Sharon, September 22, 2010
As I contemplate the profound and intense loss of my beloved Jilly, I realize that all of you—who have so kindly paid attention to me via emails and phone calls—each and everyone of you have suffered a loss of a wonderful and significant friend. I offer you all my most caring thoughts, and think of you all with gratitude. The void created by Jill's passing is tremendous and painful, but it's a comfort to know how deeply she was loved, respected and admired.
I recognize, in looking back over the past year or so, that she and I talked a lot more about death and dying than in previous years. It was never a subject we avoided but not an easy one for Jill—though now it is pretty clear: she had embraced the thought rather more than I was aware of. I was so centered on getting her to feel as close to “normal” as possible after we moved to Sharon. We kept our routine close to the one we’d developed over time: breakfast in bed for Jill, I sitting on a chair next to her, talking about yesterday and the new day, what we had to do, about friends and family—how she was feeling (mostly not that great), if she felt up to working, pt appointments or just staying in bed watching some of her favorite movies, or reading.
While she was finishing England’s Child, I kept urging her to start a new project—nothing grounded her like her writing; without it, her anxiety overflowed and I knew this would create friction between us. Until we moved here, we lived in so many ways separate lives, she had her work and I had mine; I know you all had the impression we were glued by the hips but that was not the case. We were certainly close and intimately connected but we also had our personal spheres of occupation. So, for the first time here in Sharon we were thrown into a new and demanding life together, 24/7—and although we adapted, it was at times a strain on both of us. I know writing was her therapy, her way of getting hold of her free-ranging thoughts and anxieties—she was a master of working through things by writing about them. She fed herself by writing. It pains me that her Heroes project may remain unfinished—I’ve looked at what she wrote and although I know where she was heading, the way she connected and associated thoughts is just way beyond me. Such a pity!
This AM, a beautiful sunny and cool morning, I walked through Sharon, thinking about some of the difficulties we’d had and feeling awful—I sensed someone walking close behind me but no one was there—I was crying and telling her how sad I felt about our fights and just at that moment I passed a car with a bumper sticker saying “kindness.”
I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I, myself, have been remembering 45 years of events with Jill, all special, all unique, all aspects of a cherished friendship. I’m so glad to have known you for much of that time, and am grateful for your devotion and steadfastness.
If there is any way I can be of help, anything at all, please let me know.
Sheindi [Bellamy] (close friend since the 1960s)
I feel her with me today as I go through my painting day.
Her example and her leaving remind me that we don’t get all that much time and to make the most of it. She gave us all a chance these past days to step out of our daily lives to come together with love. How often does that happen?
You have risen to this occasion as you always do and have, for Jill.
Remember that the love and support are there for you, too. Take care of Ingrid and do what’s best for you. And ask for what you need and want.
Her spirit has always guided me in some ways, and will continue to do so. My life would have been much poorer had she not been in it.
love, Catherine [Kehoe] (“old” friend from mid-1970s)
Dear Ingrid, Winnie and Richard—
I am so sorry that Jill has died, and I am thinking of you all. It is not easy to express my feelings, as I remain a bit stunned that Jill is no longer here. She and I spoke very frequently over the years, especially in these recent times.
Jill was my art/consciousness/mental adventurer buddy and guide. Our conversations ranged far, and at the heart of it was our caring for each others well being.
Whatever intellectual journey she would go on, she was able to look at it through different lenses, allowing all the construct to fall apart if it no longer held water. We talked painting, we talked writing, we talked sports and politics, we talked the oddness of being human, we talked family and friends. We talked shop, as it were, and losing someone you could talk shop with - deep shop - is not an easy loss.
I am glad that so many folks are remembering Jill, and I imagine and hope that this is of some comfort to you. Of course, you all meant the world to Jill.
Again, I think of you each day, and Amanda, Ben, Lori and Marissa as well.
I will come East when it is time to gather for remembering Jill, and I very much look forward to seeing each of you,
Candace [Chaite] (a close and dear friend from the 1970s, and an artist for whose work Jill had great admiration and appreciation)
Deeply saddened to hear of Jill’s passing. We only hope that she did not suffer too much at the end and that her mind had reached some state of acceptance. Our deepest prayers are with you, at this time.
As I’m sure you’re aware Jill and I had known each other for a long time. I have many strong memories of early times with her together in NY when we both lived in the same building where the World Trade Towers no longer exist anymore. And, of course, you probably know we spent a few years together in the same building on the Bowery.
I always considered Jill to be like a sister to me and strange as it may seem to hear this, my own sister June died in approximately the same manner almost a year ago. I know it’s very hard to be consoled in a situation like this, but both Catherine and my condolences sincerely go out to you, and as I’ve said in the past if there is any way we can help in these difficult times please don’t hesitate to call on us.
As you pointed out she left this world in peace and dignity. I like to think that she had achieved all that she came here to do. May she rest in peace and thank you for all your devotion and kindness.
Les and Catherine [Levine] (known Jilly for decades and steadfast friends)
This hurts. I’m so sorry.
I’m glad I went to visit this summer.
Much love to you, and sympathy. She went out well, surrounded by those who love her.
Lenora [Champagne] (Ingrid’s “oldest” friend in America)
Sidney Abbott Here Farewell to Jill Creator of Possibilities
Ingrid, I am thinking about you today, though maybe we have never met. How fast this
happened, or seemed so to me because I had not been in touch with Jill. Last I had seen her was before you two were married when I would walk out from Joan Nixon’s apartment in the Village and meet up with Jill walking along also.
Usually, I would ask a question about something going on, to hear her point of view. She was, as they say in Texas, one long tall drink of water.
It was in the job descriptions of creative, brillant people in NYC in the 1960’s and 70’s, in particular, to mess with your mind, to enlarge your mental arena, to cause you to see beyond boundaries, out of the box... Jill did this leaving a trail of stars in the sky with her stream of ‘dance’ columns in the Voice-- Hey, what is this, this Lesbianism? Hey, look at what I do now, think now, feel now. Hey, let’s make Lesbian Nation!
Her lanky shape in a door frame, her aw-shucks smile before uttering some observation, accusation, protestation. Unique, not to be forgotten, Jill. Hail and Farewell. Sidney [Abbott] (friend from the Movement Schoovement days)
I wanted to let you know that I wrote a letter to the editor of the Village Voice last night. I feel an unbelievable sadness today. I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that she is really gone. It’s strange how you can’t fully appreciate someone until they’re gone. I have spent the past 12 hours reading Jill’s columns and interviews online. She was truly incredible. I love you with all of my heart.
Ben [Lanham Potts] (Jilly’s—and my—grandson who helped us take care of Jilly throughout her last days with profound love and care)
She will stay in our hearts forever. Tears, smiles and love...she will be very missed. Joanne [Boelke] (Close friend from West Cornwall CT days)
Dear Ingrid: I am so sad. Jill was more than life. She was huge in our lifetime. She was fun, smart, daring. I am sooo sorry for your loss, but happy to know she went peacefully. Love, Barbara [Love] (friend from the Movement Schmoovement days)
God bless you both.
Keith [Champagne] (close friend of Ingrid’s and of Jill’s since 1970s; Ingrid and Keith were room-mates)
I’ve tried calling you a couple of times today, but you’re probably not back home yet.
I can’t tell you how sad I am about Jill’s death. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet. She’s one of the most unforgettable people in my life, and I cherish my vivid memories of our meals, trips, and mostly conversations over the decades. I never knew what Jill was going to say to me, which of course made every conversation more interesting and more challenging. I’m not sure what she ever made of me, but she kept talking and I kept talking and somehow a relationship was forged. It didn’t seem to matter how long it had been since the last conversation had been—she was easily able to pick up from where we had stopped, pretty much without a pause.
But I suppose what’s really incomprehensible to me is that I can no longer see “Jill & Ingrid.” Although you both have had very strong, individual personalities, thoughts and beliefs, to me—and I think to Keith—I have perceived you primarily as a couple. And not just any couple, but the one couple that in some way mirrored Keith and myself. You got together so soon after Keith and I did, and there weren’t many times when we saw one of you without seeing the other. Your loss of Jill has made both Keith and me feel very vulnerable. Of course, he and I have had conversations over the years about how one of us would deal with the loss of the other, but Jill’s death makes it seem so much more possible to us.
I know that what we’re feeling cannot compare to what you’re going through. I also know that Jill would never have lived as long as she did, had it not been for your devotion, care and love. I have so admired your selflessness through all these years. And I think I know how much Jill herself appreciated it. This time will now be your greatest challenge, and while I have great faith in your strength, resilience and ingenuity, I still worry about what you will have to face. Please, if there is anything I can do, please, please let me know. Even if it’s only to listen.
I hope to talk to you and see you soon. In the meantime, I send my love.
Paul [Gruber] (close friend since 1980)
Dearest dearest Ingrid,
No words can help right now ( Jill was so good with words!) but know that not only do we say fair well to Jill with the deepest sadness and honour her life and contribution to all our journeys but we are here as friends for you. Call on us, take all the love and support from all that honour you both and love you ... I know what it feels like: I lost Sara my, love, best friend and soul mate of 30 years in 2004... I still feel amputated even if it hurts less. Time will help the pain but never the loss...
I was honoured to be at our wedding celebration all those years ago...
Please give the family my deepest condolences.
Olga [Edridge] (produced the BBC documentary on the passing of same-sex marriage law in Denmark, 1989—a direct inspiration for Jilly and I getting married in Odense, Denmark in 1993)
Dear Ingrid: I thank you for your gracious tending to Jill in her last days. I feel a tremendous loss, a kind of visceral hole. A crude way of putting it. Jill will always be inscribed in my internal database, one of those voices that continue to weigh in. I hear her voice.
If I can be of any comfort in the upcoming days of your grief, do not hesitate to contact me.
My very best. Yvonne [Rainer] (friend since the 1960s)
We’ve been thinking and talking about Jill today. She brought so much to our lives—mine, Friedericke’s, Jasper’s, Sebastian’s, and Sophie’s. All five of us were at the Tarot Garden together this summer—that was down to Jill. I thought the figure of Death at the Garden was the most beautiful of the statues, but I’m glad I sent her the card I did.
When you know the funeral arrangements please let me know in plenty of time - if it will be more than a family affair.
Ingrid: you must be feeling so sad. I wish we could say or do something to console you.
Tony D [Delamothe] (close and dear friends from London; Tony sent Jilly art and interesting clippings from England)
I am sure the bells are ringing as she ascends.
Linda & Warren [Wynshaw] (close friends, and WW our attorney)
I feel as if an essential part of myself has died too—so I can, a little, imagine how you must feel.
George [Walsh] (friend Jilly met through Gregory Battcock in the late 1960s)
My deepest sympathy to you for the loss of your love. And much love to you and strength from me, Joanne [Hendricks]
I want you to know that we are all thinking very warm and loving thoughts to you during this time of such tragic loss. I know how deep your love for each other was, and what support and care you gave Jill for so many years. I remember your jogging together down Greenwich street past the house, sometimes stopping for a brief chat. I remember the photographs that Geoff showed me of your wedding, filled with joy and smiles. And your inventive ways of getting Jill’s work published and distributed, dealing with production and orders alike.
I send you much love, and cherish my thoughts of Jill.
Jon [Hendricks] (close friend since the 1960s)
I know how much Jill meant to you and how sad you must be at her passing. Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss.
Jerry [Sturman] (friend since 1958)
Ingrid, I am so sorry for your loss. When I saw Jill (and you) that last time last Thursday, she was talking about all of the people and old friends she had heard from and reconnected with due to her surgery. She seemed appreciative and at a certain peace despite the previous evening and that morning’s confusion about pain meds etc. My first thought when I read your news was: Jill is no longer in pain!
It has ben a privilege to have known Jill and to listen to her talk during her physical therapy sessions, as she generously spoke about her life and shared her thoughts and ideas. Everyone at NordiCare will miss your frequent visits—you’d both become a part of the NordiCare family. I will always remember her in her blue ‘dress code’, her tall presence as she entered the front door as well as her wry smile and bold and at times unforgiving observations of our ways and culture.
I know you’ll be all right Ingrid, but realize that you will have a long grieving and healing process ahead of you. I send you my best and warmest wishes and invite you to stop by my office soon and often! If I can be of help, please let me know. I hope you and she had some time and opportunity for closure.
A big hug and, again, my warmest wishes,
Bente [Dahl-Busby] (Jill’s physical therapist—her healing hands helped Jilly—who became a friend, in Sharon)
I want here to especially include Winnie and Jill’s son Richard who lived with me on Canal Street for a little bit, and I want to write them, how very much Jill was always concerned for them, and how much she loved them, and how glad for them that her dialogue with them drew closer and closer and that now she is especially contained in them. I want to send them my very special love and tell them that, from time to time in dreams, in the wind, in streams and the ocean, messages do occur over the great divide. All my love to you, Richard and Winnie, you now carry treasures from Jill within your beings.
I will be doing a little event for her words in the waters of Venice where I fly on Monday.
I am so saddened to hear of Jill’s passing. I have such fond memories of spending time with you both, and consider myself so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a book with Jill. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do. My best regards, Amy [Scholder] (editor responsible for Admission Accomplished)
So sorry to hear the news.
Jill has always been a special and radiant friend in my life. I can’t ever forget her.
Condolences from Ellen and me.
Stanley [Weinstock] (Jill’s famous dentist and his wife)
Dearest Ingrid this is hardly the way to write you a sympathy note but it is just to tell you how deeply sorry I am , I have talked to Carol Robinson and of course told her and Sallybo. Thanks for keeping me in touch. With much love Alice [Ober] (classmate of Jilly’s from St. Mary’s Boarding School for Girls, Peekskill, NY)
Charles and I send our most heartfelt condolences to you and the family. We are very deeply saddened to hear this news.
Through Charles’ life I have often talked of Jill as one of his dad’s favourite friends, too often telling him the story of her outburst about the size of his nose when she first saw him a few weeks after his birth.
We hold you in our thoughts,
Marguerite [Laing] (Widow of RD Laing, mother to his last child)
Dear Ingrid, I am so sorry, I wish you, Jill’s children and grand children ease, She will be missed so much, it is hard to believe such a determined, vigorous, inquisitive presence gone from us all so soon. Flowers still bloom, although it is indeed the seasons change.
“When was it ever, that man shall yield with a grace to reason, to the end of a love or a season.” Wallace Stevens. Jill lived and was part and in the center of an incredible era of creativity. She was its recorder. As you know well Ingrid, the departed never fully leave us there are echoes and messages. May your silent time now be filled with peace and light. All my love to you Ann Wilson (old friend from the Bowery days)
With deepest condolences for you and the family and enormous regard for you spirit and hope for our future.
Julie [Martin] (friend since the 1960s)
Marianne has been giving me a good account of the events as they happen. As one is, always, I am very saddened by the events that have recently happened to Jill. …. And for all of you, the ones who remain behind, for whom it is a most terrible time and yet a time also reaffirming the meaning of life to ongoing rush and the us humans and support of it.
I was very surprised when the time before last when we were up at your house, Marianne and I, that I heard Jill say that she "was ready to die.” That was a sad moment for me already. Whatever she is and has been, Jill has it seems to me, always been strongly in life, and in her life. So I knew then that this must already be a time of greater suffering for Jill. I didn’t believe I would ever hear Jill be “ready.” That saddened me, and on the way home, Marianne and I spoke of that. I know from what Marianne told me that Jill had declared that she did not want to be kept alive without her full mental faculties and that she had (probably many times) expressed that very strongly and clearly to you. In a sense, to even say that one is ‘choosing’ a time to die, and to risk doing it—must for all of us be a difficult business. This is something that modern life brings to us in a new way with all the abilities it now has to keep us alive long after we would once have been dead. I admire both your and her courage in being able to choose the best alternative and the one, above all that Jill wished. The letter you have written to Jill’s closest friends reaffirms the courage, love, and wisdom of that choice. While you all keep your loving vigil I want to join in whatever way I can my little voice to your chorus. I always enjoyed our times together in Carlisle, even those few rocky moments that Jill, I, (and you perhaps?) occasionally had. Jill lived, wrote, and breathed to a different drummer—and showed a remarkable, tenacious, and exceptional spirit. I have admired and watched that and appreciated the contact and hope you know that. More later, but I wanted you to know that I have received as a pass on, this letter you sent to the closest people, and to express my first saddened thoughts.
With much affection and warmth to you,
Jocelyn Ripley (friend since 1980s)
Jill's death is a loss and a feeling of deep sadness to me. Jill was a Champion and my memories, the photographs I've taken of her and her work remain for me. But for now grief is painful and all too present. I valued our friendship; we met first as acquaintances in the 1950's when Jill reviewed Allan's work for the Village Voice. Over the years Jill and I became good friends. Later my friendship included you both. I grieve with you Ingrid and with Jill's family and friends.
Love, Vaughan [Rachel] (dear old friend of Jill’s—and mine—from 1960s NYC art world)
I was so sorry to receive this news. You must be devastated at this point, and I want you to know that you and Jill have been in my thoughts all weekend. I truly cherish the time I spent getting to know the both of you. Of course I learned so much about Jill through the archiving process. But the friendships I forged with you and Jill at that time had the most impact.
When you find a moment, please send me your mailing address in Connecticut—I don't seem to have it. And please let me know if there's anyway I can help you out during this trying time.
Sending you and Jill my love.
Matthew [Guy Nichols] (dear friend who organized Jill's archival material through 2004)
On behalf of Princeton University and The Class of 1892 Bells—our magnificent Gillett & Johnston carillon, please accept my sincere condolences on your great loss. Jill's accomplishments were significant and many. We are so very grateful for all she has done for the carillon art, most especially through her book England's Child.
Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts.
R. Robin Austin, Carillonneur
Our warmest and most heartfelt condolences. We are thinking of you.
Gabriele and Verity (friends from West Village era)
I’m so sorry to hear, just today, about Jill. She was a fascinating, heroic, intriguing and very funny person. I’ll never forget how stunningly smart her appearance at Cooper Union was a few years ago.
Please let me know when you plan a memorial event.
All my best to you,
Dear Ingrid Nyeboe,
I’m very saddened to hear of Jill’s death. She was a very special person and a very special writer.
Georges Borchardt (Literary Agent)
It was with great sadness and a sense of loss that I read the news yesterday. I’ve known Jill and read her writing for a long time. I met her through my longest and dearest friend SK. I can see her now in the amazing jacket she used to wear. When I hear bells clanging I’ll think of her, and I often do as I work at St. Mark’s Church much of the time. I remember reading "I’ve moved to Pluto" and feeling your lives were going to be ok up there in the northland.
I feel for you and your loss and wish you the very best possible in this terrible time. Jim Neu, my husband, died July 19th. I was thinking of writing Jill about it, but didn’t. Besides appreciating her intellect, I was also intimidated by it.
Thinking of you and of course, of Jill.
My great condolences on the loss of this great lady.
I’ve been assigned to write an appreciation of Jill for the Women’s Review of Books. If you have set up an email list with information about memorial activities etc. please add my information.
And may your love comfort you in the days ahead.
Debra Cash (in Boston)
I just heard about the death of Jill. Your message about Jill’s last days is so moving. I understand her family was all with her and that she slowly left this world, peacefully and expected. I will write you a letter.
Love from Birgitte and family (Ingrid’s first cousin in Denmark)
We are saddened to hear that Jill is no longer with us—our deepest compassion goes to you. We trust that the numerous adventures and memories the two of you had together will lessen the hardship in your future life alone.
Anne Lise og Leo [Pedersen] (close friends of Ingrid’s parents)
I am so sorry to hear this sad news.
My sincere condolences to you and Jill’s children.
The Ringing World
I am so sorry to hear of your loss—which is also a great loss to the lovers of carillons the world over. Jill directed the world’s gaze toward our relatively, unknown instrument through her book exploring her relationship with her family. I have been privileged to follow your loving relationship from afar, almost from its beginning when you both visited the Chicago carillon. I’m sure she would be pleased by the results of the restoration of that instrument—I certainly am.
With your permission, I’d like to share your e-mail with the members of the GCNA’s mailing lists. Please let me know if this is appropriate, or if you’d like to pen something more bell-oriented.
University of Chicago Carillonneur
We are deeply touched by your loss of your beloved Jill. We all feel with you, and from your emails sense the beauty and clarity surrounding Jill’s departure. I am convinced Jill felt the love that enveloped her in her final hours.
Merete [Callesen] (Ingrid’s first cousin)
I am so pained to hear of your loss and hope that you are holding up. Please accept my condolences and feel free to ask for any help you need that I can give (even if it’s simply running an errand for you in the city that means one less thing on your plate).
I am happy to know Jill passed peacefully and in the company of someone who loved her so truly and fully.
Michelle [Jenab] (friend from West Village days)
Thank you for sending the message about Jill’s death. I often think about our last visit to you in Sharon and especially of Jill’s health—wishing her a grand voyage.
Lots of love to you and your American family.
Dorte Lykkegaard (friend of Ingrid’s from Copenhagen University days)
So sorry Ingrid, I can only imagine how much you loved her. Please let me know if there will be a memorial. In case you don’t know, there’s a weekend conference at the Graduate Center in New York on lesbian feminism in the 70s. It will be oct 8-10th. I would hope Jill could be honored somehow at that. She deserves it, to say the least.
Esther Newton (friend from 1970s—part of the collective at Jill’s house in Huntington, MA)
We send love and thoughts.
We were so fortunate to celebrate Jill’s 80th birthday with you both.
We will never forget that wonderful afternoon with you in NY with Jill
telling the story of the bells and the family saga.
We too have shared our lives for 28 years and can’t imagine what you must be
experiencing right now.
Please keep in touch and visit us in Italy
Rose and Claire (Artist friends from Italy & South Africa)
I will miss Jill very much although I fully expect that her spirit/intelligence will manifest itself all the more strongly with her liberation from physical limitations. I will miss her sharp insight and wit.....her very aristocratic and unique spirit of rebellion. HER STORY, which perhaps you will write. Her encouragement and support......
As for you, if there’s any chance you’ll be coming back to us—after a time—we’ll be glad to see you or even better to have you as a neighbor. The West Village was NEVER the same once you left, although I think there’s much to be said for departing to nature. I’m contemplating doing the same.
Much love to you and please let me know if there’s a memorial at Riverside Church or somewhere.
Susan Mesinai (friend from 115 Charles Street NYC days)
Thank you so much, Ingrid, for writing this. It is beautiful and consoling to know that Jill is surrounded by her loving friends. If you are reading emails aloud to her, please tell her how much I love her and what a great person she is. Also please ask her to punch Norman Mailer in the nose for me if she runs into him in the afterlife. I am so terribly sad for you all, because her loss will leave an abyss. But for now, stay with her in your glacial rush (I love that) and godspeed.
Becky [Sinkler] (former editor-in-chief of NY Times Sunday Book Review—Jill’s editor when writing book reviews 1984-1994 for NYT)
Jill gave us, me, and our readers exposure to a whole wider world.
I am really so sad about this. I hope you are, or will be, all right, and I want you to know that whenever you are back from retreat you are and will always be part of the Dance Insider family.
My piece is almost done, I will drop you a note when it is finished.
Thanks for the practical answers, I’m sure it was difficult. You also reminded me that Jill, like Martha Graham and me, was a Taurus. (And like me English.)
Much much love and PLEASE take care and continue surrounding yourselves with your and Jill’s loved ones.
Thanks also for the reminder about your marriage. I made sure to use ‘spouse’ and not the sanitary (as Jill might say) ‘companion’!
Paul [Ben-Itzak] (Jill’s editor at Dance Insider)
I ‘m so sorry. Please accept my condolences and do extend them to Winnie, Richard, and their respective families.
I know it’s been forever since I’ve been in touch. Things have been difficult for some time, though through it, I often think about you both. Do keep me posted about the memorial.
Phil [Rivlin] (good friend at 115 Charles Street NYC)
May I bother you for a few details of Jill’s passing. All I have is some words passed along.
Thank you so much and my condolences to you who befriended her so long.
Alison Knowles (friend from the Fluxus family)
There’s no way out, no cure but death.
Last night in a dream, I saw an old man
standing in a garden. It was all love.
He held out his hand and said, Come toward me.
If there is a dragon on this path
that old man has the emerald face
that can deflect it.
This is enough I am leaving my self.
Dear All, This Rumi poem has been with me all week. And Jill has left so much of herself with us. I shall miss those late night phone calls that held fear and wisdom. She lived a vivid life fearlessly, mostly, and wrote so well, esp. in her last one about her father, herself, and his amazing work. Bless her. She is flying free.
Please take care of yourself now Ingrid. Don’t rush into clearing everything up too fast. You know what is important—the love of family. You are part of the family. Heal a bit together.
Let me know what plans there will be for Jill’s memorial. I will be there emotionally and spiritually. Much love, Lynn [Scott] (close friend since 1970s)
Dear dear Ingrid,
I was and am desperately sorry to hear about Jill’s passing.
The world has lost an important intellectual and radical loving voice.
I did not know, I have been away in Switzerland teaching and just came back to rest up again.
From 8-12 October I will be in Copenhagen visiting artist friends.
I want you to know I am with you now in spirit, even though we have yet to meet personally.
Jill and her work inspired and inspire me tremendously to speak my mind and not be afraid of saying things critically in my own way.
She was a harbinger of truth, luminous, glowing, a see-er, most of all a visionary warrior and for me a role model.
I think I can feel her energy moving to another place now.
We cherish the time we have spent with those we love: memories and communication keep them alive and vital always.
Jill lives on in the many hearts of those she touched.
The mass media always gets it deeply wrong; it’s just workaday fact by now to me.
Thank goddesses for the Huffington Post.
Those that followed Jill’s work know exactly what the “score” is and was in the most positive senses...!
Please grieve and rest and remember with yourself kindly.
We are the luckiest ones on earth I feel, those of us in such unique double team true love relationships :)
Much Cyber Love from your friend and admirer in Amsterdam,
Dear Ms. Nyeboe,
Please accept my deepest condolences on the passing of Jill Johnston. Although we never met, her criticism of the 1960s and ‘70s was like a revelation to me, many years ago, and provided— continues to provide—an unsurpassed model of what an engaged spectator to our cultural times should be. Yours in sorrow,
Art History Department
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
Just heard about Jill’s death. It makes me profoundly sad—strangely enough just a few days ago I thought of our visit to you in Sharon, what a delight it was talking with Jill and experiencing your love for each other. It is a terrible loss for you. I trust you have support getting through your deep sorrow.
Ane (friend of Ingrid’s from Copenhagen University days)
Dearest Ingrid...We are so saddened...Though I hadn’t seen Jill in so many years, I always thought we’d meet again...Did you know that when we lived in Washington Heights, I baby-sat Richard while she went to galleries to work on her reviews, and when she left her husband, a small painting I had gifted her with was stolen. Anyway, Jill was an original and a terrific writer and I love her and I am sorry she’s gone. You know, my daughter died on June 29th and the mourning never ends.
Rosalyn [Drexler] (old friend from 1960s)
Read with great sadness of Jill’s passing.
Please accept Leslie and my condolences.
dear ingrid. deeply saddened to hear of jill’s passing. sending you much love
and our deepest condolences. i will cherish the memory of our visits and
carry the spirit of jill in my heart. much, much love. ~steven and rob (friends from West Village, NY)
I was saddened to learn from The New York Times obituary page this morning, of the death of your beloved Jill. I only met her that one time that the two of you and me and Jeannette Gerber had lunch at your Greenwich Village flat.
From that one meeting, I could tell that the two of you shared something special. So sorry that she is now gone.
My thoughts are with you.
With much love,
Max (Howard) Blechman
Thank you, and sending love. Jill was my first (literary) lesbian when I moved to NYC in 1971. I didn’t understand half of what she was writing but her spirit of irascibility and fun has inspired all of my own essay writing in the subsequent 30 years! ~Jewelle Gomez
My deepest sympathies on the passing of Ms. Johnston.
She meant so much to so many of us.
The impact the very sight of a title like Lesbian Nation in it’s newness on the shelves was enough to bolster strength and establish unquestioning respect in the heart of many a young dyke.
This I know, because I was one of them.
She will not be forgotten for her bravery, or her wit.
Hi, Ingrid. I read today about Jill’s death and wanted to extend my sympathies. It must be a difficult time, and good wishes even from the past can’t hurt. You have mine.
Warm love to you on behalf of Jackie and from me, saying good travels to your extraordinary Jill...! To endless skies
Caty [Jackie Matisse’s daughter]
I am SO sorry, may she rest in peace, may you be comforted
Please call upon me when you are ready. If there is anything I can do, please ask it of me.
As the Psalmist said: “We are passing dreams…”
Ingrid, Although you and I met very briefly a long time ago, Jill was a significant part of my life decades ago and a powerful influence. I am deeply, deeply sorry for your loss. A genuine creative inspiration. A handful a lot of the time but worth it. A loving friend to so many. Again and again people were shocked by her rigorous honesty. Many of us respected and learned from it. Jill touched so many people in so many ways and for so many reasons. She inspired action and thought and passion. May the light of her memories fill your longing. Sincerely, Carol [Dear] Winer
The 'author of ‘Lesbian Nation’ headline upset me because it was so reductive. Which is not to say that Jill’s work in this area wasn’t important, crucial, felt, but that it ignores (what for me as a writer, anyway, is) her larger achievement. Even though our immediate community at Dance Insider knows her best for her seminal role in dance criticism, so that I had to note that in my piece on her, her global achievement is larger. That’s why we headlined our piece, http://www.danceinsider.com/free/0920.html , “DANCE AND LITERARY GIANT JILL JOHNSTON DIES,” and why my first sentence described her as, “a giant in American Letters who ushered in a new age in dance before going on to help usher in a new age in journalism.”
The other problem with that Times headline is it allows anyone who isn’t a Lesbian or otherwise concerned by that subject, and who (sorry, but we live in ignorant times) hasn’t heard of Jill Johnston to bypass the story. (Just as burying important artists, period, in an exhibition dedicated to ‘women artists’ or describing Berthe Morisot as ‘the female Impressionist’ does.)
Perhaps the reason the Times person didn’t take this larger and more accurate view is that at the end of the day, what Jill did, as a writer, journalist, and chronicler, challenges the false neutrality that is the paragon at the Times; in a way, Jill is—is because even with her gone corporally we still have her imprint—the anti-Times. That they would thus resist acknowledging the primacy of her JOURNALISTIC achievement is not surprising and, perhaps, would even make Jill smile.
Condolences to all,
As I wrote to Ingrid earlier today, the important thing now is that Jill gets respect and is not forgotten which is the fate of so many women artists, intellectuals and etc. The Times obit is extremely important in that regard, and she got a lot of space. I know that Jill did not want to be thought of as “lesbian writer” but those of us who are not white men can rarely if ever at this time be allowed to represent the human condition. Norman Mailer is not a “straight man writer” he’s a “writer”. Everybody else is a black writer, woman writer and so on. Jill knew this well of course, and that she kicked against it is a good thing and she did it with so much style and energy, never rhetorical, always inventive. I’ve been thinking about her constantly in the last two days, remembering her sly smile and snorting laugh along with how much I was moved and pleased by her writing and how much I admired her daring.
I knew Jill only for the last 30 years and I thought it [NYT obit] was fine.
I recently attended a seminar with the obituary writer for the Economist. She made a good case for obituarists picking the moments that somehow defined the subject’s life, or the moments when they most changed the world.
I think inevitably that’s going to direct attention back to Jill’s Village Voice days and her early books (and the events captured in Town Bloody Hall).
Tony D [Delamothe]
Yes.. it’s more than OK.. I was very happy to see it. And it’s the Times... the other publications where she was really known will follow up with more accurate and heartfelt tributes I’m sure.
It’s funny.. but I always have to remind myself about her iconic cultural status. To me she was always first and foremost a warm, genuine, loving person with a fantastic sense of humor.. and always ready to laugh at herself... so down-to-earth. I guess that’s her ultimate tribute... how well-liked as a person.. a friend... she was. All of the intellectual rigor and creativity were icing on the cake of her lovable self.
Let us know if we can help with anything, including if it would be helpful for us to drive up for any reason.
Keith [Champagne] (Keith and his spouse Paul have been our friends for 30 years; Keith and I were room mates for some time in the late 1970s)
Apart from some things I thought inaccurate, I don’t think the obit is bad at all. (Maybe I’m just used to opera singer obituaries, which often ignore 30 years of great singing and go on about how bad their performances were at the end.) It does make Jill sound like a bit of a man-hater, which she may have been in some of her early writing, but certainly not in her personal life. It’s impossible to give a complete picture of someone in an obituary, particularly if one doesn’t know the subject personally. Anyone reading this one would be astonished to learn that Jill adored baseball and Baroque music, or that she had a raucous sense of humor. The complexities and contradictions of life are not easy to capture in a few hundred words, and I suppose that’s why journalism is often rendered in black and white.
BUT: it was respectful, treated her as a serious writer, and I think most important, paid attention to Jill’s quest for her father. And it included a lot of her own words. In the long run, the Town Hall incident was not such an important part of Jill’s life. But it was colorful and involved other celebrities, and therefore is the kind of thing an obituary writer is going to stress.
My phone has not stopped ringing this morning, so I need to get back to work. But I wanted you to know that I thought the obituary was, on the whole, quite good. (By the way, Keith just e-mailed to say he like it too.)
I’ll call you soon.
Much love, Paul [Gruber]
My opinion—for what it’s worth.
I don’t think the NYTimes obit is at all bad when one considers a few facts.
Newspapers write their feature-length obits well in advance of a person’s death. From our time with the NYTimes, I know that they are guilty of doing so. They write the main facts of a person’s life, then, when the moment comes, slip in the details of death.
Usually the obit writer is a freelancer, who wants to keep his/her job--therefore he/she inevitably tries to fit those “main facts” to some kind of journalistic handle. The handle, I suspect, would have been rather a obvious one for Jill: she was a notorious character on the New York art/dance/literary scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Reading the obit, I could see that everything in her life was going to be made subservient to that notoriety. Thus, her autobiography is “psychoanalytic” and “political.” No mention is made of the fact that Jill could be said to have invented a new autobiographical form and that, in doing so, she completely (and remarkably, in my view) invented a new literary style for herself—spare, simple, elegant. But mention such an accomplishment is “boring” when you’re trying to convey the notion of life-long firebrand. I’d say the same is true of her Jasper Johns book: it conveys a great deal more about him and his work than his homosexuality (and who, pray, did not know, before she published the book, that Johns was gay?)—but, again, the obit writer is determined to stick to topic—which is “this woman was always controversial.” In such a context, England’s Child really can’t get a look in: it’s a biography, but it’s also a social history (yet, again, a new literary form?), written in her late post-1970’s style. Doesn’t fit the thesis.
This may have passed over your head, but it won’t have escaped Jill’s male friends. She comes across as a man-hater. True, she felt that men, collectively, throughout history, had subjugated women—and she was right, of course: But, equally, she knew that individual men could be feminist allies, because these individuals disapproved of any kind of subjugation, whether sexual, racial, religious..... I said out loud to the obit writer: it’s very strange if Jill was a man-hater that she had life-long male friends, who mightily grieve at her passing, remembering her unfailing kindness and generosity to them, her interest in their lives.
For a satisfying obit, I think you must wait for something more considered—probably in one of the art or literary journals.
Finally, here’s some unasked-for advice. I think you’ve done a remarkable job, over the last couple of weeks, of keeping Jill’s friends, including me, advised of what was going on during her last sickness—sometimes, I’m quite sure, when the last thing you wanted to do was step to a computer. I’m sure that, often, you were exhausted. Now, as you say, you’re caught up in media/legal/practical matters. You need some rest: I, for one, don’t want to lose you too. If I were you, I wouldn’t bother calling the roster of Jill’s friends: we’ll all just talk your ear off anyway, contributing to your exhaustion. All of us can wait. Take it easy on yourself first.
Today the Boston Globe ran the NYT obit from yesterday. Same beautiful photo.
I have a problem with the headline, which is different from the Times, and especially the photo caption. The lesbian separatist references seem far from the center of what she was about. These obits should focus more on the writing and the brilliance of it, IMHO.
I was saddened to learn tonight of Jill’s death and I send you my heartfelt condolences.
She was an amazing woman.
Margo [Halstead, carillonneur]
So sorry for your loss. I remember reading her work 30 years ago when I was in college. I spent a year in a seperatist house where we discussed her work frequently.
Director of DD Residential Services and Transitions Day Treatment
The Edinburg Center
Another voice, just to say Jill was so important to me during my college years.
Raining here today in Burlington Vermont ~ an early morning rainbow filled
the western sky.
Sending you all the love in the world,
I am so sorry to hear that Jill has passed on. Though I didn’t agree with many of her ideas and conclusions about me and Karl, I have great respect for her and she will always be an inspirational source of intellect, art and humanity for me.
May the long grieving process be filled with love and wisdom.
Feel free to call or visit whenever possible.
Much love and good wishes
Jayne [Feinberg Stuecklen] (widow of Jill’s close and dear friend, the painter Karl Stuecklen)
So sorry about Jilly's passing, Ingrid. Thanks for letting me know and for forwarding the notices and comments on them.
Yours, Sherrill Redmon
Director of the Sophia Smith Collection and Coordinator of Special Collections Neilson Library Smith College Northampton, MA 01063
I did get a copy of the obituary. It is all so difficult, because I think for those of us that had the good fortune in this life to know and love Jill, nearly anything written within time, space and budget constraints could never measure up, or describe such an amazing life. It could never satisfy all of our collective thoughts and memories about Jill. Of course, when writing starts to appear from those who really did cross paths with her, and share times in their lives, the score will even up, and then go beyond yesterday’s Times obituary. I did show it to some of the younger people I work with, (actually everyone at the shop), and I know some of them are quite curious, or knew of Jill, but weren’t aware of her many accomplishments. It will definitely prompt many to look further...
With all this being said, I am still in a state of disbelief. My grieving will slowly clear, as fog does... one turns around and its gone... but it will take some time... In some ways I feel like I lost you both for these last few years, circumstance being what it is. I know we will have time down the road to talk about that, which in some ways will be a comfort. I wasn’t feeling well over the last few days, and as I took Monday off, I had time to take a yoga class with my long time teacher Genny Kapuler. When I mentioned about Jill, Genny told me she had heard the sad news as well, and we both shed a tear before class. She knew I was friends with you and Jill for quite a long time, and of course because of Genny’s dance background, she was aware of how extraordinary Jill’s life was. The day to day is really hard right now, and my thoughts are with you in this most difficult time. I will write more soon, just at a loss right now.
If there is anything I can do, just let me know.
Phil [Rivlin] (good friend from 115 Charles Street)
My condolences on the loss of your friend Jill Johnston. I don’t know if Ingrid will remember me, but please send her my regards and let her know she’s in my thoughts.
The Times obituary does make me really miss Jill. Especially the photo. She was always, perpetually so young!
(Close friend and carillonneur at Riverside Church; he graciously and intelligently read through each chapter of EC as they became available, making suggestions and praising Jill's writing.)