We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Bellows Funeral Chapel
Pawtucket - Joan Thompson Boghossian, 89, of Pawtucket and Narragansett, award-winning painter, philanthropist, and beloved mother, grandmother and friend, died peacefully on September 7 in her family home.
Joan was a much-lauded watercolorist and print-maker and the unofficial “Grande Dame” of the Providence Art Club, where, for many years, she kept a studio, taught print-making and supported up-and-coming artists with her inspiration, teaching and philanthropy. Always ready to lend a hand, learn a new medium, and share her techniques with the young artists around her, she was a steady presence around the Art Club, as well as in galleries from New York to Boston.
During her career, she won more than sixty significant prizes for her artwork, including awards in national and regional juried shows. She was a four-time winner of the Grumbacher Gold Medallion Award in watercolor, a founding member of the Spring Bull Gallery in Newport, and an elected artist member of the New England Watercolor Society, the Copley Society of Boston, the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club of New York, and the Art League of Rhode Island.
Joan was born in Newport in 1932. Her father, Joseph Thompson, was a machinist for the Navy and her mother, Hope Bliss Thompson, kept a local five and dime and “movie house” in their living room on Francis Street in Newport. Joan and her late sisters, Jean Thompson and June Thompson Nielsen, all attended Rogers High School, where Joan was elected a “Co-Ed Colonel” in the late 1940s.
Accepted to Cornell to study chemistry, Joan chose to attend the University of Rhode Island because Cornell at the time was overwhelmed by returning GI’s and could not offer her housing. That decision proved auspicious when she met her husband, Paul Boghossian, Jr. at URI. They were married in 1952, just as Paul was shipping out to Korea. Joan would eventually follow him to Tokyo with their newborn daughter, Jody, to spend a year in Japan while Paul helped wind down the war effort.
By 1959, they had four children, Jody, Paul, David and Nancy whom they raised in the same Pawtucket house where Joan would live for nearly seventy years.
A true Rhode Island Yankee to her core, Joan loved a yard sale, a good recipe or kitchen hack, and WD-40. She was a tournament-level Scrabble player, could fix nearly anything, and once saved a baby on the beach at Sand Hill Cove from choking. A no-fuss, no-frills beauty, she entered the 1947 “Miss Easton’s Beach” contest on a dare and won, in her bare feet, to the chagrin of the high-heeled entrants from New York.
But her true love, after Paul and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild, was her art. At a charity auction in 1978, Joan bid on and won a series of lessons with artist and RISD faculty member Herman Itchkawich. Soon enough, the student was rivaling the master. Her portraits of children caught at play on the beach were skillful studies of light and form, many of which grace mantles from Southampton to Northeast Harbor.
Joan was a stalwart supporter of the Providence Public Library where the main gallery is named in her honor. Joan and Paul also founded the Boghossian Foundation, which has provided college scholarships to hundreds of Rhode Island students.
Joan leaves four children: Dr. Jody Spencer of Providence, Paul Boghossian of Jamestown, David Boghossian of Cambridge MA, and Nancy Staples of Newport, as well as twelve grandchildren, one great-grandchild, many nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors. They will miss her bright smile, Yankee-spirit ways, and her gift for finding the beauty in life’s everyday moments.
Because of the rise in Covid cases, the family plans to postpone a celebration of Joan’s life until a time when we can gather safely. In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to the Providence Art Club or your public library. Or go out and buy some art and think of Joan. For Guest Book, please visit www.bellowsfuneralchapel.com.
Providence Art Club
11 Thomas Street, Providence RI 02903
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