Life Story: Beatrice ‘Bid’ Johns, 89; Helped Expand Zimmerli Art Gallery

Beatrice Inglee Dewson Johns, “Bid” to her friends and family, died at her Somerset home on Sept. 18 after a series of illnesses.

Bid was born in East Orange on Sept. 28, 1927 and raised in the Ridgewood home designed by her father, Inglee Ball Dewson. She was the daughter of Beatrice Mary Campbell Dewson and the sister of Mary Blackburn Dewson, later Greer. After visiting the World’s Fair in 1939, the tall, skinny Bid was dubbed by her schoolmates “the trylon” and her best friend “the perisphere.” These were the famous symbols of the Bronx event that persist today.

Inspired by her aunt Molly Dewson, the activist and advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bid graduated Smith College in 1949 after attending Ridgewood High School and pursued a career in advertising at Cummins Associates, where she became a vice president.

After marrying Francis Ashley Tremenheere Johns, a veteran of World War II, serving in the British Royal Air Force, Bid retired from advertising to raise her children during the 60s and 70s, volunteering at their schools and going back to work at Rutgers Preparatory School, responsible for fund-raising.

In the 80s, she was made chairman of the Rutgers Art Museum Friends where she helped lead the effort to expand the museum into what is known now as the Zimmerli Art Gallery. Throughout it all, she was an active member of The Study Club, a group of women who meet monthly to share research that they had done on topics selected by the group. For over 60 years, this group has engaged and supported all its members through the events in their lives. She read The New York Times cover to cover until she was 89.

She is survived by her son Francis Arthur Tremenheere Johns, a pilot who lives in Portland, Maine; daughter Alison Inglee Johns, a digital media executive in Manhattan and her son-in-law David MacLean Kennedy, a criminologist and professor in New York City. She was predeceased in 1998 by her husband.

As a fierce feminist and entrepreneurial working woman in the 1960s, she was proud to be the first client of her dear friend Elizabeth Mukuna, who founded Liz Home Care in Hillsborough and provided Bid, determined to age in her own home, with warm, expert care. Florence Kiyale, through her last years her daily companion and caregiver, kept her safe, secure, and animated; grew a bountiful vegetable garden; and became a close friend of Bid and her family.

A memorial service will be held in coming months.


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