Rebecca Faunce McDermott, a talented and successful interior designer and wedding planner, died peacefully at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center on January 26, 2023, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her family, who were everything to her.
Born on September 17, 1954, at United Hospital in Port Chester, N.Y., she was the daughter of Sally (Swift) and George Faunce III. In 1966, she and her parents and older brother moved to the former home of her paternal grandparents on Hidden Spring Lane in Rye, N.Y. She lived most of her life in Rye and her love for the community never wavered.
Becky, as she was known, attended Rye Country Day School from kindergarten through ninth grade, and went on to Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, where she met her best friend for life, Virginia Robinson, and forged many other long-lasting relationships. Last year, she organized her 50th class reunion.
After graduating from Miss Porter’s in 1972, she attended Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where she discovered and was able to nurture her many creative interests.
She majored in Studio Art at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, where she enjoyed painting and making silkscreens and sculptures. In 1976, she graduated with High Honors in Art and then headed to New York City to start a career.
She chanced, after a few less-than-desirable positions, upon a temporary job at Town & County magazine, where her creative skill and energy impressed the Director of Fashion. At T&C, she traveled to fashion shows in Milan and Paris on a regular basis, taking short breaks in Rome or London. Along the way, she met some of the most famous names in fashion, reported from their studios, and visited them at their homes. She traveled the globe with the world’s best photographers and, as Fashion Editor, produced shoots across the country, as well as in Australia, Fiji, Yemen, and Yugoslavia – where the entire crew spent time in jail for photographing too close to a military base.
At a Halloween party in Manhattan in 1980, mutual friends introduced Becky Faunce to Tom McDermott. They were married at Rye Presbyterian Church on May 22, 1982, and, for the next few years, lived in New York City. They were the loves of one another’s lives for over 40 years.
In 1986, the McDermott’s moved to Highland Road in Rye. They later lived on Hidden Spring Lane, the third generation of her family to do so.
While caring for her three children, Becky McDermott embarked on what would become a wide-ranging career managing her own businesses. She studied and practiced decorative painting, became a Stylist at The New York Times Home Entertaining magazine, and later branched into interior design, where she built a devoted client base over many years.
“She could walk into a room and, in a few minutes, lay out a vision for a client and sketch it in seconds,” said her daughter, Betsy Lanphier, who worked with her for many years.
Wherever she was, Becky McDermott made friends. She was a superb host, never missed a party, and was among the last to leave.
Early in life and throughout her high school years, she enjoyed skiing in the Northeast and in Europe, which she did with great style, and, of course, with speed. One of her proudest achievements was making sure her children learned to ski from a young age at Canon Mountain in New Hampshire.
As a young girl in Rye, she played tennis and swam at Manursing Island Club, where she competed for Cokes on the courts – she professed to have earned many. She was particularly proud of her ribbons and medals won in the saltwater pool. Her beach fun and stellar athletic career at Manursing came to an end when she went off to Camp Arcadia in Casco, Maine, where she became Maine State Doubles champ and skipped many a hike.
She had a lifelong love affair with squash, as a player and spectator, especially at Apawamis Club in Rye. She also loved tennis, and when she could not attend the US Open, she taped every minute. Along with her husband, she watched nearly every Yankee game each season, but never quite learned when a tag was required. She remained a fierce devotee of Princeton University, which both her father and brother attended — especially Tiger football.
For over 20 years, she arranged a family trip to Harbor Island in the Bahamas. She loved the beach, swimming all day, breaking for lunch at Doll House or Sip-Sip, and, for a time, staying out most of the night with the young set. Most of all, she loved hanging with her children and their friends.
In 2010, Mrs. McDermott was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare form of blood cancer, which became manageable through treatment but caused a host of side effects that she handled privately and bravely. Throughout this time, she continued the creative work she loved without compromising her high standards.
She will be remembered as “attractive, vivacious, creative, funny, exacting, painfully truthful, extremely loyal, visually brilliant, and competitive as hell at squash, backgammon, or Candyland,” said her husband, Tom McDermott. “It was also well-known that no one liked to be behind the wheel of a car more than Becky; vehicles had to be pried away for maintenance.”
In addition to her husband, Tom McDermott of Greenwich, Conn., she is survived by her children, Ted McDermott of Seattle, Wash., Betsy Lanphier (Ned) of Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Ginny Broadwater (Nick) of North Yarmouth, Maine; her brother, Ted Faunce (Anna) of France; nephews Tommy and Adrien Faunce; and the brightest lights of her life, grandchildren Oakley, Kirby, and Ward Lanphier, and Riley Broadwater.
A private burial was held February 6 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. A memorial service will be held on April 15 at Rye Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m., followed by a gathering at Manursing Island Club.