March 18, 2020

Obituaries, 3/18/2020

John Seward Johnson, Jr.

John Seward Johnson, Jr., sculptor of hyper-realistic figures inhabiting cities around the world, creator of New Jersey’s Grounds For Sculpture and the Johnson Atelier, and grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, founder of Johnson & Johnson, died Tuesday, March, 10, 2020, surrounded by his family at his winter home in Key West, Florida. He was 89. The cause was cancer.

At the age of 38, Seward Johnson had been a painter when his wife, Cecelia Joyce Johnson, noticed that he had a mechanical aptitude and encouraged him to try sculpture. Less than a year later, Johnson won the top prize at the Design in Steel Awards. From the beginning, he focused on creating life-sized bronze sculptures of people engaged in daily activities to honor “the beauty of the rituals of everyday life.”

It was in 1980 that Johnson first achieved wide acclaim, followed by citywide exhibitions in Rome and Berlin, and a growing number of collectors. “Double Check,” Johnson’s 1982 bronze sculpture of a businessman, was the only Ground Zero piece to remain intact after the attacks of September 11, 2001. As The New York Times reported: “While ‘Double Check’ evolved into a memorial to all who perished, it was also a fitting metaphor for the city: though the sculpture had been knocked loose from its moorings, it endured.”

‘’Most people who like my work are timid about their own sense of art,” Johnson explained. “I love to draw it out of them, because they have strong inner feelings. They’ve been intimidated by the art world.’’ His later work explored iconographic references. A series that immersed viewers in life-sized tableaux of Impressionist subjects was among The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington’s all-time draws and was later exhibited along the Seine in Bougival near Paris.

As Johnson became more prolific, he opened a studio in his native New Jersey that expanded to become the Johnson Atelier — a technical school and an open foundry for other sculptors that revolutionized control of the medium. Previously, the ancient secrets of casting had been well guarded. The Atelier gave artists freedom over own their work, attracting some of the world’s great sculptors.

Seward Johnson, the son of John Seward Johnson and Ruth Dill, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on April 16, 1930. His father, a director of Johnson & Johnson, helped chart the company’s international expansion. His mother was the daughter of a member of the Bermudian colonial parliament, whose younger sister, Diana Dill, married the actor Kirk Douglas. Johnson lived with his three sisters in several locations across the United States and Europe. He attended the Forman School in Litchfield, Connecticut, to address his acute dyslexia, and the University of Maine at Orono. He served in the United States Navy during the Korean War, from 1951 to 1955.

After the war, he dutifully took a management job in the family company, but it was later made severely clear to him that his future was not there. He would undergo a period of painful searching to find his place, which his marriage to Cecelia Joyce provided. As his career took off, so did his reputation for being a well-known raconteur. Close friend Joyce Carol Oates joked, “Seward often tells great stories, and a few of them are even true.” Yet when it came to himself, he was unflinchingly honest. “After years of being afraid into my forties to show who I really was,” he later wrote, “I had to burst out and say, ‘Here, this is the real me. Take me or leave me!’”

As Johnson’s reputation as an artist flourished, he began plans for a sculpture park with a vision as detailed as his figures. Visitors would be “encouraged to overcome any natural, habitual, or learned resistance or fear of art, for an experience that elevates the soul and heals the spirit.” The now 42-acre Grounds For Sculpture gained international acclaim since its opening in June 1992 and features the works of more than 150 artists.

Still, many in Seward’s family felt his greatest gifts were reserved for them. “He was just capable of not taking anything for granted in his field of vision, always considering something from an upside-down point of view,” his son John S. Johnson III, co-founder of BuzzFeed, recalled. “What he did for me is open my eyes.” His nephew Michael Greenleaf felt Seward’s greatest lesson was “to extend yourself — to give yourself to the situation. Be generous — over and over.”

J Seward Johnson, Jr. who resided in Hopewell, New Jersey; Nantucket, MA; New York City, and Key West, Florida, is survived by his wife Cecelia Joyce; his son, John, and his wife, Susan; his daughter, India, and her husband Eliot, and five grandchildren.


Stacie Lee Isaacson

Stacie Lee Isaacson, born December 31, 1960 in Trenton, NJ, died peacefully on the night of March 13, 2020.

She spent her childhood in Yardley, Pa. She was a special gift to her mother, whose birthday was January 1st. Stacie was a beautiful person inside and out. Despite her many difficulties in life, she had an uplifting spirit about her that will be remembered by all who knew her. At a young age, many people in the local Yardley community volunteered to assist in a program called “Patterning” to improve her motor skills. She was a medalist in the Special Olympics for swimming of which she was very proud — her favorite stroke was the butterfly.

Never one to pass judgement on others, Stacie loved laughing and telling jokes and was very good at telling you what famous person you resembled. It was her way of endearing herself to others, her intent was to form a simple connection with that person. There are many life lessons Stacie taught us — about love, the beauty of life, and compassion for others. Though we may not have realized it at the time, her outward love for people is a lesson we can all share. As many can attest, she touched many lives and will surely be missed.

Predeceased by her mother and father Sondra and George Isaacson, and brother-in-law Howard Domers, she is survived by her sister Laurie Domers, her brother and sister-in-law Steven Isaacson and Laura Lichstein, her nieces Ashley and Alli Domers and Sydney and Olivia Isaacson. She was a longtime resident of the Bancroft residential community in Vorhees, NJ, and will be missed by many of her friends there.

Due to health concerns around coronavirus, funeral services will be held privately for family with burial at Ewing Cemetery. A celebration of Stacie’s life will be announced in the near future. Memorial contributions are respectfully requested to Special Olympics of New Jersey, or to a charity of the donor’s choice. To leave condolences for the family visit


Constance Greiff

Constance Greiff, architectural historian, a pioneer of the historic preservation movement in the U.S., and longtime resident of Princeton and Rocky Hill, died Sunday, March 1, in Princeton.

Mrs. Greiff (pronounced to rhyme with “life”) turned an amateur passion for historic buildings into a profession, authoring books, founding and presiding over Preservation New Jersey, a nonprofit devoted to preserving the state’s diverse heritage, consulting, and advising the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Every building tells a story, though sometimes you have to dig to find it,” Mrs. Greiff said. “I like the digging and I like the telling.”

Her sons James and Peter said the cause of death was congestive heart failure. She was 90 years old.

Mrs. Greiff found her vocation in the early 1960s, within a few years of moving to Princeton, which was rich in historically significant but largely unexplored homes, churches, and buildings. Teaming up with a Vassar co-alumna Mary (Weitzel) Gibbons, and photographer Elizabeth G. C. Menzies, Mrs. Greiff co-authored “Princeton Architecture: A Pictorial History of Town and Campus,” published in 1967 by the Princeton University Press. The book had unusually high sales for a university press edition and for a time graced a good number of coffee tables in Princeton. The book was later reissued in paperback.

That book led to her involvement in the nascent New Jersey preservation movement and the Princeton Historical Society, where she served twice as president and led the restoration of the society’s Nassau Street home, Bainbridge House.

In 1969, upon learning that Princeton University was going to build a large, mostly subterranean annex to Firestone Library, she and Mary Gibbons convinced the university to allow a brigade of students and volunteers to excavate the site, where the Houdibras Tavern had stood in the 18th century. For six weeks in the spring of that year, the team extracted shards of pottery and china, tableware and other household items, which later were catalogued and displayed in Bainbridge House.

Mrs. Greiff was appointed advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1973 and became an editor at the Pyne Press, a small imprint based on Nassau Street that specialized in the re-issue of vintage architectural books. While at Pyne Press, she authored “Lost America: From the Atlantic to the Mississippi” and “Lost America: From the Mississippi to the Pacific,” photographic tours of hundreds of buildings of architectural or historic value that had been lost to neglect, fire, flood or modern development. Through these books, Greiff’s work became known to a national audience.

“‘Lost America’ is more than a runthrough of a morgue of dead buildings, for it can sharpen our sight, alert us what to look for, make us conscious of the buildings around us,” The New York Times’ Thomas Lash wrote in a review. “It can help us stop making the same mistakes our ancestors did.”

In a separate New York Times review, Rita Reif wrote, “’Lost America’ is the most persuasive, intelligent argument yet presented for preservation of this country’s historic buildings….This long overdue indictment of all apathetic or greedy Americans responsible for the destruction of architectural treasures, is written with full knowledge that preservation does not mean an end to change and progress.”

Other books Mrs. Greiff authored were “John Notman, Architect” (Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 1979), “Independence: The Creation of a National Park” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), “Early Victorian” and “Art Nouveau” (both Abbeville Press, 1995), “Robert Smith, Architect, Builder, Patriot” (Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 2000), which she co-authored with Charles E. Peterson and  Maria Thompson “Morven: Memory, Myth and Reality” (Historic Morven, Inc., 2004) which she co-authored with Wanda Gunning.

In 1975, Mrs. Greiff founded Heritage Studies, a consultancy that performed surveys and studies for towns, counties, and states in the Northeast, the first of its kind in the preservation world. Heritage Studies employed many young architectural historians, helping launch careers in what was still a new field. Architectural historian Bob Craig, Supervisor of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, who worked at Heritage Studies during a 12 year period in the 1970s and 1980s, recalled that working for Mrs. Greiff was “like getting a second graduate school education.”

In 1978, she founded Preservation New Jersey, of which she was President until 1989. She also served on the planning boards of Princeton and Rocky Hill and was a member of the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Preservation.

Constance May Mann was born in New York on Oct. 4, 1929, the second of two daughters of Jacob and Evelyn (Weiss) Mann. Her father taught Latin in the New York public schools. Raised in Queens and Manhattan, she recalled being assigned to be a messenger in Manhattan during the blackouts of World War II. She said her duties were to sit by a phone in a basement office of her apartment building, but the phone never rang.

Mrs. Greiff graduated from Vassar College, where she studied Art History and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Following graduate studies at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, she returned to teach briefly at Vassar.

While studying at Vassar, she met Robert Greiff, an engineering student at Columbia University.  They were married in 1952 and had two sons, James and Peter, who survive her, as do James’ wife, Bia, his children, Rachel and Samuel, and Peter’s daughter, Lara. Robert Greiff passed away in 2018. Mrs. Greiff’s older sister, Joan, passed away in January 2020.


Rina Ann Pennacchia

Rina Ann Pennacchia, 75, of Annapolis, Maryland, passed away at home Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

A resident of Annapolis for over 50 years, Rina was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, by the late Dominick Pennacchia and Helen Yolanda (Taraschi) Pennacchia.

She was a graduate of Princeton High School, Golden Beacon Junior College in Wilmington, DE, and American University of Washington, DC.

Rina was a trailblazer for working women in the ’70s and ’80s. She rarely accepted “no” when she wanted to do something, and with tenacity and aplomb accomplished much in her life. She worked for a short time at ETS in Princeton, NJ, before moving to Washington, DC. She worked for the Urban Institute in its early days helping develop a compensation and classification system, minority recruitment, and affirmative action programs. After 12 years she resigned as Vice President and Corporate Secretary in 1983.

Rina went on to work for Freddie Mac as one of the only female administrators as Director of Administration, Facilities and Real Estate. She worked for Social and Scientific Systems developing affirmative action programs, restructuring benefit programs, and successfully defending against EEO lawsuits. She served as the Director of Human Resources for seven years at Howard Hughes Medical Institute where she restructured personnel services, counseled managers, supervisors, and employees in 35 sites and 28 states. By the time she left, HHMI grew to over 3,000 staff and consultants and 72 sites.

She completed her professional career with 10 years at the National Council on Aging (NCOA). As Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management, this was one of her most rewarding experiences. She retired in May of 2019.

Rina was an avid traveler having visited Australia; New Zealand; St. Petersburg, Russia; Austria; Great Britain; Ireland; France; and Spain and especially loved spending time in Ferentino, Italy with family. She was an avid reader, loved culinary arts, classical music, and truly cared about people and their well-being. She was an active member and officer in the Washington Personnel Association (WPA), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the American Society of Personnel Administration (ASPA).

Rina was predeceased by her sister, Angela (Pennacchia) Bechtelheimer. Rina is survived by her sister, Patricia Giallella and her husband Victor of Princeton, New Jersey; her niece Jennifer Cantalupo and husband Michael of South Easton, Massachusetts; her nephew Andrew Giallella of Ocean, New Jersey; her great-niece and goddaughter, Gabriella Cantalupo and a great-nephew Dominick Cantalupo; a dear brother-in-law Paul Bechtelheimer and his wife Christine of Sewell, NJ; longtime friend and companion Christopher Kuhn of Annapolis, Maryland; and several extended cousins in the Taraschi, Zoccola, Caponi, Zorochin, and Merrifield families.

She will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved her.

At the request of the family, Rina was privately cremated.

Services have been postponed and will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Rina’s honor to Dorothea’s House, 120 John Street, Princeton, NJ 08540.

To leave the family of Rina a condolence online, please visit and enter her name.


David Alan Jacqmin

David Alan Jacqmin of Princeton, NJ, passed away on Thursday, December 12, 2019. He was born on October 15, 1947 in Boston, MA, to Harris John Jacqmin and Alice Wheeler Jacqmin. He grew up in Alton, IL; Great Neck, NY; Garden City, NY; Deer Park, TX; and Westport, CT, graduating from Staples High School in 1965.

After matriculating at Swarthmore University, David earned his BS from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. While he was living in Boston and working as a carpenter, a mutual friend introduced him to his future wife, Maxine Novek. In 1977, David and Maxine were married in their Winter Hill apartment by the mayor of Somerville.

David earned his PhD in applied physics from Harvard University in 1983, after which the family moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, where they lived for the next 34 years. After a two-year stint working for Standard Oil of Ohio, he joined NASA Glenn Research Center, where he worked for nearly 30 years before retiring as a principal investigator/senior research engineer in 2014. During his time at NASA, he published numerous research papers. The paper he considered his best (“Very, Very Fast Wetting”) was published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics in 2002. It showed how it is possible to coat fibers and flat surfaces at very high capillary numbers.

David was also a musician, and — after playing the French horn as a teenager in the Connecticut All State Band — took up the instrument again in the mid-90s. He played for many years with the Shaker Symphony, a community orchestra. David loved being outdoors, and was always the first to wade into any body of water he came across — regardless of whether or not he’d packed swim trunks. He was an avid traveler, taking his family on numerous trips, perhaps most memorably to Nantucket, the Jersey shore, and Napa Valley. He was a voracious reader who loved James Thurber, Djuna Barnes, “The Wind in the Willows,” “Mistress Masham’s Repose,” and poetry. And he loved to eat — especially ice cream.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, David became active with the InMotion nonprofit center and the Parkinson Education Program of Greater Cleveland. He is survived by his wife of almost 43 years, Maxine; daughters Hilary Jacqmin (husband David Fishman) and Laura Jacqmin (partner James Tasch); sister Deborah Jacqmin Kramer and brother-in-law Gregory Kramer; niece Alex Kramer; granddaughter Violet Ada Fishman; and many cousins. Donations may be made in his memory to InMotion ( and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes (


Charles Russell Sheldon

Charles Russell Sheldon, 71, of Trenton, N.J., died quietly in his sleep last month after a brief illness.

Loving grandfather, father, brother, nephew, cousin, neighbor, and friend, Charlie was an ardent member of Citizen’s Rifle and Revolver Club, of Princeton Junction, and Pennington Road Fire Company and First Aid Unit, of Ewing. He is deeply missed.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Charlie’s name to either of the organizations mentioned above.