Sarah Cooke Picton

Sarah Cooke Picton

SALISBURY — Sarah (Cooke) Picton, age 76, of Salisbury, died June 17, 2024, at Geer Nursing and Rehab Center in Canaan of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. Sarah and her loving husband, Jim Picton, had fourteen golden years together.

Sarah Herritage Cooke (she dropped “Herritage” when she married, and yes, they did spell it with two ‘r’s) was born in Richmond, Virginia, on Oct. 2, 1947, the youngest of four siblings to the late Richard Caswell Cooke and Caroline Myers, both of Richmond. She was predeceased by her oldest sibling, Caroline, and Caroline’s husband, William Dinsmore Holland, both of Cookeville, Tennessee. She is survived by her brother, Richard Caswell (“Caswell”) Cooke, Jr., and his wife, Mary Davis Cooke, both of Lawrenceville, New Jersey; also her sister Anne Gordon Cooke of Richmond. Anne’s husband, Rev. Charles Daniel Curran, Jr., predeceased her. Sarah also leaves many devoted nieces and nephews, one of whom, Lawrence Curran, predeceased her. Sarah had no children of her own, but two loving godsons, Peter Boyd of Charles City, Virginia, the son of Sarah’s longtime friends Julie and Randy Boyd, and Gordon Cooke of Derry, New Hampshire, the youngest son of brother Caswell. It should also be said here that there was not a better-loved pair of cousins either side of the Mason-Dixon Line than Willson Craigie (yes, two ‘L’s) and his wife, Susan Craigie, both of Richmond, whose friendship with Sarah and husband Jim figured prominently in their lives and grew deeper over the years.

In fact, as children, Sarah, Willson, and sister Anne would spend part of each summer together at Cricket Hill, the rural cabin, pond, and stream retreat father Dick fashioned for the family. Many stories emanate from that time, which must have made a deep impression on Sarah who, when she finally began to loosen her grip on reality, would often tell visitors that she lived at Cricket Hill still — which, in a way, must have been true. On Sundays when it didn’t rain (it never did, in the lore), Dick would conduct outdoor services under the weeping cedar, mostly consisting of hymns sung a capella.

Although not religious in later life, Sarah grew up attending Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal, a church her great-grandfather helped to found in the 19th century. She attended St. Catherine’s, an Episcopal Diocesan school beginning in 6th grade, graduating 12th grade in 1965. Hollins College followed, a female-only school at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where Sarah thrived (she and her schoolmates were known as “Hollie Collie Dollies”), earning a bachelor’s degree in art history with a minor in math.

At this point, work at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was available, and although Sarah eventually took a job there, the urge to travel and see more of this country was overwhelming. Sarah struck out for the West. A series of visits over the next few years led her to jobs on a dude ranch in Wyoming, a sojourn in California (think: camping next to an avocado plantation), bartending in Denver, and a job with the Denver Art Museum, organizing fundraising shows and concerts in Larimer Square. She took credit for, among other things, introducing Bluegrass to the country music fans there when she organized a concert with Hot Rize, a group still heard on the radio today.

Though she loved the clear skies and surrounding natural beauty of Colorado and Wyoming, Sarah yearned to be closer to the New York art world, and so moved to New York, taking an apartment next to an old school friend in a third floor walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen (as she liked to remind us). Sarah was an artist, working in pencil, ink, and watercolor. She sketched every day, drawing from photographs and from life. In New York, she designed a line of greeting cards and sold them to Caspari, Inc. Many years later, after retirement, Sarah re-started her card business, marketing her work to local shops. But in New York, the card business didn’t cover all the bills, so Sarah found work at the Betty Parsons Gallery. After working at the Parsons gallery, Sarah was offered, and quickly took, a job as office manager and general jobber for Jasper Johns.

The relationship with her employer and the artists and “buzz” surrounding him was so successful that Sarah settled into Manhattan for good, moving to Connecticut only after Johns did. They were both fond of each other; Sarah stayed on for about 28 years, retiring finally to spend more time with husband Jim who, as one of the contractors who took care of the Johns campus, had to answer to Sarah’s ironclad rule before proceeding with any work, and fell in love with the boss in the process. Three years after first husband Bill’s death, Sarah allowed Jim into her life. They were subsequently married, in 2014. Visits to Cape Cod and to Maine, and a trip to Ireland to celebrate Sarah’s seventieth birthday, were among the pleasures of retirement, before Alzheimer’s became evident.

A memorial gathering and simple service will be held for Sarah in Salisbury and also Richmond, after summer. Notice will be published so that all who wish may attend these remembrances. Those who wish to make a charitable contribution in Sarah’s memory may consider the Housatonic Valley Association, a local conservation organization Sarah liked to support: Housatonic Valley Association, 150 Kent Road, PO Box 28, Cornwall Bridge, CT 06754.

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