A Tribute to Jo Hewitt-Nickel (1927-2022)
by Patty Hawkins, originally published in Embroidery Canada.
I am very sad to share the news with WEG members that Jo Hewitt-Nickel passed away on
Thursday, December 8th at the age of 95. There are others in the Guild who knew Jo better than me but no one could have been fonder of her. For our newer members who did not have the privilege of being acquainted with Jo, let me tell you a little bit about her, in addition to the words of her family in the attached obituary (WFP Saturday, Dec 10, 2022).
Jo was a founding member of both WEG and EAC/ACB. That means she was involved with our
organizations since 1973 and was the last surviving founding member. She was active in our
Guild and always interested in all things “needlework”. She, herself, was a retired art teacher
(Balmoral Hall) and created absolutely beautiful artwork of all kinds, including embroidery.
I met Jo when I joined WEG in 2004. in her mid-seventies at the time, she attended WEG meetings regularly. She was a true “presence” – beautifully turned out, surrounded by
members wanting to visit with her, and always happy to catch up with your news. She was
especially generous with needlework advice and mentored many of us in our embroidery
Jo also taught workshops for WEG. I was delighted to create two of her beautiful “angels”. The
first, a larger angel that could be used as a Christmas tree topper or ornament I named, of course, “Jo”. This was my introduction to stitching on trigger cloth. The technique we used can loosely be called crewel work but Jo gave us no specific directions. Rather, she encouraged us to “run with it” and try new things. I am no designer but I am delighted with the freedom she encouraged in me and I love how my “Jo” turned out. The second smaller angel, also stitched on trigger cloth, I appropriately named “Margaret”. This was my first foray into true crewel work. Jo consulted with each of her students, demonstrated a variety of stitches, and taught us about colour and stitch execution. Once I finished both of my angels on my own, Jo painted beautiful faces on them. “Jo” and “Margaret” grace my living room even as I type this, beautiful Christmas decorations with such poignant meaning for me – especially now.
I visited Jo at her apartment at the Canoe Club on a couple of occasions. When she moved over to the assisted living side, she treated Don and me to lunch and I visited her a number of times in her lovely unit. We talked for hours about everything: her family, beloved grandchildren, movies, needlework, her life, my life – you get the idea. She even hosted my in-laws when they were contemplating a move to the Canoe Club; she showed them around both her own place and the space in general. Don and I were delighted to host Jo to our house for brunch on one unforgettable occasion.
Jo was recognized as a Founding Member of EAC/ACB at the 40th-Anniversary Seminar in
Winnipeg 2013, and again at the Founders’ Tea held by WEG on October 13, 2019. At that event many of us were thrilled to honour both Jo and other surviving founding member Shirley Tyderkie, and delighted to meet their families and take in a display of their beautiful needlework.
A few years ago Jo moved from independent living to the home of her son Gary and his wife
Helga where she could be better cared for. I only spoke to her briefly once though I often thought of her and reminded myself “I should call her”. I regret now that I didn’t. But what a privilege it was to have known this special lady. She spoke with a lilting Irish accent, was always interesting and curious, and literally twinkled with joy and good humour. I hope all of you who knew her will keep her in your hearts and for those who are meeting her for the first time through these words, may you always know that there are truly special people in this world. Jo was one of those rare few.
– Patty Hawkins
Top: Jo with Patty at Seminar 2013
Patty's Angels: Middle: "Jo";
Margaret Elizabeth Josephine Hewitt-Nickel (Jo)
On December 8, 2022, Margaret Elizabeth Josephine Hewitt-Nickel, "Jo" passed away.
She is survived by her daughter Susan (Brian); grandchildren, Aidan (Ashlynn), Luke (Taiwo); her son Gary (Helga); grandchildren, Emma and Sophie. Also recognized is her friend and support for many years, Shideh Korasheh, who was like an adopted daughter.
In 1958 she left Northern Ireland with her first husband, Fred, and their children. She left her loving family whom she remained very close to throughout her life.
July 22, 1978, Jo married her soul mate Ludwig Nickel, who after what was too brief a time, passed away on January 21, 1989.
Jo was a kind, generous, loving person, who touched the lives of many people in a remarkable way over many years. Her years teaching art at Balmoral Hall School, especially her students and peers, many of who remained in her life, were very special to her. Her skill and willingness to share with others assured her an important part of the Winnipeg Embroiderers' Guild over a lifetime.
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