In Charlotte’s web

September 21, 2021 § Leave a comment

Tea with Charlotte, July 2021

FIRST PERSON | THOMAS REYNOLDS

CHARLOTTE KARP was always enthusiastic and encouraging, and she let you love her back, too. No one could resist her warm embrace, but she pulled no punches once you got to know her. I got lucky the day she and my fellow Florida expat Swan Brown walked into the gallery and adopted me into their unlikely urban family.

Charlotte grew up on a Texas ranch, later was a first class flight attendant for Continental Airlines, then married and raised three children in Chicago. Along the way, her family bought a winter home in Florida that had been previously owned by Swan Brown. She sought him out, and he agreed to help with the garden he’d planted, along with those in the grand Palm Beach estates he designed and superintended. They became fast friends. Later Swan and Jim Bolin, Swan’s partner after his married life ended in the early ’60s, bought a cabin at Lake Tahoe, where Jim liked to ski. Ultimately they moved down to San Francisco, and by then Charlotte and her family had moved here as well.

Then Charlotte’s husband left her for another woman — a very wealthy woman. Charlotte refused to be separated from her family, inviting the new wife in, and sometimes accepting invitations to travel extravagantly together. How she could embrace such a situation was miraculous. She would say simply, “I won’t break up my family.”

And she didn’t. Her daughter and two sons were beside her in her elegant flat on Washington Street, between Bloomers florist and the Swedenborgian Church, when she died yesterday morning, two days after beginning hospice care. Her daughter emailed: “Charlotte passed away peacefully this a.m. 9/20/21. She was so loved, lucid, grateful and unafraid.”

MORE: “A visit with ChaCha

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