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Joan Lewisohn Crowell

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Joan Lewisohn Crowell Obituary
Joan Lewisohn Crowell

Poet, Author, Composer, Activist Joan Lewisohn Crowell, poet, author, composer, and activist died on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at her home in Quogue, NY surrounded by her children. She was 93. She was the wife of David G. Crowell, who predeceased her six years ago, and the former wife of SidneySimon, the artist who co-founded the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture while they were married. Joan Lewisohn was born in New York, the daughter of Sam A.Lewisohnand Margaret Seligman Lewisohn. Her parents marriage joined two members of New York's 'great Jewish families'; a photo of Mrs. Crowell and her sisters is on the cover of Stephen Birmingham's "Our Crowd". In the 1960's Mrs. Crowell, writing as Joan Simon, published two books. One was a novel:Portrait of a Father (Athenaeum, 1960.) The other, Fort Dix Stockade, was a fiction accounting of the mistreatment of Vietnam War activists. She also wrote an English language libretto for Gluck's Orpheus and numerous poems published in various journals. Several decades later she wrote both the music and librettos of operas including The Bell Witch of Tennessee and The Heights,whichwere performed in concert format. She also wrote a variety of other music, some of which was recorded. Her recent poems were published as Poems of Possibilities (Sheep Meadow Press, 2008) and Recent Poems (Lulu Press, 2012.) Mrs. Crowell helped found the Rockland Country Day School in Congress, NY in 1959 and continued later to support non-violent action. She raised funds for Thich Nat Han, the Vietnamese monk, and for Danielo Dolci, known as the "Gandhi of Sicily".She also aided arts organizations such as the theater, Cafe La Mama. Joan Lewisohn was a young woman of amusing contradictions. Though she told her parents she didn't want to go to college, she got her BA from Bennington, where she studied with Francis Fergusson and earned a master's degree in English from NYU, where she also taught in the 1940's. Having gone to New York's progressive Lincoln School, where children had a say in what they studied, Mrs. Crowell claimed to have gone no farther in math than fractions. Despite that she was the Business Manager of the Partisan Review in the 1940's and the treasurer of the author's union PEN in the 1970's. In later years she did all her composing on computers to the astonishment of her children.Those ironies continued throughout her life; despite often claiming that she was a "loner", Joan Crowell had 5 children, 16 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren who all adored her and on whom she doted. Her family mourns her passing: architect son, Mark Simon and his wife, Penny Bellamy in Branford, CT, artist daughter, Teru Simon in Bennington, VT, designer-manufacturer daughter, Rachel Simon and her husband, Philippe Labeauin Red Hook, NY, artist daughter, Nora Simon in Boston, MA, and nonprofit executive daughter, Juno Duenas and her husband, Robert in San Francisco, CA, along with their numerous progeny. SERVICES: A memorial gathering is being planned for family and friends in New York City in September. The family asks that any memorial gifts be given to Support for Families: (http://www.supportforfamilies.org/) or East End Hospice : (www.eeh.org/).
Published in Bennington Banner on June 3, 2015
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