Susan Bee

Elegy for Baroness Sherry

I met Sherry when I met her son Charles in high school. We were dating. I was 16, he was 17, and it was 1968. I remember going over to his house and his mother was in the dining room. I immediately recognized her sarcastic humor as the same as his. Her witty remarks and the stylishishness and panache that characterized her were present in her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as well.

She was always very welcoming to me and to my family. We had a series of shocks after we got married in 1977. First Herman, Charles’s father, died, and then shortly thereafter my mother died at age 60 in 1980. Sherry was devoted to her husband and sat by his side the entire six months he was in the hospital with leukemia. She supported my father and our family after my mother died and invited us to her holiday dinners and welcomed us into her entourage.

Sherry had a life that was well lived. She was a devoted grandmother. Emma and Felix spent most weekends at her house, starting when they were babies. And she was devoted to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren. When Emma died 10 years ago, Sherry was very present. Emma staged most of her photographs at Sherry’s apartment using her clothes. They had a particularly close relationship artistically and personally. Sherry’s last major public appearance was at Felix and Gabe’s opening at David Lewis Gallery in June. She was in spectacular form greeting everyone and very proud of both artists.

As a widow she became the Baroness Sherry and frequented Studio 54 with Mr John the hat designer and his partner, Peter Brandon. The three of them went out everywhere together and hung out with Warhol and Divine and others.

Sherry lived the life she wanted to live and died as she wanted to die –– in her home in her own bed. Her passing was peaceful. Edward and Leslie, Kerrie and Kyle and the rest of the family were by her side and kept her comfortable. She stopped eating and leaving the bed and was not in pain. Felix and Gabe and I visited her on Thursday over a week ago and Felix fed her some chocolate ice cream. I asked her how she was and she said she was “perfect."

After Sherry died, we got some wonderful condolence notes from Charles’ Chinese friends.

Here is a quote from one:

In my hometown if a person dies in his/her late eighties or nineties without much pain, it is called a "white joyous event" for the family. There would be a big celebration. I'm not saying you should be happy but think of the fact that your mother died peacefully in the company of her dear ones at 97. What a blessing. Though I haven't met your mother, I believe that she is blessed to have the family around her when she leaves. And she is blessed to leave at 97, which we call a "happy departure" in Chinese.

Please restrain from grief. The son lives, so his mother lives. Your mother is always in you and with you.

May she rest in peace.


Emma with her grandmother