Jan. 17, 1918 – Dec. 16, 2013
Winifred Madison died peacefully in her sleep on Dec. 16, 2013. She was 95 years old. Her final months were much improved by the affectionate care of her Fijian caregivers: Ana, Claire, Salote, Vinni and Kalesi and the care of Yolo Hospice.
She will be remembered as a force for her relentless energy, her vivid imagination and her strong opinions. She loved nothing more than a good book, a pot of strong coffee, some sunshine, a visit with a friend and a stretch of solitude in which to write and paint. She had wonderful friends of all ages who fondly visited in her final months.
Winifred grew up in the midst of a large and boisterous extended family in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Her favorite childhood memories were of spending summers with her numerous cousins at Narragansett Pier in Rhode Island.
When she was 18, Winifred enrolled at Bennington College, where she relished the opportunity to study dance in a program led by Martha Graham. She left school in order to lead a bohemian life in Greenwich Village, where she kept the company of artists, poets and musicians. She earned her living there as an artist’s model, working for such well-known artists as Reginald Marsh and Arshile Gorky.
In 1941 Winifred returned to Hartford, where she met and married John Madison. They chose farming as their livelihood, farming first in Avon, Conn., and later in Ithaca, N.Y., where John doubled as a Ph.D. student at Cornell. In 1953 they moved to Davis, where John took a position with the UC Davis College of Agriculture.
A multi-talented woman, Winifred was a musician, and artist and a writer. She played the violin from an early age, and became very accomplished at it. She was a member of the Musician’s Union, and played in the UCD symphony, the Camellia Symphony and the Davis Comic Opera Company, as well as many chamber groups. She also taught private violin lessons for many years.
Winifred completed her bachelor’s degree in 1964 in studio art and English, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Her favored media were oil painting and batik. She was a prolific artist, and her works were featured in many shows throughout Northern California. A retrospective show of her work was staged at International House in Davis in 2012. Her children’s early memories of coming home included the smell of the turpentine and linseed oil that she used in painting.
Winifred’s skills as an artist led to a collaboration with Davis author Alberta Armor, who wrote books for children, which Winifred illustrated. This led to her own career as a writer. Her first young-adult novel, “Maria Luisa,” was far ahead of its time in depicting the life of a Hispanic teenage girl in California. That book was translated into eleven languages, and is still in print. Over a period of years Winifred wrote 20 published novels, as well as many non-fiction essays.
She was a founding member of the Davis Art Center and the Unitarian Church. Later in life she attended Bet Haverim. She loved meeting with her book group over a span of several decades, and was a devoted volunteer at Community Meals.
Winifred’s former husband, John Madison, died in 2005. She is survived by her children Deborah Madison (Patrick McFarlin) of Galisteo, N.M.; Mike Madison (Dianne Madison) of Winters; Jamie Madison (Manfred Kusch) of Winters and Roger Madison (Tara Watt) of Davis; and grandchildren Miles Kusch, Lindsay Madison, Maia Madison, Julian Madison and Marcus Madison.
A celebration of her life will be held in February. Details will be announced.