Daisy B. Thorp
{ "" }
Share Daisy's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
CHAPEL HILL - Daisy Belle Anderson Thorp, 82, an admired professor of art history, beloved mother and friend, and a major collector-developer of North Carolina's artistic talent, died at her home on Saturday, December 29, 2007.

Though she hailed from Quaker stock, the Anderson and Worth families of Greensboro, Thorp's artistic pedigree began in Hollywood. Her mother, a legendary beauty seen on the cover of magazines, had run away to join Zigfield's Follies. Daisy also ran away, joined the Navy and served in World War II. She then chose to be educated at Chapel Hill, graduating with honors in 1950. Always a gifted performer, Daisy became the girl-singer with a popular campus swing band. She married her college sweet heart, the well-known lawyer, William L. Thorp (mentor to John Edwards and a generation of young Democratic lawyers). Daisy moved to Thorp's hometown, Rocky Mount. It was there the couple raised three children, William, Laurie and Isaac. Her liberal politics led to trail-blazing decisions that, in someone of Daisy's character, seemed only natural. She was Rocky Mount's first white society hostess to invite African-Americans to her dinner parties as guests, not servers. This drew the ire of an establishment always perplexed by Daisy, but forever disarmed by one so informed, good-looking, and cheerfully certain. She knew the Latin names of every flower in her admired cottage garden.

With her husband and friends, she founded the Rocky Mount Arts Center exactly fifty years ago. That organization now occupies the vast Imperial Center downtown, converted tobacco warehouses complete with professional theatre and sunny studio-exhibit spaces. The 1957 Art Center's first home was a small rental house that became a community outlet for civil rights and free expression. The Center would devel op the artistic careers of many town children including film scholar, Mason Wiley.

Thorp adopted successive young artists whose best work she seemed to engender by simply predicting. Her nephew, Holden Thorp, Dean of the College of Arts and Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, has said, "I wouldn't be a college professor without Daisy. She made the relentless pursuit of knowledge the most exciting quest of all. Memorizing poems, experiencing art museums along side her, in our poring over great literature: she was always an educator, even in the peaceful clarifying way she died. First she showed us how to live a life perfectly then she taught us how to leave one.''

Thorp would go on to teach at Rocky Mount's North Carolina Wesleyan College. She helped the college acquire the Robert Lynch Collection of Outsider Art. Robert Lynch had been born nearby of Native-American and African-American heritage. He had graduated from Harvard then dedicated himself to commissioning art works by persons living within driving distance of his birthplace. Lynch's amazing collection comprised a portrait of Eastern North Carolina created by its ignored geniuses. Daisy Thorp understood his mission. It was thanks to her community lectures, private persuasions and personal benefactions that Lynch, by then mortally ill, sold his entire collection to North Carolina Wesleyan. This group of works by Eastern North Carolina artists, worth millions, was subsequently sold at a loss after Thorp's retirement, over her strenuous objections.

On her retirement from teaching, then-college-president Les Garner Jr. stated, "Daisy has always been able to identify and nurture the genius among us. She unwraps the inhibitions that keep our talents hidden. She has an uncanny ability to spot talent, even when it had not yet been seen by those who possess it.''

One of her local finds was the novelist Allan Gurganus. To Daisy, he dedicated his short story collection "White People''. He helped established a college fellowship in her name and has written, "When I was ten, Daisy bought one of my paintings then invited me to her fine home to help her find the perfect spot for it. Daisy's house seemed a palace full of real paintings, new music, old books. In many ways, it was the home I had only imagined and it is a house I've never left. Daisy led me into a world of love, discipline, political honesty, fearless artistic expression. And I am just one among the hundreds she rescued into sanity through art. Daisy will always be both our fairy God mother and our inventor.''

Paintings from Thorp's personal collection were seen at universities and museums around the world. As an actress she appeared in countless productions, touring England with "Death of a Salesman'' in the Cape Fear Regional Theatre production. Favorite roles included Madame Arcati in ""Blithe Spirit'' and Domina in ""Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum''. But Daisy Thorp's truest medium was other people--- the native abilities of her fellow citizens. That faith ---along with her three gifted children, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren---surely constitutes Thorp's greatest living legacy.

Thorp also directed the first local chapter of Upward Bound, dedicated to giving underprivileged school-kids new experience and confidence. One locally famous expedition found Thorp taking her racially-mixed students on their first sailboat ride. Needing access to the water, the group borrowed a handy cottage dock. Sailing back, they were disoriented to find that the dock's white owners had torn the structure down rather than let black children set foot on it again.

One of her last achievements was the publication of works by a young poet, Nick Glennon, a gifted friend who had died at fifty-one. Days before her own death, Thorp was handed the first copy of the work she had conceived and edited, "Journey Nonetheless: The Collected Poems of Nick Glennon''. So magnetic was Thorp's ongoing appeal as listener-advisor-encourager, her family finally gave up asking her to scale back typical daily company. Even as Daisy Thorp's energy waned, the sign on her door said simply, "Keep visits short''.

Daisy Thorp is survived by her children William Thorp of Beaufort, South Carolina, Laurie Thorp of Chapel Hill and Isaac Thorp of Cary, her grandchildren, Kishie Thorp Wyatt, Simon Thorp, Jesse Ainslie, Gabriel Ainslie and Eli Thorp, and four great grandchildren. She leaves behind legions of friends and grateful students.

Contributions in her name can be made to: Montrose Garden, PO Box 957, Hillsborough, NC 27278.

Funeral services will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 231 North Church Street, Rocky Mount, NC, on Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 11:00 a.m.
Published in The News & Observer on Jan. 1, 2008.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
25 entries
January 15, 2008
Dear Billy, Laurie,and Issac,
I was sad when I heard the news about Aunt Daisy. She had such a beautiful spirit and a wonderful way of seeing the world. May God grant you peace.
David Anderson
January 5, 2008
Dear Billy, Laurie and Issac,
Daisy certainly did her part to make the Thorp clan more colorful than it would have otherwise been. She's the only person I've ever known whose eyes smiled as effortlessly as her mouth. I'll miss her. Love, Robin
Robin Thorp McCoy
January 5, 2008
Her pure joy will be missed. What a wonderful, loving and kind person. She always welcomed me into her home---even when her beloved SAAB wasn't working! Much love.
Bill Bourne
January 4, 2008
Daisy was an inspiration to so many, including me. She walked the walk and worked to lift the human spirit beyond what was believed. I am honored to have known her as well as her children. We should all drink from life as she did.
Richard Brandt
Richard Brandt
January 4, 2008
I am still entranced by the memories of Daisy's beautiful voice, the way she really engaged with people on the tills at supermarkets, her total involvement in my life when I talked to her about it it. Thank goodness I was able to visit her in the autumn. Even from Canterbury, 3,000 miles away there are friends here saddened. We prayed for her soul in the Cathedral today.
Tessa Taylor
January 3, 2008

January 3, 2008
Dear Willie, Laurie,and Isaac,
I have so many fond memories growing up with you guys and spending so much time at your house. Everyday with you guys was an adventure and I loved visiting your home and your family. It seems like only yesterday that we were pushing that old Renault to get it started. Ever since I left Rocky Mount, I have always remembered my time with you guys. It does my heart good to know that your Mom lived such a wonderful life and that she exited it so gracefully. I wish you all the best and hope that one day we meet again. I'm sure your Mom continues her legacy in a better place.
Robbie "Sam" Collins
January 3, 2008
Laurie. I just heard about your mother's death and the funeral is in less than 30 minutes. Please know I am with you in spirit and will be in touch soon. She is a wonderful woman who will be missed by many who have known her over the years. What wonderful memories she has given everyone.
Love, Jane Morgan Snow
Jane Snow
January 3, 2008
I have fond memories of Daisy from my years at N.C. Wesleyan (Class of '74)
Howard Parsons
January 3, 2008
Dear Laurie,
My love and prayers are with you and your family. I feel honored and grateful to have "known" your mama through your sharing. What an amazing woman! She is an inspiration.
With my love and blessings,
Tammy Marinaro-Crook
January 2, 2008
Dear Laurie, My heart goes out at this time of grace to You, Your Brothers, and all that Loved Daisy. I only visited Daisy a few times, always with You. It was always an adventure. She would ask questions that if i wanted to answer required me to inquire within more deeply than i might ordinarily. I think that Daisy drank deeply of Life, I am honored to have know her. Love Life........
Scotty Young
January 2, 2008
I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Mrs Daisy Thorp's Family. I was a former Student at NCWC in 1988. I remember her pleasant smile. I know she will surely be missed.
Lisa McBeth-Massenburg
January 2, 2008
Laurie at this time of this lose I'm sure you know how much I can understand your grief with me losing daddy so recently. Daisy was truley a wonderful women and I still to this day have memories of visiting her in her Rocky Mount home many times. My most recent memory is when Tina and I went to her for advise about the buisness we wanted to start and what that advice was. She loved the idea and thought the name was silly. Maybe she was right, that part of the buisness never really took off. God bless Daisy and it warms my heart to know that she now walks with daddy in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Praying with you, Isaac and William
Will and Tina Anderson
January 2, 2008
Dear Laurie, Issac & Billy, I was very saddened to hear the news of Daisy's passing. She was such a fun & lively person to be around. I wish I had been aware that her health was failing as I was in Fayetteville and just returned to Florida Sunday. I will be sorry to miss the celebration of her long and very full life. You all are in my prayers in this time of grieving. I can only imagine the things she will accomplish in her new eternal life. I'm sure she will be very busy! Much love to you all.
Lynn Anderson Essick
January 2, 2008
Thank you Laurie for sharing your beautiful mother with me.

Monica Howden
January 1, 2008
Dear Laurie,
Thank you so much for asking prayers for your mother, Dasiy. In reading her story, I realized that the woman I prayed for was truly the woman I had contacted and it was an honor to be in contact with such a glorious spirit! She was greeted by many who loved her.
Blessings on you and yours,
Jean Perkins '99
Jean Perkins
January 1, 2008
Dear Laurie,
My heartfelt prayers are with you and your family.
Christine Edwards
January 1, 2008
Daisy was a most amazing lady, loved deeply by her granddaughter, Kishie Thorp Wyatt.

Frank and Becky Wyatt
Frank & Becky Wyatt
January 1, 2008
I didn't know Daisy, but I believe that she must have been a most wonderful person to have given us Laurie. Godspeed, Daisy.
Glorie Magram
January 1, 2008
Thankyou dear Daisy, for contributing so much to so many...warm friend, inspiring, fun companion on Bill's boat, and back in Rocky Mount during those halcyon fresh days... our thoughts now go out to your family on the news of your passing.. your bright smile gone, but never your illumination in our memories.. John & Sonia
John & Sonia Lawrence
January 1, 2008
What a great lady and what a wonderful life she led. She made our world a better place through the generosity of her artistic soul, and her encouragement and loving inspiration to others.
Mike Craver
January 1, 2008
I always knew that Daisy was a blessing upon this earth, but did not realize how much until reading this noble tribute. It was an honor to know her and she will be missed. I hold her family in my heart and my prayers, knowing that her legacy will live in each of them.
Cypress Garrett
January 1, 2008
I send my deepest condolences and prayers.
Robert Mann
January 1, 2008
laurei, Isaac and Billy,

What a moving, amazing, incredible woman your mother Daisy was. Your words capture the depth and breath of her amazing journey and contribution to the world. We are all blessed by her life.

So much love to you all in this moment of Grace,

sue anderson
January 1, 2008
Wow! What a gal! I wish I had known her.
Anne Russell
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences