Blanche L. Sims, accomplished illustrator of more than 100 children’s books, winner of the Parent’s Choice Foundation Commendation for Television, 2000 for Beyond the Butterfly, died May 19 in Fairfield. She was 92.
Blanche Sims: illustrator Contributed photo
Her career began at the Famous Artists School in Westport as a researcher before being promoted to art Instructor for their young peoples art course. The school closed in 1972 and Blanche joined Xerox Educational Publications as an illustrator for Weekly Reader. She later launched her freelance career as an illustrator of children’s books working from her studio in Westport.
Blanche moved to Newtown, where she lived with her son Bill and his family for 17 years. She found continued inspiration for her illustrations from her grandsons, Billy and Henry, their black cat Boo-boo, their Great Pyrenees dog, Buddy who appeared in several of her books.
Some of her favorites include, the George and Diggety series, the Sally Ann series, and I Took My Frog to the Library
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1927 to Theodora Sekulic and Hugh E. Lombardi, Blanche was the oldest of seven children and a child of the depression. Her paternal grandfather, Joseph Lombardi, a portrait painter and professor of Art at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, became her first mentor. He recognized his granddaughter’s talent, and would send her challenging assignments as a child, such as a hand or foot to draw, and reward her with chocolate bars, lockets, and rings.
His portraits, of Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington are part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Blanche studied under Paul Ulen at West Tech High School in Cleveland who became her second mentor. An art instructor from the Cleveland School of Art, Ulen stressed meticulous drawing and that is what Blanche did, from live models to plaster casts.
She gave up a scholarship to follow her high school sweetheart, Bill Sims Senior, who was pursuing his career in advertising and illustration, to New York then to Brooklyn. They would later marry, have four children, three daughters and a son, and move to Westport.
Blanche will be remembered for her love of art, colorful personality, and fun-loving spirit. She enjoyed the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, was an avid golfer and often the instigator of a practical joke. Much of her success was due to her talent and her perseverance. She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends.
She is survived by her four children: Loretta Chaney of Danbury, Gregri Hepting of Ft Collins, Colorado, Deborah Sims of Westport, and William J. Sims Jr, of Fairfield, eight grandchildren; Sara Miller of Rowayton, Kelly MacAskill of Norman, Oklahoma, Jonah Hepting of Denver, Stephanie Nye of Fort Collins, Colorado, Kate Coffey of Brookfield, Mark Hoyt of Brookfield, William J. Sims III, currently traveling, and Henry Sims of Brooklyn, New York, and six great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter.