. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work out and they parted ways.
The “youth culture” of the 1960s was creating a music and fashion revolution, symbolized by Carnaby Street, iconic home to independent young designers. Mercedes, trusting her ability to tap into the zeitgeist and identify new directions, relocated permanently to London in 1970 where she established her own fashion consultancy, which she ran successfully for several years.
Mercedes later utilized her well-developed visual ability and organizational skills in freelance set decoration for films and advertising. Mercedes worked as a set decorator on Ridley Scott’s film, ‘Alien’ and put her creative touch to use in a wide variety of commercials and films. In all these endeavors, Mercedes brought together a set that would best evoke a message and a moment in time.
Ever the resourceful adventurer, Mercedes loved to travel. In exchange for free airfare, she accompanied documents and small packages to destinations around the world for an international courier service. Favorite assignments included Russia, with a visit the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and China , where she marveled at the ancient, life sized terra-cotta funerary statues and walked on the Great Wall.
Mercedes’ travels throughout her life took her to every continent except Antarctica. She shared exotic holidays with her longtime companion, Michael Seymour, hiking in the Himalayas and going on safari in Africa. She explored temples and swam the beaches in Thailand, kayaked in Costa Rica and was transfixed at the La Scala Opera in Milano. She loved meeting and talking with the people, especially the children, in all the countries she visited.
Mercedes’ intellectual side was piqued by an interest in psychology, metaphysics and philosophy. Her spiritual quest brought her to “A Course in Miracles”, which she began studying in London. In 1990 Mercedes moved to upstate NY where she lived a communal life of work and study at A Course in Miracles Foundation on beautiful Tennanah Lake.
She met Richard Freed, a fellow seeker of spiritual transformation, at an A Course in Miracles workshop. As their relationship grew, she eventually moved into his home in Woodstock, NY. They married in June 2000 and spent many happy years enjoying the artistic community of Woodstock, particularly their close proximity to the Woodstock School of Art, where they took classes and showed their work.
Whether through memorable black and white photographs,evocative watercolors or beautiful gardens, Mercedes expressed her artistic sensibilities at every turn and shared her work with her fortunate family. Each home she made was imbued with elegance and reflected her exquisite taste as evidenced in treasured antiques, original art, rare textiles and an abundant collection of varied plants.
Her husband Richard died in 2015 and, with her own health failing, Mercedes moved closer to family in Massachusetts and subsequently to Rhode Island. Mercedes was pre-deceased by her parents and her twin brother, Orlando and her younger sister, Carolina. She is survived by her siblings Kathleen Eckett, Patricia Calhoun and Michael Catapano, as well as nephews and nieces for whom she was a cherished aunt.
Per her wishes, Mercedes is being cremated. A celebration of her life will take place with family and close friends at a future date. If desired, a memorial tribute can be made in her name by calling the Alzheimer’s Association (1-800-273-3900).
Mercedes was a beautiful spirit with the sweetest smile. She was complex, caring and courageous; she lived a vibrant, full life.
In a gracious birthday message to a sibling in 1990, she quoted liberally from "A Course in Miracles“ ending with the lines, “I cannot be replaced. I am unique in God’s creation."
Yes, you were, dear, one of a kind sister. Peace to you, sweet Mercedes.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mercedes Jeanette Freed, please visit our floral store.