We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Olson & Parent Funeral Home
Blossom Margaret Douthat Segaloff of Providence, Rhode Island, died peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, three weeks after surviving a massive heart attack. She was 92.
Hours before, her daughters, Susanna Lampert and Rebecca Hyman, sat reading to her at her bedside, as she had done for them when they were little girls.
Blossom was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 13, 1930, the daughter of Milton Warren Douthat and Rifka Angel, both artists who were pioneers in the medium of encaustic painting.
Blossom recalled walking hand-in-hand with her father, a quiet, sensitive man, when she was a little girl talking about the sky and other subjects of interest all the way from Greenwich Village to the Empire State Building, which was born the same year she was.
Milton was a Naval architect, a career which took him to Honolulu, Hawaii. In fact, to the question, "Where were you during Pearl Harbor?" Blossom's response was "in Pearl Harbor." And she had vivid memories of that day in 1941 when she was just 11.
Rifka, a WPA artist who filled her canvases with color and vitality and was well known in Chicago and New York City in the 1930s and '40s, frequently painted Blossom -- including a large, ebullient gouache, "My Daughter in a Spring Bonnet," that Blossom cherished.
After graduating from Hunter College in New York City, Blossom studied French at Yale Graduate School, where she was a brilliant student. In her 20s, she lived in France twice, and her French was so good she was sometimes mistaken for French. It was on her second trip that she met Simone de Beauvoir, whom she greatly admired.
In 1958, she gave de Beauvoir 18 volumes of her diary. In the third of de Beauvoir's autobiographical books, "La Force des Choses" ("Force of Circumstance"), de Beauvoir says, "I...advised her to write, it seems to me that she could: something does 'come across,' and strongly, in that extravagant diary of hers."
In 2015, de Beauvoir's adopted daughter Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir donated Blossom's diaries and letters to L'Association pour L'Autobiographie et le Patrimoine Autobiographique in Ambérieu-en-Bugey, France, and in 2020, five of Blossom's letters to Simone de Beauvoir from the summer of 1958 were published in the form of a book, "Un Amour de la Route" ("Love on the Road"), in which Blossom recounts a hitchhiking trip from Paris to Milan.
Reconnecting with this time in her life meant a great deal to Blossom.
Later in life, Blossom became a lawyer, graduating from Northeastern law school in the early 1980s. She was passionate about social justice and prisoners rights and believed that society has failed every person who ends up in prison. She believed that "no one is born bad" and that everyone who struggles deserves compassion and help rather than punishment and condemnation.
She and her ex-husband Seymour Segaloff had been active in the peace movement and -- proudly -- spent a night in jail as conscientious objectors. In fact, Susanna made an appearance in the Providence Journal on Feb. 5, 1966 in a carrier on Blossom's back at a peace march.
When the girls were young, she hand-stitched them whimsical little dresses out of Marimekko fabrics and organized fanciful birthday parties based on the characters in folktales.
Blossom co-founded the Providence Free School in 1970 for her daughters to attend. An alternative school, it had no grades or grading and students were encouraged to study what interested them, in the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said children should be allowed to develop naturally without constraints imposed by society that keep them from reaching their full potential.
Eventually, Blossom and Seymour -- a gifted artist and warm and intelligent person -- went their separate ways but remained good friends.
Fourteen years ago, Blossom's grandson, Jacob David Hyman, came into the world. They, too, became good friends and adored each other. She treated children as full equals. And he treats older people as full equals. They traveled far and wide together when he was very young on the number 99 bus, sharing insights and good times. When he visited her in her last days, she lit up and seemed renewed and he had to be reminded when it was time to leave.
A few years later, another good friend entered her life when Susanna met the love of her life, Andrew Lampert, a musician with a keen sense of irony without a hint of cynicism. Blossom became one of his biggest fans in her 80s, dressing up and attending his performances at clubs -- the life of the party. Before Susie and Andy married, Blossom, unconventional firebrand that she was, delighted in calling him her "son-outlaw."
She also had an abiding love for Rebecca's ex-husband, Joshua Hyman, drawn to his joie de vivre, irreverence and generosity of spirit.
Blossom had a stunningly beautiful singing voice.
In the emergency room at Miriam Hospital in Providence on April 21, Blossom sang moving renditions of "Que Sera, Sera" and "It's Only a Paper Moon" at Rebecca's request, just as Blossom used to when Susanna and Rebecca were little girls, as though the birds were singing just to them.
Then in the ICU, Susanna told Blossom, "Maybe tomorrow you can sing 'Hey Jude'," one of Blossom's favorite songs. Blossom's riveting reply could teach us all a powerful lesson.
"Why don't I sing it right now," Blossom said.
No one present will soon forget as she sang with perfect diction, in a voice serene and strong: "And any time you feel the pain, Hey Jude, refrain. Don't carry the world upon your shoulders. For well, you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder."
Rebecca told her: "You always make the world a little warmer."
The next day, Rebecca asked her to sing "Let it Be," and Blossom made one of history's best mistakes. Instead of singing "in my hour of darkness," she sang "in my hour of wisdom."
Over the next nearly three weeks, Rebecca read to Blossom from "Winnie the Pooh," Beatrix Potter and Jon Kabat-Zinn, while Susanna read to her from the journal Blossom created chronicling the antics of the many cats who shared their home, starting with the gentle orange matriarch Sunflower, acquired when Rebecca was 3 and Susanna 5.
Days later, when Blossom was no longer able to speak much, in a moment of startling clarity, Blossom sang completely unbidden, "Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine. Or leave a kiss within the cup and I'll not ask for wine."
When Susanna and Rebecca were little girls, it became apparent that neither of them could carry a tune, a fact they accepted with equanimity and good humor, well, mostly. But Blossom would have none of it. "Everyone can sing," she would declare, unshakable.
This seemed outrageous to them at the time. But they defer, now, to her hour of wisdom: She was right and they were wrong, everyone can sing, can soar, can create.
But they would add, humbly, that some voices are unforgettable.
And they are grateful they had the great privilege and honor of being among the songs that Blossom sang.
In addition to her daughters, Susanna Lampert of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Rebecca Hyman of Providence, Rhode Island, Susanna's husband Andrew Lampert, Rebecca's son Jacob Hyman of Providence and Rebecca's ex-husband Joshua Hyman of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Blossom is survived by her niece Margaret Loss and Margaret's husband Charles Dewing of Cambridge, Massachusetts, her nephew Robert Loss and his partner Ronda Gulko of Lexington, Massachusetts, her niece Ruth Segaloff of Watertown, Massachusetts, Margaret's daughter Lisa Johnson of Chicago, Illinois, Robert's sons, Nicholas Loss-Eaton of Lexington and Tobias Loss-Eaton of Washington, DC, and Joshua's mother Kathryn Hawbaker and step-father Samuel Hawbaker of Hagerstown, Maryland.
Blossom requested that she be cremated and her ashes scattered at Swan Point Cemetery, 585 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence, in Memorial Grove, a beautiful woodland with a striking natural 50-ton megalith, where Seymour's ashes are also scattered. The scattering will be followed by a gathering at Lippitt Park near Swan Point Cemetery to celebrate and honor Blossom's life. Blossom requested people be seated in a circle, with one empty chair for her, and anyone who would like to say anything about her -- good or bad -- feel free to do so. All are welcome. Please bring a chair. The scattering will take place on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 12 p.m.