The Queen : In Memory of Sharon Litwin

1941 – 2016

Sharon Litwin's Memorial Service

On June 24, 2016, Sharon Litwin, president and co-founder of NolaVie, passed away, leaving behind a multitude of cherished friends who loved her, and a lifetime legacy of advocacy for New Orleans arts programs and social movements. Sharon always was passionate about her city and the unique people who make New Orleans what it is.

A memorial to honor Sharon will be held Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 1:00 P.M. at The Pavilion of The Two Sisters (3 Victory Ave.) in City Park. It is open to the public and we hope that all of you who knew, worked with and admired Sharon can be there.

Sharon Litwin, Renee Peck, and Nolavie, the story

Sharon Litwin came to me in 2010 and said, “Why don’t we start a website?” Therein began a journey that took us to an online publication that has drawn together writers, artists, photographers, videographers, tipplers, cooks, bike riders, bayou dwellers, urbanites, newbies, natives and, well, you get the idea.

The common denominator? We all love this crazy city.

And Sharon, known far and wide as a serious and dedicated civic activist, was also as quirky as the city she adopted half a century ago.

My favorite Sharon home accessory? The solar-powered plastic Queen Elizabeth doll that stood and waved regally from her window ledge. Yes, she had English antiques, ballet and orchestra season tickets and stellar art (including a wall of great George Dureau paintings), but she also showed a willingness to laugh at herself, and always to share a good joke.

And that is the Sharon we pay tribute to on this page: The creative and whimsical writer who certainly interviewed august museum directors and wrote about such quality-of-life issues as sound ordinances or arts initiatives, but who also chased after the hip-hop musician or spoken-word artist. She fell in love with local poet Justin Lamb’s provocative Tips on Climbing Barbed Wire, and was the first to suggest that we start an annual Pothole Festival (why ever don’t we already have one?).

I last saw Sharon in her Chicago pied-a-terre in June, a week before she passed away from a long fight with pancreatic cancer. Weak from the battle, she nevertheless evidenced the same undaunted quick wit I had known through the years.

“Do you know about steppin’?” she asked cheerfully. “My nurse Kelly was telling me all about it, and we discovered there’s a Who Dat Steppin’ Club in New Orleans. We have got to do a story on it.”

I owe Sharon that story. It will be the last of so many that she inspired – funny, entertaining, one-of-a-kind only-in-New Orleans stories that gave us both so much satisfaction. And which made NolaVie the NOLA-centric destination that it is.

So many New Orleanians knew and loved Sharon. Those civic leaders, colleagues from a lifetime of high-powered jobs, friends who turned up at her annual latke party or a spontaneous dinner. All of them knew her generosity – when she sold her house, she threw a “pickin’ party” and lined the living room with giveaways for friends to choose.

NolaVie was an essential part of Sharon’s New Orleans circle. Our writers and editors loved her. She was our caterer, arriving at my house for monthly NolaVie contributor meetings with bags full of ripe avocados for homemade guacamole or carry-ons filled with odd snacks snagged at Trader Joe’s on her most recent trip to Chicago. She would engage in animated brainstorming and project planning, then close things down with her signature declaration: “I declare this meeting disintegrated.”

We invite all of you who knew Sharon to share your thoughts, best wishes, photographs and memories with us. Send them to [email protected], and we will continue to post them on this page, which will remain in our archives as a tribute and memorial to our founder and friend.

We will continue to carry Sharon’s vision forward, and to honor her creativity and sense of humor with stories about New Orleans, its culture, its community, its crazy lifestyle.

And maybe we will name that Pothole festival after her.

Memories of Sharon from those who knew and love her

"I was first introduced to Sharon through my sister, Babs Mollere, in their work together at the LPO.  And like so many others, I grew to admire, respect and thoroughly enjoy being in the company of such a genuine New Orleans treasure.    A cherished memory for me was Sharon’s “royal” birthday this past February celebrated with a high tea hosted in my sister’s home.  As a surprise for Sharon, my husband and I were invited to share in the fun by showing up in tails and a starched, white ruffled apron to play the roles of Downton Abbey butler, “Mr. Carson”, and lady’s maid, “Anna." 

Sharon and friends toasting to life (Photo provided by: Margaret Schuber)

Fred took our jobs seriously by researching the proper way to serve each course so as not to disappoint our British-born birthday girl! For our “impeccable service” that day, on her next trip back to New Orleans in May, Sharon thanked Babs and us by treating for dinner at Commander’s Palace --a night where she knew the service would be truly impeccable!  We will miss her generous, fun-loving spirit and remain grateful for having known her."

--Margaret Schuber 

principals on stage

Hanging with friends at Girls Night Out (Photo: Gretchen Wheaton)

Hanging with friends at Girls Night Out (Photo: Gretchen Wheaton)

"Sharon's grandsons played baseball in their early years with my boys - that is how I met Sharon, about 10 years ago. Not long after meeting her in Illinois, I was in New Orleans for business. That is the back drop for this memory:

I will never forget the night I took her out to dinner in NewO at DickieBrennans. It is my favorite eatery in NewO - I had asked for my favorite waiter Otis, and I wanted her to meet the MaitreD Mr Charles. She played along with a grin and warmth.

It was about 1/2 way thru dinner - the entire staff had been by to say hi and talk with her - that I realized it was not her first time at DickieB's 🙂 By the end of the night she had me rolling in laughter at the idiocy of me taking her out in 'her town' ! She and MrCharles had known each other for a dozen years if not more, etc etc!

Sharon taught me about grace and humility that night - and about her good humor!"

-Ronald M. Moen

"I go back nearly 40 years with Sharon. It was the summer of 1978, and I was a lowly, scared, and easily intimidated intern for the Family Section of The States-Item. Just making a phone call made me nearly sick to stomach. Sharon could not have been more welcoming. There was something about her personality — her charm, her sense of humor, her devil-may-care attitude — that almost immediately put me at ease. She along with her friend Renee Peck took me under their wings and made feel like journalism was something I could really do, that it wasn’t a fantasy, that I had the chops to succeed in this very competitive business — which I’m happy to say I did. 

With social media still many years away, I lost touch with Sharon — that is until 1990s when I became a feature writer in The Times-Picayune’s Living section. Although Sharon was no longer at the paper, she did do a fair bit of freelancing, her most noted work coming the first Friday of every Jazz Fest when she  would lead a group of taste testers — including me — around the Fair Grounds to sample every single food item, from crawfish sacks to crawfish Monica, and share our opinions. Sharon would  feverishly take notes on what everyone had to say and within a couple of days turn it into one of the most widely read stories in the paper. What a privilege it was for me to take part in that 'very difficult' assignment with such an amazing woman leading the way.  Don’t think I could ever take another bit of Jazz Fest food without thinking about Sharon and all the fun we had stuffing ourselves. I sure hope that wherever she is now she is chowing down on a Cajun duck po-boy and washing it down with a strawberry lemonade."
--Barri Bronston

"Sharon Litwin remains in our memories as a vibrant, intelligent person who made such a difference in New Orleans.  We can always picture her dynamic personality, ready smile, and sense of humor.  It is hard to believe that one person could have accomplished what she did in New Orleans and left the city and its culture better than when she arrived!

We first knew her as a fellow Newman parent.  Our daughters’ Rebecca Litwin Newman and Kathy Weilbaecher were friends.  We knew her at first as a loving, caring and fun parent.  It wasn’t long before we realized all that she was doing for our city.

During her tenure at the New Orleans Museum of Art, she was so innovative in getting interest in the museum.  We enjoyed her leadership in groups like The Partners in Art and Delgado Society.  They were fun as well as educational, and she encouraged people to move up to higher categories of donation.

I sat by Sharon Litwin four years ago at a lunch.  We caught up on our children and grandchildren and in the conversation, I mentioned that our youngest daughter was having her first child in Chicago.  We were not going to be able to see the baby for a week after the birth.  She put us in touch with Sharon’s daughter, Dr. Rebecca Litwin Newman, a pediatrician in Chicago.  It was so lucky for us that Rebecca was seeing all the newborns in the very hospital that our daughter was delivering the baby boy.

Rebecca went to see our new grand baby and reported that we would love to hug this healthy boy with his chubby cheeks!   Sharon was truly happy for us!  The old phrase, 'If you want something done, ask a busy person' really applied to Sharon Litwin.  She had a 'life well lived,' and we are all better for having known her."

--Sharon, Bob, Kathy Susan, Bobby, Ann Weilbaecher

"When I think of my good friend Sharon Litwin, I’m reminded of what Moss Hart said about Sharon’s fellow Brit Julie Andrews when Hart directed her in My Fair Lady: 'She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.'

During her half-century in New Orleans, Sharon was a terrific leader who had the magical property of making even the most improbable things happen – creating a farmers market, for instance, or raising millions of dollars for a museum wing, or getting convicts to design water lilies for streetcars to promote an exhibit of Monet’s paintings. (I’m not making that up.)

All these things took plenty of work, but, like any good magician, Sharon didn’t let on about that aspect of her magic. What made her a splendid leader, aside from the fact that one simply didn’t say no to Sharon Litwin, was her ability to make whatever she was doing seem like the coolest thing in the world that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

I speak from second-hand experience here. In 1995, my wife, Diana Pinckley, told me that Sharon Litwin had called to enlist her in the plan to launch what has become the Crescent City Farmers Market.

Pinckley signed on immediately because, she said, Sharon made it sound exciting. Later on, when Sharon asked Pinckley to chair the market board, she said yes, not only because she believed in the market and was an enthusiastic customer but also because she knew better than to say no.

Sharon possessed the power of the Pied Piper. Every year on the opening day of Jazz Fest, Sharon -- followed by a group of happy acolytes -- would stake out a table and dispatch folks to go to as many food booths as possible to pick up dishes for group sampling and for the roundup she would write for the following Friday’s Lagniappe. We felt like privileged insiders to be in that number.

I met Sharon when she worked at WYES. She was a producer who, on Friday afternoons, doubled as a makeup artist when we States-Item scribes would show up to appear on 'City Desk,' which I described as the country cousin of 'Washington Week in Review.'

I later worked with Sharon at The States-Item and The Times-Picayune, and I watched her blossom at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as in her multitude of volunteer activities.

No doubt about it, Sharon fit in with the city’s musicians, artists and decision-makers, and she seemed to know everyone worth knowing. Even though she remained resolutely British – she used a life-size cut-out of Queen Elizabeth II, complete with handbag, to denote her house when it was time for her annual latke party – I’ll never forget the first-person story she wrote for The States-Item when she became an American citizen, accompanied by a photo of Sharon signing the necessary paperwork. She was so proud.

But there was no mistaking the British core. She claimed to be able to do a splendid imitation of Dame Vera Lynn’s singing 'The White Cliffs of Dover' – I’m sorry I never got to hear it – and she could unleash her crisp accent to remind you of who was in charge.

At a local 2012 party to celebrate the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, when the moment came to lift our glasses to toast the monarch, we must have been a little bit rowdy because a crisply accented voice cut through the chatter with this command: “Everyone upstanding.”

You’d better believe that we all shut up and stood.

I’ll miss that accent – and the person behind it.

Here’s to you, Sharon. With love."

--John Pope

"I did a search on 'Do female lions roar?'  We all know the iconic male roar - big mane, rather vain actually.  There was a YouTube clip of a lioness roaring.  Cubs were romping behind her; her male mate was sleeping.  But the Lioness was on duty, making sure things didn't get out of hand.  Taking care of business. Sharon Litwin was a Lioness of the first order.  A leader and mentor for her like-minded 'cub' colleagues.  Seldom depending on the closest male to protect her or bolster her cause.  Fearless. This served her well in the personal quest to improve the lives of all of us. She leaves a hole in New Orleans that I don't think any one person can fill.  I loved her tenacity, but I also loved her quick wit and her laugh.  I hope she was laughing as she slipped from our world onto something bigger."

--Barbara Motley

Sharon Greed

Sharon showing her "Greed" skills

"greed (noun): 

1. Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth or power.

2. Holiday tradition played at the Peck family house, in which you roll dice to select a gift or steal from another. Players can go home with multiples presents, or remain empty-handed. "Like life, it's unfair, arbitrary and based entirely on luck" – Renee Peck herself. 

While Sharon was the absolute anti-thesis to the more familiar definition of 'greed' – selflessly giving her time, wisdom, love generosity, etc. to those lucky enough to surround her – she was always my first choice as a partner in this eccentric family game. From her talent at coming up with team names (I believe we were 'The Dancing Queens' last year), to her shrewd ability to pick the most valuable presents, any moment spent with her was a moment worth treasuring. I love you Sharon – you'll forever be my first greed pick!"
--Kat Peck
 
"Bon Voyage Sharon!  Le temps vol. From a man who shared a sandwich with you, just after the storm."
--Skip Henderson
 
"I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Sharon – she was such a shining, smiling, powerful presence as a friend and mentor.It was shocking to me that I actually got to follow in her footsteps as an Assistant Director at NOMA…but who could ever fill those footsteps??

She shared her wisdom and guidance long before that job, however…and long after.

Most of all – and for what I am most grateful – is that she shared herself. Her glorious self. Her humor and wit. Her boundless appetite for learning. Her ceaseless determination to do more…for people, for institutions, for her adopted and beloved city.
I learned so much from Sharon. I loved being with her. I loved her."

--Clem Goldberger

In the Jewish tradition, it is said that the departed we now remember still live on Earth in the acts of goodness they performed, and in the hearts of those who cherish their memory. In  those ways, Sharon truly will live forever.

"I always waited for that magic moment when Sharon would call our NolaVie meetings to a close. With a smile and a clear voice she would say, "I declare this meeting disintegrated." She made me feel comfortable with her warmth and million dollar smile. I can't believe she's gone, and I don't believe it. I'm sure she's taken a seat at our NolaVie meeting table unless she's too busy organizing heaven." -- Carol Pulitzer

Intrepid tasters Sharon Litwin, Renee Peck and Laine Kaplan-Levenson al fresco at Bayou Hot Wings. (Photo by Nina Feldman)

From hot wings to seven-course meals, Sharon loved them all (Photo by: Nina Feldman)

"I had the happy occasion to meet my mother and Sharon in New York a couple of times when they were there for orchestra conventions. The offers involved a free place to sleep bunking in with Mom, time on my own to 'suit myself tooling around' while they were in meetings, and at least one guaranteed special restaurant experience.  Sharon was still working for the Zagat guide at the time as a restaurant critic, and would schedule meetings with Tim Zagat to touch base while she was there.  Mom and I did not get to experience the uber-royal treatment involved in eating at a table with Tim, but I loved hearing about it when we regrouped.  And although Sharon adhered strictly to being incognito when she was eating somewhere she was reviewing, I'm pretty sure she got to throw the Zagat connection around when booking reservations for us.  We always had a great table, a great meal, and a great time!  Sharon would look at me and say things like 'Oh yes- we were born for this!' and I would make eyebrows and agree, pretending to sling a stole back over my shoulder, while Mom would roll her eyes at us. Mom admired Sharon's ability to stay grounded and get things done, while I (coming from a totally different perspective) embraced the glamorous side of her jobs even though I knew she worked like a dog. 

Later on after Mom retired from the LPO and the Zagat guide had been sold to Google, Sharon was still my go-to person for all things food and restaurant.  I was working on putting together an engagement party for my youngest brother, and needed advice on restaurants in New Orleans with private rooms.  I texted Sharon with a request for suggestions and also mentioned the passing of the ceramicist JoAnn Greenberg, whom we both knew, signing off with my usual 'S.'  I didn’t realize I had texted her home number, and furthermore, that if you unwittingly text a land-line, a robot will call that number and read the text message out loud, taking punctuation and capitalization into consideration in order to accurately convey the feeling behind the words.  When Sharon came home and played her messages she listened to what sounded like a man with a laryngectomy say:

'Loo-king for a fun-kee venue in…. No!!!!  For part-ee for Rock-ee.  So sad a-bout JoAnn Greenberg. Ess.'

I could not have written a weirder, more awesomely absurd message for a robot to read out loud if I had tried.  The mildly suggestive, fake-Chinese sounding come-on, interrupted by a seemingly schitzofrenic, remonstrative 'No!' (the misinterpretation of my abbreviation for New Orleans), and then mention of her recently deceased friend must have been quite disturbing, and all before the final humiliation of being called an ass.  When she called me back, it took a minute to figure out who it was because she was laughing so hard I really couldn’t understand her.  After we managed to figure out what on earth had just happened, I think we stayed on the phone for five minutes not speaking, but just laughing into each other’s ear.   This is how I picture her in my mind- shoulders heaving, head thrown back, and hooting with laughter.  It’s kind of interesting that although I obviously couldn’t see her then, this mental picture is much clearer than any real memory of her face. 

And I think that’s just fine."

--Simone Burke

"It seems like I knew Sharon for decades, first as Marty Litwin's wife -- he did the surgery on one of my private duty patients when I was an R.N. Then, once I became the Society Photographer for the Times-Picayune, she was often my contact person at events, and an efficient one at that. I never could reconcile her British accent, however, because she seemed to be a native New Orleanian. She was so involved in the cultural life of the city. New Orleans has lost a devoted friend, and we are all the poorer for it. Yet, her legacy will not fade any time soon."

--Darlene Olivio

Sharon Litwin at the first Going for Baroque event (1)

Sharon Litwin and Deborah Pope at the first Going for Baroque event (Photo provided by: Deborah Pope)

"I was Sharon's assistant for almost three years until she left NOMA for the LPO. She was supportive and generous. She even had faith enough in me to allow me to curate the satellite Degas exhibit at the Sheraton downtown. In the years to follow, every time I would see her at the symphony or the opera, I gave her a big hug and thank you for all she did for me, and I would enjoy one of her beaming smiles. Every time I hear someone say "sweetie" I think of her.

This photo is of us at the inaugural Going for Baroque run/walk. Her joyful, smiling face says everything about the enthusiasm she had for life. I will always be grateful for the honor of knowing her."

--Deborah Pope

"Really?  Did we look that much alike?  White short hair, about the same vintage, similar taste in clothes, hung out in the same places for a few years more than a decade, ordered the same items on menus, laughed on a dime, mostly voted Democrat, and told the unvarnished truth.  We never really understood how people could get us confused.  Truth be told, Sharon had a gazillion more funny stories, knew infinitely more restaurants, gave many more parties, and offered to pay the bill more often – thank goodness!  

Here’s the thing…I don’t know anyone who enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest any more than Sharon -- good times and bad.  I hope it rubbed off on me.  So if you run into me and think it might be Sharon, I’m going to smile and say, 'Well sort of...it’s Babs; but thanks, I’m wearing her Eileen Fisher.'"

--Babs Mollere

IMG_2469"There are so many years, so many stories, and so many beautiful memories with Sharon. She was a driving force for excellence  for so many decades. I first met her during the 1984 World's Fair planning when she, in her role at NOMA, and Lee Kimche pulled together the competition for water sculptures. She was and remained a source of invigorating and inspirational thinking, and one who would never settle for mediocrity or dullness. And of course that voice! Sharon had the most peaceful and soothing British accent, and could weave even the most uncomfortable conversations into pleasant exchanges, leaving the ear wanting for more.

Most importantly, Sharon was someone who would give it to you straight, enjoy a good time with friends, and never wasted time on earth. She was and remains a gift to us."

--Mark Romig

 

 

Donate In Sharon's Honor

Sharon also asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts that you donate to NolaVie in her honor. Her last thoughts were focused on giving back to the community she loved so very much, and we at NolaVie are dedicated to continuing her mission to advocate for New Orleans culture through our stories and our voices.

Sharon's Contributions and NolaVie Favorites

Sharon Litwin moved to New Orleans in 1966 and immediately took to heart its creative culture and unique people. She became a force in journalism, broadcasting, culture and community activism during her half-century here. Her civic accomplishments were many and impactful. We at NolaVie not only remember the spirit she brought to the community but also the spirits she loved to showcase at NolaVie, such as the following: 

Sharon Litwin, irrepressible promoter of New Orleans culture, dies at 75

By: John Pope (nola.com)

Sharon Litwin, an Englishwoman who became a force in journalism, broadcasting, culture and community activism during her half-century in New Orleans, died Friday in her Chicago apartment of complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 75. 

Ms. Litwin, a New Orleans resident since 1966, was in Chicago because she was being treated at Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"She was as much a New Orleanian as anyone whose family has been here for five generations," said Renée Peck, a longtime friend who, with Ms. Litwin, founded NolaVie, a cultural, not-for-profit website that was launched in 2011.

Ms. Litwin not only worked with Peck to get a grant to establish the site but also wrote a weekly "culture watch" column for it and produced a weekly culture-news segment on WWNO-FM about whatever in the city appealed to her broad range of interests.

"The culture of New Orleans made her tick," said Jackie Sullivan a longtime friend who, as the museum's deputy director, worked with Ms. Litwin during her time there.

"The arts, the music, the food – everything about New Orleans was what Sharon loved, and that was the essence of her life," Sullivan said. "She just had a knack for taking a spin on something and making it great if it had something to do with the culture of this city."

Ms. Litwin's work with NolaVie capped a career that included jobs as a producer at WYES-TV, a reporter for The States-Item and The Times-Picayune, assistant director of the New Orleans Museum of Art and executive director and, then, senior vice president for external affairs of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

"It's phenomenal that one person did all of this," said Bill Fagaly, who retired this year as the museum's curator of African art. "She loved this city, and I think she had an insight into how she could help this city and what she wanted to do to make this city better."

Ms. Litwin also kept busy with volunteer work, which included stints as president of the Contemporary Arts Center; the Committee of 21, which was formed to elect more women to office; Cultural Communications; and the Mental Health Association in Metropolitan New Orleans. She also was a founder of the Crescent City Farmers Market and Partnership for Action, whose accomplishments included the installation or repair of about 2,500 street lights to deter crime.

In recognition of Ms. Litwin's service, she received the Mayor's Arts Award, the YWCA and the Young Leadership Council named her a role model, and CityBusiness designated her one of its Women of the Year in 2002.

"No one asked her to do this stuff when she got off work," said Richard McCarthy IV, a founder of the farmers market. "When you look at New Orleans and the things that put a smile on your face about New Orleans expressing itself over the last 40 years, chances are she was behind it. You'd never know it because the last thing she'd want to do was broadcast that she was making something happen."

Some things were bigger than others. Early in 1995, when 22 of Claude Monet's late works went on display at the New Orleans Museum of Art while Ms. Litwin was its assistant director for development, the city went mad for Monet. Restaurants offered Monet-themed meals, and people could enjoy a sound-and-light spectacular in the Warehouse District, a puppet musical about Monet and reproductions of the impressionist master's works in chocolate. Orleans Parish Prison inmates painted murals on a railroad bridge on the edge of City Park that were inspired by Monet's paintings, and they made wooden versions of water lilies, which appear often in Monet's paintings, to adorn streetcars.

"While the big cities are too big or blasé, there's a level of creativity in this town that is wonderful," Ms. Litwin said in an interview then. "This is a party town. If you can turn it into a party, you will turn it into a party."

This all-out, unorthodox approach to promoting art worked. The two-month exhibit drew 234,524 visitors, the biggest turnout for any exhibit at the museum since the blockbuster "Treasures of Tutankhamun"  show in 1977-78. Visitors spent about $25.5 million in hotels, restaurants and other outlets, according to an analysis of the exhibit's impact by the local pollster Ed Renwick.

It was, Peck said, an example of Ms. Litwin's approach to whatever she did.

"She kept putting projects together," Peck said. "She saw possibility in everything. ... She didn't think she couldn't do anything."

In addition to promoting exhibits like the Monet display, Ms. Litwin raised about $23.5 million to expand the art museum and launch the first big piece of an operating endowment, Sullivan said. At LPO, she led the musician-owned orchestra through tough times that required salary cuts for everyone, including her.

"The key to her personality was her English persistence," said John Bullard, who was Ms. Litwin's boss at the museum. "Once she committed herself to a project or an organization, she pursued her goals until she accomplished them."

But despite her habitually sunny nature, crisp English accent and ever-present smile, McCarthy said, "Sharon was someone you didn't say no to."

Sharon Norma Robinson was born on Feb. 16, 1941, in Blackpool, England, where her family had relocated because London was being bombed during the early days of World War II. Her family included actors and musicians, and her father was a member of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders.

"The arts, the music, the food – everything about New Orleans was what Sharon love." - Jackie Sullivan
 

She graduated from Kilburn Polytechnic Institute in London with majors in French and business, and she went to work as a secretary in the BBC's North American section. She became an assistant producer who worked on segments covering South Africa and North America.

While there, she met an American surgeon, Martin Litwin,  who was in England on a fellowship and had come to the studio to schedule an interview. She not only arranged the session and held the microphone but also wound up marrying him. The couple moved to Boston, where he completed his residency in Harvard-affiliated hospitals.

The Litwins moved to New Orleans in 1966 when he took a faculty post at Tulane University School of Medicine. He became the first medical director of its faculty-practice program.

The Litwins' marriage ended in divorce, and he died in 2008.

Shortly after the couple arrived in New Orleans, Ms. Litwin got a job at WYES-TV, where she worked for 10 years, producing documentaries such as "Free Men of Color" and "Gospel," as well as the series "Opportunity: A Program for Women," which was designed for women re-entering the job market.

Ms. Litwin then went to work as a reporter for The States-Item and, later, The Times-Picayune, after the newspapers merged in 1980. In an interview, she said she wrote about everything from garage sales to schizophrenia, although she said her main interests were culture and women's issues. 

Even though Ms. Litwin moved on to the museum in 1985, she continued to work for the newspaper on a freelance basis, contributing frequently to the InsideOut and Living sections. Ms. Litwin also wrote for national magazines such as American Way and Travel & Leisure, and she was the New Orleans editor of the Zagat restaurant survey for more than two decades.

At the museum, colleagues said, Ms. Litwin drew on her vast network of friends throughout the city to help it develop new audiences and raise money.

"There was a Rolodex on her desk that was the size of a pumpkin. That said it all," said McCarthy, who works in New York City's borough of Brooklyn as executive director of Slow Food USA. "She connected with everybody.

"Anyone who came to New Orleans, she felt a responsibility to connect and welcome because she had made New Orleans her home and knew how difficult it was to navigate and wanted to show them how to do it. She seamlessly moved in and out of different worlds like a shaman."

Wherever Fagaly and Ms. Litwin went, he said, "I was always astonished ... that she knew everybody, and everybody knew her. She was so well-connected with the community on so many levels."

She made those connections work for her projects. For instance, McCarthy said, when he and Ms. Litwin were developing what would become the Crescent City Farmers Market, she suggested approaching the patrician W. Boatner Reily III, a former Rex and the leader of Reily Foods Co., about using his company's parking lot at Magazine and Girod streets for the Saturday morning market.

McCarthy said he had been dubious about the chances that what he described as "a ragamuffin farming organization" would get to use that space. But when Joan Coulter, a Reily colleague, approached Reily with the idea, she said this was his response: "That's a great idea. Let's do it."

The market opened there in the summer of 1995 and has developed offshoots in Uptown, Mid-City and, most recently, French Market.

Such matches were evidence of "brilliance," McCarthy said, adding: "She wasn't bound by categories. She would continually seek ways to build bridges between people who didn't know they would care about each other."

Her networks converged every December at a latke party she gave in her home to coincide with the start of Hanukkah. In addition to providing piles of potato pancakes with all the trimmings, including smoked salmon, caviar and sour cream, these gatherings let people from diverse parts of Ms. Litwin's life meet and learn about each other.

The same synergy happened with NolaVie, Sullivan said, because it let Ms. Litwin's interests – and her love for the city – show.

"The essence of that website reminded me of why we live here," Sullivan said. "This is the city she loved. She could have lived anywhere, but this was the place where she made a difference."

Survivors include two daughters, Anna-Marie Jene of San Francisco and Dr. Rebecca Litwin Newman of Glenview, Ill.; a sister, Carole Streat of London; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 1:00 P.M. at The Pavilion of The Two Sisters (3 Victory Ave.) in City Park.