Mystic - Doris S. Jackson, 87, died peacefully at The Westerly Nursing Home on Monday, April 16, 2012, stoic and strong to the very end in the face of esophageal cancer.
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"Sewelly," as she was known to her friends, was resourceful, strong willed, creative and self-reliant. Her adventurous life took her to many places and people. She was raised in Burlingame, Calif., by her devoted parents, Bruce and Kathryn Sewell. Outgoing and with many friends, she described teaching herself, at age 15, how to smoke in front of a mirror before trying, with less success, to teach her mother to smoke. Later, during the war years, she maintained engagements to several young soldiers in order to "give them hope."
Soon after the war, she married David Jackson. The newlywed couple moved to Europe for a year and a half, living in France, Switzerland and Germany. He worked in the post-war reconstruction and she as a designer. They hitchhiked to Norway and Italy, skied in the Alps and persuaded her Swiss landlord to host an American Barn Dance. She was invited to show her paintings in Munich in Oct. 1949. In Paris, she apparently engaged Ernest Hemingway in a fractious discussion that led to his suggestion that "If you were a man, I'd knock your head off."
After she and David separated, she returned to California to attend the Art Center, in Los Angeles. There she met George Wright, who became a lifelong friend. They worked together in New York City as graphic artists designing advertising, wallpaper, and textiles. Her work led her to clients in New England and a year on Martha's Vineyard. When she moved to the Stonington area, thanks to her continuing friendship with David Jackson, she became a close member of the literary scene at James Merrill's house. In time, she moved to Noank with her friend Lynn Roth, and later to Mystic.
Sewelly had an orderly and graphic sense of design, and a true collector's eye. Her house was decorated with painted objects in warm and muscular earth tones, each demanding inspection but all working together, large and small, crude and refined, geometric, floral, whimsical.
Sewelly handled her declining health with courage and grace, setting an example that inspired all who were with her in her final months. She remained a friend who listened closely, following the lives, cherishing the accomplishments, and laughing at the stories of her closest friends.
She will be sadly missed by her surrogate family, Anne and Joe Twichell and by her devoted friends Mary and Bob Evelyn and Launa Prigmore. Thank you, Sewelly, for all we learned and shared.
Thanks also to the wonderful staffs of The Elms, The Westerly Nursing Home and Beacon Hospice, who supported and befriended her with care and humor. She found great comfort and security at each residence.
A service and burial will be private. Gifts in her memory can be made to The James Merrill House, in Stonington, or to Dog Days, of Essex, CT, <godogdays.com>, an organization that supports adoption events for homeless shelter dogs.
For online condolences, please go to www.gaffneydolanfuneralhome.com
Published in The Day on Apr. 27, 2012