Tennant Glenn Davitian, artist, tastemaker, beloved mother and friend
Tennant Glenn Davitian, artist, tastemaker, beloved mother and friend, departed to the Pure Land of Great Joy as the sun set and Venus rose on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
Tenny was born in a snowstorm in Buffalo, New York on February 5, 1937. She spent her childhood in nature and imagination, by the falls of the Cazenovia Creek in East Aurora, New York. Here she lived and played with her Scotch Irish artist parents Bob and Bea Glenn and her beloved older brother Sturgen.
Ten’s abiding curiousity, excitement to improvise, and desire to connect were nourished during these early years. Her love of singing, story telling, dressing up, party planning, making pictures, and producing plays never dimmed, making her the most unique of grown-ups.
During her teens, Tenny attended the Park School of Buffalo. She was drawn to performing and loved jazz. She loved Buffalo’s jazz hotspots, where fellow outliers and master musicians welcomed her warmly and invited her to sing. Milt Jackson, Lester Young, King Pleasure, Dave Brubeck. Later, Gilberto and Jobim became the soundtrack of her life and shaped the way she saw and heard the world.
Even at a young age, Ten was aware of the world that “lay beyond”. She would often remember the l moment when “I lay in bed at my grandmother’s house in Buffalo and heard the cars going round the circle, thinking ‘I want to live where the traffic runs all night’.”
When Tenny finally did arrive in New York at 19, ready to become an actress, she discovered she’d lost her purse on the train. She called the only person she knew, who was bartending at the Imperial Bar on 30th Street and Second Avenue. While chatting at the bar, she was approached by Sam Davitian, a neighborhood “guy” who said “You look thin, I’ll take you out to dinner”. Being short on funds himself, Sam went home to eat, shower, and shave. Returning to take Tenny to Chicken Delight, he watched her eat (chicken, milkshake, fries) and proposed on the spot.
Sam was, in fact, Tenny’s dream come true. Armenian. New York. Charming like Frank Sinatra. Funny like Sid Caesar. Smart like no one else. Sam was the “someone who could help my children do their homework.”
They were finally married on September 5, 1959, at the “Little Church Around the Corner”, a liberal Episcopal church willing to unite Catholics and Presbyterians. A little over year later, they baptised their first and only child, together, Lauren-Glenn (named after the screen beauty of the time, Lauren Bacall).
The 1960s were a period of profound cultural creation and Tenny and Sam invented themselves. Their friends, painters, musicians, performers, agents, mobsters, Wall Street types, and horse players, were devoted to them. After an entertaining Saturday night dinner party, this charismatic, funny, and unusual couple, liked nothing more than a slow Sunday morning reading the New York Times, Jonathan Schwartz on the radio, and bagels for breakfast.
Tenny was (and will ever remain) known for her sublime taste. She could rearrange or redecorate in a blink, pick the perfect gift, and dress stars of screen and stage. She favored “outsider art”, but would look and talk about any artistic achievement as a way to gain insight into the culture, the time, and the people around her. She did not think of herself as a smart woman, but she was truly brilliant.
One of her friends, Ruth Gordon, remembers: “Before I opened my antique shop on Second Avenue, Tennant came in to take a look. The store had a copper tiled ceiling and she told me that if the ceiling were to be painted chocolate and the walls apricot, it would be great for showing antiques. I followed this advice and was really pleased with the result. I also remember visiting your home where Ten served a carrot soup that was the best soup I ever had in my life. Whatever she did, she did to perfection. I never met a woman with taste as right on as Tennant's--and I worked with many in the fashion business.”
Tennant ’s homes were beautiful. From her first apartments on the East Side, to her homes in Long Island City, Kennebunkport, Burlington, and Lake Worth, Florida, she picked every color, placed every artifact, hung each painting, shelved every book, and arranged each implement with careful thought and inspiration. She loved every one of her homes, including the 1938 Burlington bungalow she moved into last October.
Ten loved to travel and had so many places more to visit. The images and people from these trips never ceased to influence her creative work.
Above all, Ten considered her daughter, Lauren-Glenn, to be her greatest achievement. Their love for each other was mutual and deep. “My mother is my hero. She endured in the face of much pain and sadness. But she never gave up. She sought joy every day. Her art, humor, grace, and glamor are a gift for us all.”
Tennant was a role model for her daughter’s best high school friends at the Marymount School in the late 1970s. Anne Moore remembers: “She showed us how to be.” Jean Bambury, her pen pal of 40 years, notes “Tenny was the first adult to address me without condescension, speaking to me as though I were an adult. She was lithe and angular and had a smile that gave off real warmth. I remember the good feeling I had.”
Tennant’s entire lived and imagined experience can be found in her collection of twenty black spiraled journals, created over the past twenty years. The journals contained her masterpiece paintings, collages, family histories, postcards from her beloveds, photos of her Jack Russels, political commentary, and advice for the ages: “Navigate the uncertain,” “Leave the party when you’re having the best time,” and “The stories of our lives are what save us.”
Ten is pre-deceased by her parents, her beloved brother Sturgen Hawkins Glenn, and her best friend of the last 30 years, Jo-Ann Golden. She is survived by her daughter, Lauren-Glenn, adored son-in-law Mark Johnson and granddaughter Stella Rose. Her relations include her devoted friend (since five years old) and sister-in-law Judith Glenn and nephew Pepper Hawkins. Ten was also aunt to Jennifer Willison and Andy English. With regret she left her many friends in Lake Worth, Burlington, and across the world, including Peter Robinson, Diane Gage, Corinne McGrady, Harvey Litwin, and Karen Brown.
Special thanks to Dr. Karen Sokol, the many capable caregivers of the Community Health Centers of Vermont, Armistead Home Care, and UVM’s Home Health and Hospice.
Please consider contributions to the "stairway to heaven" McLure Miller Respite House or your charities that favor animals, children, and veterans. Tennant would be so pleased to know that her caring continues.
Submitted by:Lauren-Glenn Davitian
All obituaries are independently verified by VTDigger. To submit an obituary, click here.