Kerstin Jesslén-Almquist, who saw beauty in everything and everyone, is dead at 87
There is a Swedish proverb that says, “One can never wait too long for something good.” Kerstin would often quote this, which forced those who knew her to bypass selfish pursuits and look at the small things in life in big ways: the natural world and our place in it, the needs of others, and beauty—the wonderful gift we all have, if we can see past the day to day. Kerstin believed in the power of love, the word of Christ, and lived her life to the fullest for others through her many volunteer efforts. She made a big impact on her surroundings—whether it was layouts for a Swedish magazine, display windows at a department store, the beautification of old New Castle, Delaware— the river town she loved, or the Ikebana-influenced flower arrangements on the church alter, and of course, her riverfront home and garden.
Kerstin was born in the very north of Sweden, in Luleå, in 1933. Her father was a forester and her mother, a home-economics teacher. The family moved to Bromma outside of Stockholm when Kerstin was a young girl. Her education and upbringing were here in the cultural center of Sweden at the time. Kerstin started working at Bonniers, one of the largest publishers in Europe and was promoted to art director of Vecko Revyn, a weekly style magazine.
Upon her success with the magazine, Bonniers sent Kerstin to the United States to study American magazines. During this trip, she briefly worked for Mademoiselle where she met her future husband, Don Almquist, an illustrator doing freelance commissions for the magazine. They were married three months later in a ceremony in Laxå Sweden. Kerstin had fond memories of her creative time in America and her vacation trip to Cuba, before the Castro revolution.
In 1955, Kerstin and Don settled in Greenwich Village, New York City. After the birth of their daughter, Kristina, they moved to Westport, Connecticut. And in 1958, a second child, a son, Jan Christian, was born, and in 1961, a third child, another daughter, Viveca, was born.
In 1964, Don was offered a job at Bonniers in Stockholm. The family moved to Sweden and settled for almost three years in the Stockholm suburb of Bromma—a circle of sorts for Kerstin. In 1967, the family moved back to America and settled in the enclave of Black Rock in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Tragedy befell the family when in 1968, Viveca was killed suddenly by being struck by a car.
In 1972, Kerstin was hired and promoted to a display manager by Macy’s where she was responsible for all visual merchandising and windows for the Bridgeport stores. The family remained in Black Rock until the children had completed college. In 1985 they moved to Philadelphia and then to New Castle Delaware, where they built their home directly on the shore of the Delaware River.
On any given day, Kerstin could be seen tending her garden. She drew strength from this, even during the hardest days of her battle with cancer. She was the eternal optimist showing all who knew her how to be thankful, and those closest to her, how to say goodbye with dignity and grace.
Kerstin is survived by her husband Don and her two children and three grandchildren, and a great grandchild: Jan and Shari Lloyd of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and their daughter Maja of Brooklyn; and Kristina and Gregory Pattison of Martha’s Vineyard and their two daughters, Viveca with Denis Robichaud of South Bend Indiana and their daughter Iris, and Olivia of Martha’s Vineyard. She is also survived by four siblings: a sister, Ingrid, of Dallas, Texas; a sister, Carin, of Gothenburg, Sweden; a brother, Jan of Visby, on the island of Gotland, Sweden, and another brother Kristian of Glommen, Sweden.
Kerstin died on April 4th (Easter), from complications due to pancreatic cancer.