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Suzanne J. Stark

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Suzanne J. Stark Obituary
Suzanne J. Stark, Artist, Historian and Author of Female Tars, died peacefully at the Brigham and Womens hospital on April 17, 2015. She was 89. While concerned doctors and nurses gathered, Suzanne thanked each person for their skill and patience and then told the assembled group, I have lived an adventurous and gratifying life, if I do not make it, you need not worry. This was true. Although she shed most of her worldly possessions in her many moves, Suzanne managed to preserve over 100 years worth of letters, photos and documents that prove her point. Suzanne Jackson Stark was born in Oregon on January 17, 1926. She was the only child of Virginia Vanlandingham, teacher, age 41, and Maxey Jackson, inventor, age 55. A jealous man murdered Mrs. Jacksons first husband. Her second husband left when he discovered she was without family money. Virginia V. Jackson went on to become a founder and head teacher for the R.J. Delano School for Crippled Children, the first school for disabled children in Kansas City. The depression allowed them to live at Rockhill Manor, a grand residential hotel. They spent summers on the Oregon coast. All this spurred Suzannes interest in class and her passion for the sea. Like her mother, Suzanne Stark was married twice. She and Robert Tommie Thompson, a merchant marine, were married in 1945. When Mr. Thompson accepted a job in the Middle East, they divorced and Suzanne completed her art degree at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. In 1950, she married her second husband, Charles Stark, a fellow painter. Throughout the 50s, and 60s the Starks lived in Paris, San Francisco, Greenwich Village, a houseboat in Amsterdam and a barge in Sausalito. Their friends were poets, sculptors, filmmakers and other artistic pioneers. If asked about the more famous among them, Suzanne noted, Neal Cassady was a sweetheart, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and others were brilliant and fun, but I never understood peoples fascination with ill-tempered Jack Kerouac. In 1963, at the age of 38, Suzanne had her only child, Francesca, and she and Charles Stark divorced. She had a long-term relationship with Martin Dutch Tomasin, actor and well-known bartender at the Cedar Tavern. There, Suzanne said, De Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists congregated. It was often raucous. While creating art and having shows, she worked for architect Philip Johnson and was assistant curator for the Museum of Modern Art. Suzanne received her teaching degree from the Univ. of Portland, and in 1971 she and Francesca moved to Brookline, Mass. Francesca attended the Driscoll School where she now teaches, and Suzanne became a 3rd grade teacher in Newton. Two years later, Suzanne went into publishing, eventually becoming executive editor of reading at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. In 1981, she moved with her company to New York and then to Chicago and became a freelance writer in 1985. She traveled alone through China, Romania, Yugoslavia, and across the Trans-Siberian railroad and published articles for the Boston Globe, American Neptune, and Amtrak Express. Suzanne moved to Salem and back to Boston, and although an atheist, she joined Kings Chapel and became a member of the Boston Athenaeum and Beacon Hill Village. Her book, Female Tars, Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail was published in 1996. The book focused on three sorts of women found on board: prostitutes, officers wives and women in male disguise. Author Patrick OBrian wrote, Suzanne Starks book has told me many things I did not know. I shall keep it on an honored shelf. After her book was published, Suzanne began to write about the peculiar class system of 18th century naval officers. She traveled to Newfoundland and Malta to gather material for another book. In 2009, she moved back to Brookline to be closer to her family. She wrote articles, drew sketches and never stopped doing research. The Internet was her muse. She found solace in poetry. The last one she pored over and sent to others was One More Brevity by Robert Frost. In addition to her daughter, Suzanne is survived by her beloved grandsons, Ethan and Zachary Macdonald, her son-in-law, Kevin Macdonald, her cousins, Liz Morris, Tom Lavin, Julianna Lavin and Lee Danziger, her godsisters Suzanne Ostro and Jeanne Steig, and her many friends in foreign lands and local establishments. Her family would also like to thank Barbara Macauley and Joan McCabe for their strength and tender care. In lieu of flowers, please donate to "Suzannes favorite organizations, the Humane Society, the Animal Legal Defense Fund or another trusted animal protection agency.

Published in The Brookline Tab from May 9 to May 21, 2015
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