SOUTHBURY - Lois Miller Abrams, a longtime resident of Southbury and Warren, Conn., passed away on January 22, 2022 after a long enthusiastic enjoyment of life and a brief illness at the Danbury Hospital at the age of 87.
Born Lois Kathryn Miller in Lancaster, PA, on January 25, 1934 to the late Harold and Ruth (Bear) Miller, she was one of 2 children. She grew up in Eastchester, N.Y. and graduated from Eastchester High School with additional college-level education at MacMurray College where she was recognized as a gifted pianist and voice soloist. She also attended a teacher training program at the Dalcroze School of Music in Manhattan. In her early career, she was an executive secretary at Doubleday Publishing in New York and later taught all aspects of music as the only music teacher at Rumsey Hall School, in Washington, CT. during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. Lois also organized a summertime music camp in Warren in the 1970’s, among many other things. She loved to sing and had a deep rich voice, as well as a ready laugh and perennial twinkle in her eyes. She was always ready to take on a new day.
But her primary “career” was being the loving wife and business manager for her husband, Herbert E. Abrams, one of America’s foremost portrait artists who painted the official U.S. White House portraits of President Jimmy Carter in 1982 and President George Herbert Walker Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush in 1995, among many other notables. The Carter portrait was described by a former White House curator as the best of the contemporary portraits in the Capitol collection. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/12/22/nyregion/for-portrait-artist-truth-is-in-the-eyes.html
Lois and Herb met at the National Arts Club in New York City where she sang in the chorus and he was its vice president at the time. Married in 1954, the couple initially lived in an apartment in the 67th Street Studios Building before purchasing property in Warren around 1958. Herb had also gotten an assignment to teach art classes to officers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point during those early years and commuted from NYC or Warren. In Warren they built a beautiful home and work studio, living happily for 50 years. They had two children, a daughter Kathryn Ann Abrams, and a son, William Abrams.
Lois and Herb celebrated life together as true partners in every way. As Herb’s reputation as an artist steadily grew, Lois was instrumental in all aspects of his success, which he often attributed to her as seen in the New York Times article of the White House unveiling of President Bush’s portrait in 1995 https://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/18/us/bush-portraits-unveiled-at-white-house.html
Lois and other members of the family that year, of course, attended the ceremonies in Washington, D.C., as well as all other official portrait unveilings for Herb’s many famous clients in a career that spanned four decades and over 400 portraits, including that of Gen. William Westmoreland, astronaut Edwin " Buzz " Aldrin, playwright Arthur Miller, many legislators, university provosts and presidents, numerous CEO’s and well-known ‘captains of commerce,’ and the official portraits of three former Connecticut governors.
Lois was instrumental in every step of the way. "Her part in it is so tremendous," he said in 1995. "I can't even explain to you her importance in my success." Another time he was quoted as saying, “All of this success has only been possible because of Lois moving heaven and earth to give me the time and opportunities to develop my talents. She deserves credit for my success as much as I do."
Lois was not only Herb’s wife and best friend, but also managed his schedule, business, and public relations. Married for 49 years, Herb passed away in 2003 at the age of 82. His death was written up in the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/01/obituaries/herbert-e-abrams-portrait-painter-82-dies.html as well as many national and international publications.
When not traveling for work or pleasure, the majority of their time was spent in Warren where their home became the hub of much social activity in that normally quiet town. Warren was also the home of other esteemed working artists at the time -- including Eric Sloane, Alexander Liberman, and Cleve Gray, and several noted writers such as Francine du Plessix Gray -- who all became lifelong friends. Lois loved entertaining and was a consummate hostess. Her annual pool parties were much desired invitations with extraordinary food as a main focus, as well as the Abrams’s beautiful gardens which Lois designed, created, and passionately tended. She was also an avid tennis player.
Both Lois and Herb were longtime committee members of the Warren Democratic Town Committee at a time when party distinctions made little difference among neighbors despite the roiling social issues of the time (1960’s-though 80’s). With Lois’s typical neighborly joie de vivre, one year she organized a large clam bake to be held by the water at a friend’s home on Lake Waramaug and invited the entire town. Although it was ostensibly a fundraiser for the town committee, no one cared. It was so well attended they made enough money from the small entrance fee to keep the committee going for many years thereafter. Everyone had such a good time -- dancing to live music, enjoying each other’s company -- that Lois said they finally had to ask people to leave at 3:00 AM.
The Abrams also traveled extensively throughout the U.S. as well as to destinations like India, Chile, and many different multi-country European trips. Beginning in 1989 through the mid-2000’s, they maintained a winter time-share in Puerto Rico and many friends made a point to schedule their own get-aways just then, not coincidentally to Puerto Rico too. The simple fact is that wherever Lois was is where others wanted to be.
After Herb died, Lois purchased a condo at Heritage Village in Southbury where she lived part time and established a whole new group of friends while still returning to her Warren residence for the spring/summer/fall months. About seven years ago, she moved fulltime to Southbury after selling the family home.
Lois is survived by her daughter Kathryn Ann Abrams Bindert and son-in-law Charles Bindert of Manhasset, Long Island, son William Abrams of Warren, Conn., five grandchildren -- Faye Klein, Natalie Lahey, Ian Abrams, Victoria Bindert and Stuart Abrams, and three great grandchildren, Reese, Levi and Dylan. She is predeceased by her sister, Beatrice Daniel.
Memorial donations can be made in Lois's name to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and a tree can be planted in her honor via the website at the Carpino Funeral Home of Southbury which has been entrusted with the arrangements. To leave a message of remembrance, please visit https://www.carpinofuneralhome.com. Her ashes will be interred with Herb’s in Warren in the spring and there will be a celebration of life at the family’s discretion at that time.
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Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation