Eileen Potts Dawson left this life in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2017, following her battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Eileen was born Eileen Marie Potts, in Camden, N.J., and raised in Audubon, N.J. She was the oldest of five children born to the late Francis and Catharine (Welsh) Potts. Eileen graduated from Audubon High School in 1965 and Moore College of Art in 1969, in Philadelphia, Pa., with a bachelor of fine arts degree. She married Thomas Dawson in December, 1969.
Eileen was an accomplished artist, first as a fashion illustrator for Strawbridge and Clothier in Philadelphia, to support her and her husband Tom while he attended Rutgers University and Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.
In 1976, Eileen and Tom moved to Wisconsin, to allow Tom to begin his career at the Wis. Dept of Justice. From 1976 to 1985, Eileen was an illustrator for Gimbels in Milwaukee. After moving to Madison, Eileen worked as a freelance artist in the multimedia arts, including watercolor, intaglio etching, pen and ink, pastel and, most recently, in colored pencils. Eileen was represented by Valperine/Perine Art Gallery on Monroe St., Madison, for 20 years, and her paintings can be found in both private and corporate collections. Eileen served on the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission from 1997 to 2010.
Eileen illustrated several children's books including "W is for Wisconsin," "H is for Hawkeye," "H is for Hoosier," and American Girl books "Samantha Learns a Lesson" and "Samantha's Surprise." Eileen also worked as freelance artist for "Wisconsin Trails" magazine for over 10 years.
Environmental education for children was dear to Eileen's heart. She supported and was involved in the Madison School Forest, located a few miles outside of Verona, Wis. The forest provided students, teachers and parents with a natural space to enjoy the fresh air, bird watching and learning about various plants, animals, and insects. Eileen's drawings, in addition to the original artwork created by Lincoln school students, was used to produce a calendar, which benefited the "Teaching Forest," an invaluable place for young students to learn about and be close to nature.
At the root of Eileen's life was a sense of social justice that drove her work and personal life. She wanted a better life for every child and believed education to be the key to their success; and believed politics to be a necessity, although often a frustrating process, to create a better opportunity for all children.
Eileen and Tom joyously welcomed their son Matthew into their family on Nov. 27, 1984. Eileen enjoyed being a stay-at-home, working mom before Matt started elementary school. When Matt entered school, Eileen was a frequent volunteer in Matt's class, eventually turning those volunteer hours into a paid position. Eileen worked for the Madison public schools, including many years as a librarian assistant at Lincoln Elementary, where she was beloved by both the staff and students. She spent countless hours mentoring and helping children who were struggling and needed extra attention. Eileen retired on Dec. 20, 2016, after 22 years of dedicated service, surrounded by her colleagues and circle of friends.
Although divorced from Tom in 2001, Eileen and Tom maintained their close friendship and co-parenting of their son. Eileen easily extended her friendship to Tom's wife, Mary Rose Teves, who quickly became another member of the family and provides loving support for Eileen and Tom's son.
Eileen was voracious reader and member of Meg's Book Club for approximately 15 years. If Eileen loved a book, she often bought multiple copies, graciously asking the authors to autograph them and gave them as gifts to family and friends.
While Eileen's priority was her son, Matt, a wonderful young adult who has made her very proud. Eileen's passion for life extended to the rescue of animals. She had an affinity for owls, crows, penguins, elephants; the list could go on. Ultimately, her strongest love and passion was for rescue dogs.
Growing up in New Jersey, there was always a dog in the home and living in Wisconsin, there was always a dog who shared a life with her: Tansy, Nick, Reilly and, most recently, Griffey. Over the last five years, Eileen began a much loved second career of drawing companion animal portraits. Eileen drew dogs, cats, birds, rabbits; any animal companion from photos that their owners provided. She also sent drawings to the bereaved families of their beloved animal "family members" who crossed the rainbow bridge. Her heart would never allow her to put a price on these drawings as she understood all too well the heartbreak of losing a furry animal companion.
You can view Eileen's work at CompanionAnimalPortraits.com.
Eileen was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her son, Matt; sister, Rosemary (Potts) Lindquist (Jan); brothers, Michael (Judy), Richard and James (Lois) Potts; nieces, Jessica (Cody), Jennifer, Stephanie and Emma; nephews, Adam (Ashley) and Peter; grand-nephews, Gavin, Benjamin, Carter and Jack; and in-laws, Ed Dawson, Lynda Dawson, and Lynda's daughters, Jeanne and Debbie.
Details of a memorial service will be provided via the Cress Funeral Home website (below) and an announcement will also be placed on Eileen's Facebook page.
Eileen's family would like to thank Interim HealthCare of Madison, Wis., for the kindness and care they provided Eileen during the final three weeks of her life. The staff, including nurses, aides, and therapists, were extremely kind and attentive.
Cremation services provided by Cress Funeral Home, Madison, Wis.
In lieu of flowers or other offerings, Eileen wished that donations in her memory be made to any of these organizations:
Coppers Dream Rescue (a non-profit rescue in California):
c/o Jill Reinemann
1500 Morse Blvd.
San Carlos, CA 94070
Voorhees Animal Orphanage
PO Box 1363
419 Cooper Road
Voorhees, NJ 08043
RESPOND Fund - REcognizing and Supporting Pets and Owners in NeeD
Lincoln Elementary School Library
Attention: Jim Igielski
909 Sequoia Trail
Madison, WI 53713
Or: To an animal shelter or animal rescue group of your choice.
Please share your memories of Eileen.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road, Madison
Eileen was beyond kind and generous. We were connected in the weirdest way (playing the Draw Something app--thanks Sandy!) and I knew instantly she was a kindred spirit. She saw my posts with my foster dogs and when the first portrait appeared, I cried. Actually, the several after that each made me teary. Every time. Her ability to capture the nature of each pup simply floored me. The detail in every pups' eyes and expressions were so full of love, they could only be created by an artist made of such love. I miss her tremendously. The planet lost a good one with her.
I only had the pleasure of knowing Eileen through Facebook and her gift of art. We chatted periodically about the rescue dogs that I fostered, and I was so fortunate to receive two of her masterpieces. She followed my foster Nola who I had for over a year and captured her essence in her drawing. Her owners now have that drawing in their gallery of family photos. I will miss Eileen and her gift of art. Her ability to capture the soul of a dog without ever meeting that dog was amazing. And her open heart was a gift to all of us. I am lucky to have known her so briefly. Karen Luna
What a wonderful woman! She was such talented and generous soul, constantly giving to all she met. Her beautiful drawings were a inspiration and her donations to animal rescues were tremendous. She will be truly missed.
How sad that Eileen is gone. We were neighbors for many years when we lived on Bagley Parkway and spent many weekends playing bridge. I am also an artist so we had a strong bond for many years. The world is a smaller place without her in it.
Reading Is Essentail
Farewell to a wonderful woman, from your classmates at Audubon High School in New Jersey. Gone too soon. Prayers for you loved ones and friends in Madison.
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