The life she lived

First, a Google Alert on 7/27, leading to a notice for a gallery retrospective of Jill Zwicky’s photography, that notice in turn leading to an extraordinary obituary for the artist — not so much a death notice as a loving celebration of her life.

The notice, in “Out and about in Petaluma” (in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco) by the Petaluma Argus-Courier staff on 7/26/22:

Vibe Gallery opens a retrospective: The Photography of Jill Zwicky, from July 19-Aug. 3. The reception on July 30 is from 5-8 p.m. to celebrate Zwicky’s life and work, a photographer who died in 2020. [AZ: no, I can’t postpone the appositive modifier of Zwicky like that, any more than you can; it should be: to celebrate the life and work of Zwicky, a photographer who died in 2020]. She was a graphic artist who took up photography later in life, focusing on photographing nature. There will be refreshments and live music by David and Reed Fromer at the reception. Come celebrate Zwicky’s life and support Vibe Gallery

The graphic:

And then, from the Marin Independent Journal (local daily paper in San Rafael CA) on 6/31/21, a celebratory obituary written by Jill’s dear friends, Judy Anderson and Jill Rayna Lippitt (only slightly edited by me, mostly to divide the thing into paragraphs):

Jill Ann Zwicky July 31, 1948 – October 9, 2020 Jill grew up in the small Central California town of Coalinga, where everyone knew everyone else, and still does – even after moving away after high school. She got her bachelor’s degree at Sonoma State University, and lived the balance of her adult life in Novato – always with an adored cat as her companion.

Jill was a bright light; an award-winning photographer, talented, musical, athletic, and full of mischief. Playful, and the life of every party, her presence lit a room. She was clever and witty and had a contagious smile, a true joie de vivre. As passionate as she was joyful, she cared deeply about nature and her many circles of friends. She was as beautiful on the inside as she was to behold.

Never seeming to age, even while suffering from the cancer that quietly took her life. Jill cared too much for her friends to burden them with concern. After a beautiful day, filled with heart-connections, having kept the full extent of her illness to herself, Jill died peacefully after collapsing into the arms of Jill Lippitt, her devoted caregiver and friend.

Jill was a joyful and eager playmate, always open to adventure. Her many beloved friends have memories and stories to tell about shared travels, hikes, camping trips, mountain biking, drumming, chorus, kayaking, boogie boarding, ping-pong tournaments, as well as hours-long, deep conversations over lunch that would spill into dinner and beyond precious memories that will live on in stories shared again and again.

Jill was an artist, a graphic designer by vocation. The covers of countless books were brought to life through her vision and craft, but her true calling was photography. She came to it late in her life and strove to perfect her craft. She was a natural, excited by what she saw through the lens of her camera. She was fearless in her quest for the perfect shot, traveling miles, climbing over barbed wire fences in the dark, crossing fields and streams to set up and capture the exact second a spectacular wave broke, or a moonrise or eclipse, or a long exposure of the Milky Way. She was in her element, her work, the manifestation of pure joy and talent.

Her photographs were accepted in any number of juried shows, including every year she submitted them, to the Marin County Fair, where she was awarded honors. Her photos also have been included in several nature calendars, and are featured on the cover and inside of this year’s Wonderful Wild Marin Calendar 2021.

Jill spearheaded the effort to reclaim her hometown’s cemetery from the dilapidated state it had fallen into from years of neglect. She organized key folks in the region – and those like her who had moved on but still had loved ones interred there – to come together to fundraise and do work parties to re-sod, re-landscape, and establish adequate irrigation, so as to turn the Pleasant Valley Cemetery into a place of beauty once again. Her ashes were interred there alongside her parents.

Jill’s parents, John and Christine Zwicky, preceded her in death. She is survived by her beloved brothers, Mike Zwicky and Kirk Zwicky; her sister-in-law, Lorrie Zwicky; her nieces, Amy Carter and Lindsey Prentice; grandnephews Cooper Carter and Camden Carter; and grandniece Dylan Prentice. Jill leaves behind her deeply cherished friends, who were to her like family: Jacki and David Fromer and their whole extended clan, who regarded Jill as one of their own; her beloved goddess-children Kaya Usher and Isaiah Usher; her dear friends from childhood, Annette Leroux, Genesse Gentry, and Rick Freitas, who was like a brother to her, long after their youthful relationship had ended; and her photography buddy, Rick Helf. Jill also leaves behind so many beloved friends: Jim Arena, with whom she worked for years and dearly loved; cherished friends Judy Anderson, Terry Lockman, Suzy Bean, Deborah Anker, and so many more! She also leaves her beloved friend, Jill Lippitt, who was her caregiver and devoted companion through her struggles with cancer over the last two years of her life.

As for Jill Lippitt (in Jenner, a small coastal town in Sonoma County), she lists herself on LinkedIn as a Vipassana meditation / dharma teacher; is a member of the Sonoma County Coast Municipal Advisory Council (representing Jenner); and serves on the board of directors of the Jenner Community Center. I hope that she’ll be able to dance at tomorrow’s reception for the JAZ exhibition.


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