Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Sheila M. Hehmeyer, a British-born Westporter known for her outspokenness at brown bag luncheons held by First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell where she was a regular, died today, according to a family friend. She was 77.
Hehmeyer, who was made a member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in June 2000 for her services to British cultural services, had been undergoing treatment for cancer in recent weeks. She died at Greenwich Hospital.
“I am devastated to hear the news,” Farrell told WestportNow. “Sheila had been sick for a while and we had been speaking in hospital and at home.
“But she never complained and managed to run her affairs and run her life despite her illness.
“She was a neat lady. I used to call her Dame Hehmeyer, even though as an American citizen she couldn’t use that title. It is a big loss for all of us.”
Hehmeyer frequently returned to her native Britain where she was active in the arts, including serving as a governor of the Sadler Wells Foundation, which supports the famed dance company.
While living in Chicago with her husband, Alexander, Hehmeyer was president of Sadler’s Wells Association Inc. (USA), now known as American Friends of Sadler’s Wells.
The group was founded in 1980 to raise funds to support the work of Sadler’s Wells, and to develop cultural exchanges of performing companies between the United States and Sadler’s Wells.
In Connecticut, her local activities included serving as a member of the board of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy.
Born March 2, 1926, in Penarth, South Wales, she was a daughter of the late Gordon Alexander and Dorothy Blackmoor MacArthur.
Hehmeyer was a donor and founder of the new Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which highlights the international achievements of the Scottish.
She also was on the special events committee of the Royal Academy of London, which is based in New York.
She has been on the board of the English Speaking Union, and was named an Outstanding Woman of Connecticut in 2003.
Hehmeyer was a strong environmental supporter who led several groups in Chicago and Westport to preserve landmarks and to promote open space.
She was a high fashion model for many top designers and then became a fashion director for a chain of boutique stores. She was a member of Fashion Group International, a group of international women in fashion at the executive level.
She was invited to join the Women’s Forum of United Nations, which encourages internationally minded women to participate in the United Nations. She is a member of the Black Watch Council of Fort Ticonderoga, a symbol of the ties between the British and the Americans.
Hehmeyer is survived by her daughter, Gillian Steel of Greenwich; a stepson, Alexander M. Hehmeyer of San Francisco; a stepdaughter, Christine H. Rosso of Milan, Italy, and Chicago; and seven grandchildren.
She was predeceased by her husband, Alexander F. Hehmeyer; and by her sister, Jill Mears.
A memorial will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Barnabas Church, 954 Lake Ave., Greenwich.
Burial will be private.
Additional services will be held in Chicago and London at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to America’s Friends of Sadler’s Wells, 26 Prince St., Unit 2A, New York, NY 10012.
Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home, 31 Arch St., Greenwich, handled arrangements
Posted 02/03/04 at 07:45 PM Permalink
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I am shocked at the news. I had gotten to know Sheila a bit from the brown bag luncheons and from discussing political issues with her over the last two years. She was feisty in a good sense and outspoken on issues that concerned her. She had a passion for life and those causes that interested her. A true Westporter! Westport will certainly miss her as will her friends and neighbors.
“Outspoken” but always a lady, Mrs. Hehmeyer’s “feistyness” was only armor to protect her vulnerability. We will never forget her generosity, warmth and kindness. The courage she showed on the streets of London as a young woman during the Blitz was surely equalled by the remarkable way she battled to the end; never complaining, never giving in. Mrs. Hehmeyer contributed so much to so many lives on both sides of the Atlantic. She was an extraordinary, beautiful woman. Our family will miss her deeply.
Her time had come to leave the lime-light
Sheila was my godmother; an extremely generous one in every way. Whenever I visited the USA she would always have me stay with her in Westport at her unique house by the sea.
I too hugely valued her frankness and I learned a great deal from her about remaining strong whatever the challenge. She was an exceptionally kind lady. The Parr family will greatly miss her company and friendship.
Only just heard. Cannot believe it she looked so well in her Christmas card photo. My son and I will always remember her kindness to us on our first visit to the USA at her Chicago home and subsequent visits to her beautiful home at Westport. She was a treasure. We will never forget her. When Sheila and I were 8 years old we were very close and often played in my family’s orchard. Even at that age she had such a strong character and I always admired her.
Cousin Barbara, Cardiff, South Wales, UK