B J (Betty Jean) Stapen, the eldest of three children, was born on October 23, 1939 to William and Elizabeth Winstead Lloyd of Raleigh, North Carolina. She passed away on June 12 from complications of head injuries suffered in a fall.
Growing up in Raleigh she attended Fred Olds Elemen- tary and Needham Broughton High School, class of 1957. Her numerous lifelong friends remember her as being lots of fun, upbeat, energetic, and extremely talented. One said, “Even when she was ten years old she was innately artistic.” Broughton was known for its outstanding art department of which BJ took full advantage. Extracurricular activities in- cluded working on set designs for plays and decorating the auditorium for school dances. In the 5th grade she and some friends signed on as Girl Scouts and remained in their troop all throughout school.
After graduating Broughton she attended a liberal arts school, Meredith College, for one year before marrying her high school sweetheart Jerry Truelove with whom she had a son, Jonathan, born April 5, 1960. She worked part time for the Norfolk Southern Railroad and later for Jack Wardlaw, an innovative and highly successful insurance salesman who taught her entrepreneurship. Between 1968 and 1970 she was enrolled in the prestigious North Carolina State Univer- sity School of Design in Raleigh, where she took classes in art, architecture, and design.
B J always marched to the tune of her own drum. While her classmates listened to pop and rock and roll music, she preferred Dave Brubeck and jazz. Her first car, which she bought on her own, was a red MGA British sports car, fol- lowed by an Austin-Healey a few years later. When I met her
in Denver in 1985 she was driving a 5 speed 1982 BMW 320is that she absolutely loved. That car was replaced by a Pininfarina (successor to Fiat) convertible which she cherished for many years, especially here in Santa Barbara. She liked that it had a trunk big enough to lay flat a 24 x 36 inch canvas and space behind the front seats for supplies.
After her marriage to Jerry ended in divorce, she met Daniel Young, a landscape architect with whom she and Jon moved to Muncie, Indiana where he had obtained a teaching position at Ball State University, and where B.J. earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in painting.
They also bought and operated a full scale tree and plant nursery for which B J designed newspaper ads and helped to manage. After eight dreary Indiana winters they relocated to Denver where she enrolled at the University of Colorado, Denver campus, and received a Masters De- gree in Interior Architecture in 1981.
Looking forward to a new chapter in her life when her marriage dis- solved, she leased an apartment in a high-rise overlooking Cheesman Park, and was hired by Gensler and Associates, a global design and ar- chitecture firm founded in San Francisco. An enthusiastic team player, her talent was quickly recognized by senior designers and clients. Several prominent developers conditioned their contracts upon her being speci- fied as a designer on their projects. Among her major projects were the Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Avon, Colorado, including The Charter at Bea- ver Creek Condominiums; the R.J. Reynolds corporate offices renovation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, numerous commercial office spaces in downtown Denver, building projects for Denver real estate developer Pat Broe, and Realities, a collection of wholesale showrooms, offices, and high end retail shops on South Broadway that brought to America for the first and only time, the Paris based Printemps Department Store. The grand opening gala which we attended together with Art Gensler and Printemps dignitaries was quite the party.
She met Joseph Stapen, a Denver psychiatrist and her future husband, at a Wednesday night singles event featuring live jazz music hosted by the Denver Art Museum. Before long they were head over heels in love. Following a trip to New York to meet Joe’s family and a two week trip to Italy in July where they purchased wedding bands at a small jewelry shop on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and put on each other’s hands that night, they officially wed in the backyard of B J’s house on August 2, 1985.
They had known each other for 3 1⁄2 months. B J continued to work for Gensler while becoming a stepmom to Joe’s
two sons, Adam 14 and Joshua 11, for whom he had full custody. Hardly a weekend went by when one of the nights wasn’t spent partying at the iconic jazz club El Chapultepec where there was never a cover charge and people from all walks of life came together for the music and the vibe. We enjoyed getting to know the local musicians whom we befriended, particularly tenor sax player Freddie Rodriguez, Sr. a Denver jazz colossus who headed the weekend ensemble for over 30 years.
Nestled 9,000 feet high in the Sangre de Christo Mountains overlook- ing the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, sits what was B J.’s favorite place in the whole world, Valley View Hot Springs, a rustic clothing op- tional retreat which she and Joe continued to visit regularly after moving to California. B J loved camping. Before meeting Joe she had backpacked and camped at many national parks throughout the country. One of our memorable trips was tent camping around Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. A favorite vacation destination was Santa Fe. We both loved Northern New Mexican cuisine, especially the spicy red and green chile at restau- rant La Choza, and liked revisiting galleries on Canyon Road, Paseo de Peralta, and elsewhere in town.
BJ didn’t just love nature, it’s where she experienced spiritual commu- nion from the time she spent exploring and playing with neighborhood kids in the woods and creeks near her home, to hiking and backpacking in national parks and forests, and over twenty five years of re-creating in her image the natural environment of the Central Coast.
One of the best decisions we ever made, at her urging, was to leave Denver and move to California, arriving in Santa Barbara in 1994. Final- ly, after having painted and exhibited some in Raleigh and Muncie, but with little time to do so in Denver, B J set to doing full time what she had always wanted to do, which was to paint scenery outdoors. She was adept at watercolors and both acrylics and oils, and though she won First Prize at the Lompoc Brushes and Blues Festival in 2002 with a painting on yupo paper, she preferred to paint only in oils. Her landscapes with lush brushstrokes and vibrant color captured the atmosphere and emotion of scenery in the California Impressionist Plein Air tradition.
She began showing her work and gaining notice at the weekly Santa
Barbara Arts and Crafts Show along Cabrillo Blvd. where she enjoyed engaging with onlookers and customers, and con- tinued to exhibit there for many years. Her paintings began appearing on the walls of Gallery 113 and at Santa Barbara Art Association shows at the Faulkner Gallery and other ven- ues around town. Over the years she became a mainstay at landmark events such as Art Walk at the Museum of Natural History where she exhibited both as a juried participant and at an outdoor booth; the Fine Art Santa Barbara show at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, the Semana Nautica Art Show, the Santa Barbara Mission 4th of July show, and the Los Ol- ivos Annual Quick Draw. She was also a member of Studio Artists, and has been a juried participant in Sonoma and San Luis Obispo Art Festivals. A contributor to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, she participated in Arroyo Hondo Preserve fundraisers and was passionate about protecting the land, such as the Carpinteria Bluffs and the Cow Pasture, from real estate development.
BJ joined Gallery Los Olivos in 2006, where she occa- sionally mounted a month long solo artist show in the large front room. She was too modest to ever mention this to anyone, but during one such show she sold at least one painting a day for eighteen straight days, setting a gallery record for the largest monthly gross sales. She experimented now and then with different applications and eclectic styles. Her paintings were recognizable and distinguished by their paint quality and use of color, particularly orange, which in turn influenced other landscape artists. B J loved to paint vineyards and wished she had done more. She had a natural flair for original design and composition and was often able to complete a large painting in little more than two hours on location, sometimes adding finishing touches in the studio.
Her work is on permanent display at the original Chu- mash Resort Hotel and at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. She was hon- ored to be chosen by United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine as the solo featured painter for an article about art in Santa Barbara in their Decem- ber 2007 issue. She was a member of Oil Painters of America and the Cal- ifornia Art Club, and a founding member of SCAPE – Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment.
Those who knew her best from many shared years of attending Jim Armstrong’s and later Tony Askew’s Thursday morning Adult Education class at the Schott Center, as well as others with whom she painted on location,remember her for her generosity of spirit, friendship, talent, knowledge, and dedication to her work. She was a loyal and caring friend, quick to offer help in any way.
She enjoyed gardening and planting at home, and as a former owner of a nursery, had an impressive knowledge of plants and shrubs. She was ever gracious, beautiful inside and out, and an inspiration to others. Her sweet smile nourished my soul. As much as B J loved painting, love and devotion to the man in her life was paramount above all. She lived a life of purpose, fulfillment, style, beauty, love, happiness and grace. Tony Askew, Westmont College Professor of Art, described BJ this way, “A very creative and talented artist who embraced beauty, celebrated the land- scape, and had a unique warmth and hospitality. Greatly loved by other artists, she was a gift to those of us who had the opportunity to know and paint with her. She’s greatly missed. Her beautiful work is a lasting legacy for us all.” Words cannot express the sorrow of her loss.
BJ is survived by her husband Joseph, her sister Judy Lumsden (Joe) of Fort McKavett, Texas, stepsons Adam and Joshua Stapen of Denver, niece Molly Lloyd of Atlanta, and nephews Matt Lloyd of Atlanta and Joey Lumsden of Houston. She was preceded in death by her son Jon, her brother Kenneth, and her niece Amanda Lumsden, DVM. Donations in her name can be made to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara and the BJ Stapen Plein Air Art Scholarship Fund (in development) of the Santa Barbara Foundation. A memorial gathering to honor her life and memo- ry will be arranged in the near future. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information about time and place.
By JOSEPH STAPEN