It’s a new year and for many, a time to put the sorrows and difficulties of 2020 in the rearview mirror. But in a time of new beginnings, there are some things — and people — it is important not to forget. For its annual In Memoriam issue, U.S. 1 looks back at the noteworthy people who died during the preceding year. The profiles that follow were of people well known in the greater Princeton area but also regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Icons of the Arts:
J. Seward Johnson Jr.
March 10, age 89.
Johnson, the noted area sculptor and Grounds For Sculpture founder “leaves a remarkable legacy,” said Gary Garrido Schneider, executive director of the Hamilton-based sculpture garden at the time of his death. “Through his sculptures, that generously invite the public to engage and interact, he has touched the hearts of millions across the world.”
Schneider continued: “The Seward Johnson Atelier has nurtured a generation of artists who have made a creative living and lasting friendships through this community of sculptors he made possible. Grounds For Sculpture has grown over the last three decades to become one of the most beloved art institutions in our region and an essential beacon for sculptors worldwide.”
The grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, founder of the New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson, a multinational producer of healthcare products, Seward Johnson used his family connections and wealth to create hyper-realistic sculptures, a world class atelier, the sculpture grounds, and, at times, controversy.
When his first sculpture, “Stainless Girl,” won a national competition in 1969, the then Massachusetts-based Johnson said, “I got a vocation.” He returned to the Princeton area, where his sculpture needs inadvertently led to the founding of the Johnson Atelier and then Grounds For Sculpture.
Johnson called the atelier “one of the most fantastic things that I have done.”
After outgrowing two Princeton-area locations, Johnson worked out an arrangement with his family’s foundation to purchase the former Garden State Fair Grounds in Hamilton in 1981 and the atelier was established in the mid-1980s.
Grounds For Sculpture was born after foundry artists began to display their sculptures near the atelier and inspired the idea of a permanent exhibition site.
In 2014 Johnson mounted a popular major retrospective of his work to bolster public and private support as the governance of the grounds was transferred from Johnson and the family foundations to a nonprofit board of directors.
That exhibition visually demonstrated that while Johnson mastered the creation of affecting abstract works he deliberately chose to produce his hyper-realistic series depicting everyday people and sculpture interpretations of famous paintings or famous photos.
Johnson himself said of his work, “I have a purpose in mind, and it is a social purpose. My work deals with society and what I think are the needs of society: the visceral response. To me the visceral response is where the value of art lies. Art is the highest form of communication known to man. When it is in a museum or wherever it is, it communicates the emotional message.”
In addition to bringing thousands of international artists to the region to have their sculptures made, Johnson’s atelier attracted hundreds of artists who settled in the area, continue to create art, and contribute to artistic strength of the region.
One, Leni Paquet Morante, explained the influence of Johnson and his atelier — where she met her husband, Frederick — in a tribute written after his death.
“With Seward Johnson’s passing, Fred and I are reminded of how fortunate we have been through our long association with his enterprises as they developed over the years.
“Our experience is not unique among the many artists we’ve come to know through the Johnson Atelier. We met and worked with famous artists, befriending some. We made art that we we’re proud of. We saw our friends take on challenging administrative roles. Many ex-atelierites started their own businesses with the skills they developed, some became educators. Fred became an excellent modeler and teacher, sharing knowledge and skill. I went back to school, worked, raised a family, volunteered in the schools, and started to paint again several years ago.
“As he did with so many other ‘unknown’ artists, Mr. Johnson’s often unanticipated support through jobs, grants, and purchases sustained our careers and artistic morale, pushing our artmaking and even family activities forward for years.”
September 2, age 82.
Shahn was a nationally known Roosevelt-based sculptor whose work is part of numerous public and private collections, including the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey State Museum, National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and Musei Vaticana, Vatican City, Italy.
In addition to creating the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial for the town of Roosevelt’s namesake, his other commissioned works include the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial for the MLK Jr. Station in Jersey City and the New Jersey Department of Labor’s monument to workers in Trenton. He was the son of noted American artists Ben Shahn and Bernarda Bryson Shahn.
Henry Read Martin
June 30, age 94.
Martin, a 1948 Princeton University alumnus, was a long-time Princeton resident who spent 35 years as a cartoonist for the New Yorker, contributing more than 700 humorous illustrations to the magazine. He also created illustrations for Princeton Alumni Weekly and other university publications. Many of his works are part of Princeton University Library’s Special Collections. He also served on the boards of SAVE animal shelter, McCarter Theater, and Friends of Princeton Public Library.
May 15, age 82.
Sakson was an award-winning area watercolor artist whose regional scenes were included in numerous group exhibitions and solo shows at the New Jersey State Museum, Monmouth Museum, Trenton City Museum, Nassau Club, and other venues.
Born in Trenton, he attended Mercer County Community College and worked as an illustrator for Tony Lee Associates in Trenton before establishing himself as a fine artist.
May 2, age 72.
Cole was an internationally known Trenton-born jazz alto saxophonist and composer who mentored numerous regional musicians. He released more than 50 LPs and CDs, including two salutes to his home town: “Trenton Makes” and “Trenton Style.”
In a 2014 interview with U.S. 1 he said, “I am not from Trenton; I am Trenton. I was born here. The only place I feel comfortable is back in my hometown: in Trenton.”
A hocked alto sax ended up in Cole’s house when he was 10. “I grew up with a sax and smelled the metal and played with the keys. When I went to elementary school and wanted to be in the band, I had the instrument. I was blessed to be in an era when the public school systems had great music departments. I had great teachers who really helped me a lot. I was one of the two people in the world who got a full scholarship,” said Cole of his 1966 Downbeat Magazine award that took the Ewing High graduate to jazz-focused Berklee College of Music in Boston.
His college years ended when he got an offer to play with famed drummer Buddy Rich’s band in 1969. “I took the place of famed alto-saxophonist Art Pepper. It was the dream job. I went around the world. I was with him for two-and-a-half years. I have been very lucky with my career and had a lot of good breaks.”
Other experiences included joining bands led by Lionel Hampton and Doc Severinsen, playing with the Manhattan Transfer, and then creating his own group, the Alto Madness Orchestra.
Despite an international reputation and living outside the region, Cole found and created opportunities to return to Trenton to play. One of his first musical homes was Lanzi’s Lounge on Liberty and Dresden Avenue. His last was the Candle Light Lounge on Passaic Street.
Cole said his musical success was connected to his approach. “I do not play the saxophone; I sing the saxophone. I approach it like a (vocal) soloist. I sing it. I play the melody straight, then I do what I want and improvise, tell the story, and then come back to the melody. And there’s the creation,” he said in 2014.
A professional who made his living through concerts, royalties, and as a visiting artist at various jazz institutes, Cole recorded more than 50 albums and CDs, wrote more than 3,000 compositions (including symphonies for 80-piece orchestras), and served on the boards of the National Jazz Service Organization and the National Endowment for the Arts, where he was chairman for one year.
Lee Kenneth Richardson
May 24, age 69.
Richardson was the co- founder of the Tony Award winning Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick where he directed the original production of the groundbreaking “The Colored Museum.” He was also a theater professor at Temple University and University of the Arts, both in Philadelphia.
A graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in English literature and art history, he then earned an MFA as part of the first graduating class from Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of Fine Arts. He founded Crossroads alongside Ricardo Khan later that same year.
Doughtry ‘Doc’ Long
January 27, age 77.
Long was a nationally known poet whose books include “Black Love Black Hope” and “Rules for Cool.” He was a retired Trenton Central High School literature and creative writing teacher.
May 6, age 70.
Sokolowski had been the director of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers since October, 2017. He had previously spent 14 years at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and worked as an independent art consultant. He studied art history at the University of Chicago and did graduate work at New York University.
April 11, age 82.
Conway, a British-born Princeton University mathematician, was best known for inventing the “Game of Life” but was considered a true genius by those familiar with his work in mathematical fields including group theory, number theory, algebra, geometric topology, theoretical physics, combinatorial game theory, and geometry.
In addition to the “Game of Life” he also discovered a novel type of number known as “surreal numbers” and invented the Conway Group, an entity that inhabits 24-dimensional space.
His life was chronicled in “Genius at Play,” a 2015 biography by Siobhan Roberts that was featured in the September 16, 2015, issue of U.S. 1. In her prologue, she wrote of Conway:
“Conway’s is a jocund and playful egomania, sweetened by self-deprecating charm. Based at Princeton University, though having made his name and found fame at Cambridge, he claims never to have worked a day in his life. He purports instead to have piddled away reams and reams of time playing games.
“Yet he is the John von Neumann Distinguished Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics. He’s a Fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, a particularly august club, the oldest scientific society in the world — and Conway likes to mention that when he was elected in 1981, he signed the big book of fellows at the induction ceremony and was pleased to see on previous pages the names Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, and Bertrand Russell.”
At Princeton, where he had served on the faculty since 1987, his colleagues referred to him as a “magical genius.”
He died of COVID-19.
Freeman J. Dyson
February 28, age 96.
Dyson, a theoretical physicist and writer, was a scholar at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study for more than 60 years.
Born in England and educated at Cambridge, Dyson came to the United States to pursue graduate studies at Cornell University. On a cross-country road trip in 1948 he had a revelation in which he was able to prove the equivalency of competing theories of quantum electrodynamics developed by Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger. The paper he wrote made him a star in the physics community.
Later that year he joined the Institute at the invitation of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He never returned to Cornell to complete his Ph.D.
In an obituary published by the Institute, current director Robbert Dijkgraaf said, “No life is more entangled with the Institute and impossible to capture — architect of modern particle physics, free-range mathematician, advocate of space travel, astrobiology and disarmament, futurist, eternal graduate student, rebel to many preconceived ideas including his own, thoughtful essayist, all the time a wise observer of the human scene.
“His secret was simply saying ‘yes’ to everything in life, till the very end. We are blessed and honored that Freeman, Imme, and their family made the Institute their home. It will be so forever.”
Dyson was engaged in issues of scientific policy, including advocating for the nuclear test ban treaty in the 1960s. He was also a prolific lecturer and writer of books intended to educate general audiences on scientific matters, including the relation of science to religion, the prospective colonization of the solar system, harnessing the energy of stars, and climate change.
Among his many books are “Disturbing the Universe” (1979), “The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet,” (1999) and “Maker of Patterns” (2018), an autobiographical account of Dyson’s life through letters written to his parents.
February 29, age 90.
Architectural historian Constance Greiff was a longtime Princeton resident who believed that “every building tells a story” and helped tell their tales in the books “Princeton Architecture: A Pictorial History of Town and Campus,” co-authored with Mary Gibbons; “Morven: Memory, Myth and Reality,” co-authored with Wanda Gunning; and in the revised version of “A House Called Morven: Its Role in American History” by Alfred Hoyt Bill in collaboration with Walter E. Edge, the New Jersey Governor who deeded the historic home to the State of New Jersey.
Other books written or co-authored by Greiff include “John Notman, Architect,” about the influential designer of Princeton University’s Wilson House and the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital; “Robert Smith, Architect, Builder, Patriot,” one of America’s first important architects and designer of Princeton’s Nassau Hall and the Maclean House; “Independence: The Creation of a National Park,” focusing on Independence Hall in Philadelphia; and “Lost America: From the Atlantic to the Mississippi” and “Lost America: From the Mississippi to the Pacific,” photographic surveys of architecturally and historically important buildings lost to neglect, fire, flood, or development.
Greiff was also active beyond writing and in 1975 founded Heritage Studies. Considered the first of its kind, the consulting company provided historic community and regional studies throughout the Northeast and employed a new generation of architectural historians, including architect Michael Mills, currently of Mills & Schnoering Architects, and Bob Craig, registration program supervisor in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s New Jersey Historic Preservation Office.
She also founded Preservation New Jersey in 1979 and served as its president during its first decade. And she served on the planning boards of Princeton and Rocky Hill and was a member of the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Preservation.
September 18, age 81.
Cohen was a professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton known for his often controversial views. His final book, “War with Russia?,” was published in 2019.
The Business Leaders:
October 23, age 94.
Sussma founded Certified Steel and, after moving the company to Trenton in the early 1970s, began investing in the rehabilitation of neglected industrial and commercial sites in the city. The business also moved on to new construction, including the Station Plaza office and parking complex in the 1980s.
Robert Jefferson Wolfe
March 31, age 72.
Wolfe, 72, a 1969 alumnus of Princeton University, returned in 1974 to serve as the school’s assistant treasurer. Beginning in 1976 he served as a consultant to Princeton’s development of the mixed-use Forrestal Center. In 1993 he founded Picus Associates, which manages the 2,000-acre development on behalf of the university.
Leon Joseph Christen
September 16, age 93.
Christen, a Princeton native and 1949 Princeton University alumnus, returned to his hometown in 1960 to take over the family business, the famous Lahiere’s Restaurant that stood on Witherspoon Street for 91 years until closing in 2010.
October 12, age 89.
Reed, who served as mayor of Princeton Borough for 13 years, was born and raised in New Jersey. After graduating from Rutgers University in 1952, he was drafted into the Army at the start of the Korean War and worked on the guided missile systems program.
When he finished his service in 1954 he embarked on a 31-year career with the New Jersey Education Association in Trenton, during which time he edited its magazine and later became its communications director and worked on school and college development efforts.
Reed and his wife, Ingrid, moved to Princeton from West Windsor in 1974, and in 1984 then-mayor Barbara Sigmund asked him to run for Borough Council. He was elected, and he became mayor upon Sigmund’s death in 1990.
Noteworthy projects undertaken during his time as mayor include the redevelopment of Princeton Public Library, Spring Street garage, and Hinds Plaza.
Ruth B. Mandel
April 11, age 81.
Mandel was born in Vienna but fled with her family to England and then the U.S. at the start of World War II. She studied English at Brooklyn College and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.
She was teaching English at Rutgers in 1971 when she learned of the formation of the Center for American Women and Politics at the university’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and became involved on a volunteer basis. Soon, she took on a leadership role and served as its director from 1973 to 1994. She then served as director of the Eagleton Institute until her retirement in 2019.
She was also the author of “In the Running: The New Woman Candidate,” published in 1993, and served on the board of governors of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Betty Wold Johnson
May 5, age 99.
Betty Wold Johnson, 99, on May 5. The wife of Robert Wood Johnson III, the Princeton and Hopewell resident was a prominent area philanthropist. In March, months before her death, she donated $250,000 to the Princeton Area Community Foundation’s COVID-19 relief fund. She also donated $500,000 to McCarter Theater in honor of Emily Mann’s 30 years as artistic director.
She donated her home on Edgerstoune Road in Princeton to become the headmaster’s house at the Hun School, and she also supported Princeton Day School, which several of her children attended. She also funded the restoration of the Mountain Lakes Preserve and was a supporter of the D&R Greenway, Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton Public Library, and others.
Her children, Christopher and Woody Johnson, are the current owners of the New York Jets football team, and as such she was known as the “First Lady of the Jets.”
March 15, age 64.
Mullen was an environmental, food, and healthcare activist, a teacher of gardeners young and old, a founder of The Suppers Programs, and producer of her own end-of-life educational program that she dubbed “Dying Dor’s Way: Radically Real Spiels on the End of Life.”
In 2001, as a result of concerns generated by 9/11, she proposed a peace-oriented community service project in the form of an organic instructional garden at the Riverside Elementary School in Princeton, which her three children had attended. Out of that initiative grew the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, whose mission continues under the leadership of another founder, Karla Cook. With the help of Susan Conlon and other staff at the Princeton Public Library, Mullen organized conferences for school teachers and parents to promote garden-based education throughout New Jersey.
From her “mother garden” at the corner of Patton Avenue and Wilton Street, Mullen, who became a certified Master Gardener, provided plantings to dozens of school and private gardens throughout the community. She was determined to inspire Princeton to devote its lawns to the joys of cultivating and eating home-grown produce. Patton Avenue passersby found scissors and signs inviting them to sample her produce; she lined her sidewalks with pots of herbs and divided perennials bearing notes urging readers to take the plants.
Every year she made the initial spring planting of the raised bed outside the Whole Earth Center, a local business whose values were so closely aligned with her own that she purchased two homes based on proximity to the store.
In 2005 Mullen began running lunch and dinner meetings at home, determined to build a community of people whose health problems related to the dangers of processed food. At the same time, she obtained a master’s degree in counseling at The College of New Jersey and through that work developed the program design that became The Suppers Programs.
Suppers is a non-profit organization that holds hundreds of meetings annually in central New Jersey serving peer-led support groups in private homes for people whose physical and mental health problems are caused or exacerbated by processed food and lack of health-focused social connections. Dorothy called Suppers a “hyper-local solution to a global problem.”
Suppers groups teach home-grown food cultivation, healthy food shopping, and preparation of non-processed foods. The programs support participants — who often dislike vegetables and feel addicted to baked goods and sweets — as they develop a palate for non-processed food. The programs’ educational component features the non-judgmental sharing of personal stories of hope and healing, and constant reminders to experiment based on personal needs and preferences because — in the words of a key Suppers’ principle — “how you feel is data!”
Llura Ambler Gund
March 15, age 79.
Gund was a philanthropist who was married to businessman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund. Together with Gordon, she co-founded the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, which sought treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases. She founded the Princeton chapter of the FFB and ran it for 48 years.
She also helped to preserve land around Princeton, where the couple lived.
Robert Morris Applebaum
January 29, age 98.
Applebaum was born in Trenton to a chemist father and homemaker mother, and he made his mark in his home town as a founder of Mercer Street Friends.
He studied at Bucknell University, and after serving during World War II he and his wife, Elizabeth, joined the Religious Society of Friends, in which they remained active throughout their lives.
He worked in his father’s business, the International Products Corporation, from his father’s retirement in the 1950s through his own retirement in 1981.
Mercer Street Friends, of which he was a longtime board member, rebuilt an old Friends meeting house as an urban social services center.
Elaine Crosby Murphy
August 8, age 95.
Murphy was the founder of, and primary donor to, the Mercer County Food Bank and, along with her husband, was the founder and primary donor of The Village Charter School in Trenton. She also volunteered at community organizations including the Junior League of Trenton, Martin House, Mt. Carmel Guild, and Morris Hall.