OBITUARY: Jane Carlson

September 24, 2021
By Staff Report

Jane Cartwright Carlson passed away peacefully on September 6, 2021, five days after her 93rd birthday. She was with her three sons when she died at Heritage Oaks of Englewood. She was her usual exuberant self until she was muted by a series of strokes several weeks prior.

Jane and her late husband, Byron (“By”), were familiar personalities on Boca Grande for many years after purchasing their first home there in 1987. Jane was always painting, and her work graces the walls of many Boca Grande homes and institutions. She delighted in donating her paintings to auctions benefitting various charities on the island.

Jane was raised in Milton, Massachusetts, where her artistic talents were evident early on. After high school, she attended The Massachusetts Academy of Art where she developed a particular sensibility for watercolor landscapes. While studying at MAA, her father, an accomplished amateur photographer, entered her into a national beauty contest held by The Society of Photographic Illustrators. She won that contest, which propelled her to New York City and a thriving modeling career with the Ford Model Agency that lasted 27 years (1948-1975). Back when they did such things, she was voted the most “photogenic” model of her era. She was most proud of her appearance on the cover of Life Magazine’s January 12, 1948, issue. She also graced the covers of McCall’s, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Women’s Day and other fashion staples of the time. In 1948 she was dubbed Cover Girl of The Year. In addition to print modeling, she appeared on television shows including The Tonight Show and The Perry Como Show among others. She also performed in dozens of television commercials and was probably best known as the spokesperson for Oil of Olay. 

All modeling careers eventually end, but that was just another beginning for Jane.  She was free to dedicate herself fully to what she loved most … her art. Jane painted her oils every day, then dreamed about them at night. She was so fully immersed in her art that it became difficult to navigate her home amongst all the paintings propped up everywhere. Working in both watercolor and oil, she loved to experiment across a range of styles including landscapes, still life, abstract and impressionism. Her paintings highlighted the beauty of nature and the simple pleasures of everyday people. She loved to paint the beaches and dunes of Boca Grande, sea gulls, shells and idle beachgoers. She was a member of the American Watercolor Society and Allied Artists of America amongst others. She displayed her work widely and was proud of the many awards she won in exhibitions across America. 

Jane was a devoted wife and managed to raise a family of three active boys while pursuing her career and keeping her paint brushes wet. It is hard to fathom how she juggled these demands on her time. 

 In addition to her family, Jane loved to fill her house with other animal life. Over the years, she adopted a monkey, turtles, finches, iguanas, a rabbit, a guinea pig, mice, fish, cats, dogs and gerbils. She frequently brought her children to the Bronx Zoo to consider the next addition to the household.

Jane’s family and those who knew her well will remember her as a big personality. She had a joie de vivre that found humor everywhere, joy among the mundane, and beauty in the aged and rusted edges of life. She was fond of saying, “I love being old because I can be as eccentric as I want.”   It was easy to understand why By’s nickname for her was “Punchy.” 

Jane is survived by her loving sons, Gary, Doug and Wes, her four grandchildren and her great grandchild. A celebration of her life will be held in 2022.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St, Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Tidewell Hospice.