Published: February 24, 2015
MIDDLETOWN, CONN. — Philip Hastings McNemer, 80, died peacefully Tuesday, February 24, in the company of close friends. He was born March 12, 1934, in Cairo, Ill., to Irene Hastings McNemer and Dr Philip Hamilton McNemer. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, he served for four years in the US military in Korea, achieving the rank of captain.
His interest in Asian art was piqued by an excursion to Japan while on military leave. After returning to the United States and meeting his partner, Milon A. Barnes, McNemer and Barnes became collectors of an eclectic range of fine and decorative arts. After filling their apartment, they launched Hastings House Antiques in 1962. For many decades, they lived in a picturesque spot along the Connecticut River and kept an open shop in the riverfront town of Essex, Conn. Hastings House exhibited nationally at top antiques shows, many of them organized by Salisbury, Conn., promoter Russell Carrell and, later, the Antiques Council. They set up beautiful, highly decorative booths richly appointed with an exotic range of artifacts, remembers fellow exhibitor Ron Bourgeault.
“Their shop was full of adventurous wonders — cigar store Indians, Navajo blankets, Chinese scrolls. It was a museum of curiosities to a little kid who had never traveled outside of Connecticut,” recalled Essex resident Geoffrey Paul, who met the dealers when he was 10 and raising funds for the Boy Scouts. The collector and co-owner of Essex’s Griswold Inn held youthful positions at Hastings House, even helping the firm set up its booth at the Winter Antiques Show in the 1970s.
“Phil and Milon had remarkable vision and could find beauty in objects often overlooked by other dealers of the day. Through them, I acquired a lifelong passion for wonderful objects and their stories. I am grateful to them both,” Paul said.
“Philip was a dear friend of Helen’s and mine and our friendship reached back many years. He loved the antiques business and made so many wonderful friends through that medium. He was a large, tall man who stood above others and always enjoyed telling jokes and laughing at his listeners waiting for the punch line,” said Antiques and The Arts Weekly editor and publisher R. Scudder Smith. “His great loves were music, movies and food. We often dined with Milon and Philip, who always had a new restaurant that he had to try. Philip saw every show produced at Goodspeed Opera House in Haddam, Conn. He usually invited us to go with him for his second visit to the ones he gave a thumb’s up. We will sorely miss Philip and always remember him with love.”
Constance O’Brien remembered her friend and former card partner with affectionate good humor. “He spent his last years playing bridge, for a while at the country club in Old Lyme, Conn., and in regular Wednesday games in Old Saybrook, Conn. He had good card sense but was an offthe-wall bidder! He was just a classic, elegant gentleman.”
Predeceased by Barnes in August 2003, McNemer leaves no immediate survivors. His friends plan a memorial for him this spring.
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