Saturday, August 01, 2009
Janet Levi, R.I.P.
Another member of our extended Panamanian family has passed away. When I finally checked my emails late Wednesday evening, we learned that our dear friend Janet de Levi had died. Janet had been suffering from meningiomas or brain tumors for the last seven years. She spent the last year and a half completely paralyzed; she wasn't able to participate in our family seder this year due to her condition.
We met Janet early in our time in Panama and became close friends quickly. She was an artist and wit and so much fun. She specialized in colorful paintings on bateas, or wooden trays. Her paintings were very vibrant and animated and portrayed life in Panama. Sometimes she would include friends in her works; our daughter Anne posed regularly for Janet.
As I mentioned earlier, Janet is a member of our extended family, a group which always gets together for Thanksgiving and Passover. Janet was a bit different, as we got together with her a lot; we had lots of dinner parties and very informal meals. She was so much fun to be with. We use to have long conversations about religion and history and politics, both Panamanian and U.S.
Janet and Mona were very close, and as Janet's condition deteriorated over the years, Mona would spend several days a week spending time with her and listening to her life story. We both miss her so much.
Below is the obituary for our dear friend Janet. May her soul rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon her!
Janet de Levi, Expat Artist
Following a lengthy battle with meningiomas (brain tumors), Janet Levi died at her home. Levi courageously confronted her illness throughout two surgeries and seven years of progressive paralysis. She welcomed any opportunity to share laughter with visitors, and continued working as long as her hands were able. Although she was enveloped by total paralysis for the last year of her life, she maintained her optimism and good spirits.
Janet de Levi was a local artist whose work of four decades depicted scenes of Panama's culture, flora, and fauna. She began painting in earnest as grief therapy to deal with the death of her daughter, Victoria, a leukemia victim. Her cross stitch canvas 'paintings' and neo-primitive paintings on wooden bateas (trays), portrayed life in Panamá in a colorful and appreciative light.
Often she included friends in her work, commemorating special moments or idiosyncratic characteristics. The friends were always faceless, yet always highly recognizable. Anyone who spent any time with Janet could find themselves enshrined on a batea, holding their pet snake, rubbing a dog's belly with their toes, or depicted deep in conversation. Her work depicted a celebration of Panamanian folkloric music and dance, the Panamanian "Air Force" (our wonderful vultures), crawly critters (snakes and iguanas), and scenes of the work-a-day world. Levi's work showed a humorous and compassionate view of the spicy life of the isthmus.
During her long career, she received numerous awards for her work in juried art shows in the capital city of Panamá. She served on the Board of Directors of the Ancon Theater Guild, and the Panama Canal branch of the prestigious International League of American Pen Women, where she also served as president. Throughout her career, Levi held numerous one-woman art shows and was always available to encourage and try to organize young artists. She was the founding spirit of Panama Art Guilders, a co-op for working artists in Panama. The art world of Panamá will note the absence of her humor and enthusiasm.
Levi was overwhelmed by the loving attention and financial assistance she received from friends, extended family, former clients, coreligionists, and total strangers. She wanted to express her heartfelt gratitude.
Janet was the widow of Victor Levi Sasso, 'father' of the Universidad Tecnologica de Panamá, for which he was the recipient of the highest civilian award of appreciation in Panamá, the Condecoración de Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. She is survived by her children, David and Dana Levi, Elizabeth Levi de Haruch, and beloved grandchildren Vera, Esr e Isaac Haruch.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in her memory can do so by donating to either:
Fundación Carol Vallarino de Montenegro, (commonly called the "Casíta de Mausi"), Banco General, cuenta corriente #03-05-01-0095-18-0
OR to: FUNDACANCER, Banco General, cuenta de ahorros #04-02-01-402339-0
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