Obituaries 03-03-2022

Lise Lange Striar

She Had a Passion for Plants and Flowers

Lise Lange Striar was born on Dec. 3, 1935, in Trondheim, Norway, daughter of Jean Emil Lange and Anna Therese Larsen. She grew up in Oslo and Arendal, attending Oslo Katedralskole and the University of Oslo, where she was awarded the Norwegian equivalent of master’s degrees in English, French, and History.

She is survived by her beloved husband of 62 years, Myles; daughters Siri, Johanna, and Maria; son-in-law Francisco Hernandez and grandson Emilio Hernandez; sister Marit, brother Johan Emil, and numerous adoring nieces and nephews, all in Norway. She is pre-deceased by her sister Eva and her grandson Mathias.

Lise was a proud Norwegian, and despite living here for 60 years, never became a U.S. citizen, although she followed its politics avidly. Because of her diligence, her children not only learned to speak Norwegian fluently, but both visited and lived there and forged deep connections with her large family there, for whom she was a grounding, calm, and uniting presence

An avid reader of newspapers, periodicals, and books of all ilk, reading in several languages, Lise was a member of two large reading groups. She was committed to the civic good, especially the greening of the city, and was a member and supporter of multiple organizations, including Friends of the Public Garden, the Beacon Hill Garden Club, and Rogerson Communities.

Lise had great taste and style in home and dress, often in a signature Scandinavian flavor. She had a passion for plants and flowers, and developed a beautiful garden in Truro, Cape Cod, in which she installed her father’s orange dahlias from Norway, as well as, after much work, bountiful gooseberry bushes, which brought a taste of her childhood to her American neighbors.

Although slightly introverted, Lise was a fierce hostess, for many years throwing a massive holiday party, which friends would arrange their schedules not to miss, and featuring the potent mulled wine gløgg, as well as six types of home-pickled herring, seven types of Christmas cookies, and homemade breads, pates, and terrines. Parties, celebrating the many holidays of her and Myles’s cultural mix, or any other event that seemed to warrant it often included ridiculous activities (including her grandmother’s famous potato game), singing, costumes and hat-making, and much eating and drinking.

She was a loving grandmother, delighting in the growth of her grandsons, with whom she shared vacations and milestone events throughout their childhoods. Lise gathered with elementary school and university friends into her 80s. She taught her children to make and keep friends for life, and to make a warm and inviting home, and to welcome people into it—hygge before it was a catchphrase.

She was at times formal, but not shy to share her opinions, careful but generous, thorough and fair. She had a dry and sometimes impish sense of humor and an appreciation for the silly. She believed there was a right way to do things and held you to account. But, as her husband will tell you, LIse never held a grudge.

Lise and Myles met at the University of Oslo in 1956, and became a couple not long after that, hitchhiking to Israel and working on a kibbutz, marrying in Paris, and living in the South of France until settling in Beacon Hill, where they lived for 60 years. They were the loves of each other’s lives.

In lieu of flowers—although she loved them—donations can be made in her name to the Beacon Hill Garden Club or Rogerson Communities.

A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.

Rosemarie E. Sansone

Her Life’s Work Was the Betterment of Boston

Rosemarie E. Sansone had a warm and winning way with people, and she put that gift to work for the benefit of the City of Boston during a career that encompassed public service, community affairs and business. Each step along her progression from roles in political organization, advertising, city politics, cultural affairs and university administration was brought to bear as she led the successful transformation of downtown Boston into one of the city’s most vibrant districts.

Sansone died of cancer at home in Lexington, Mass., on February, 21, 2022. 

Sansone was president and CEO of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, or BID, until her retirement on February 15, 2022, her 77th birthday. She had served on the board and later led the Downtown Crossing Partnership, the BID’s predecessor organization. In that role she steered the successful campaign to establish Boston’s first business improvement district, which runs from the Financial District through Downtown Crossing and into the Theater District. The BID celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, and, under Sansone’s leadership, it has transformed downtown Boston. Perhaps the most obvious visual cue for the BID’s success would be the contrast between the gaping hole at the former Filene’s site when the 2008 recession halted a development project there and the vibrant scene at Summer and Winter streets today.

Sansone’s vivacious spirit—evident in her voice and eyes as she connected with family, friends and colleagues—served her well as she worked on behalf of the city and its people. She was able to convene and unify people in pursuit of the common good.

“Whether in her role as Boston city councilor at large or her nearly 12 years as president at Downtown Boston BID, Rosemarie was a trailblazer who never let anything stand in the way of bringing people together,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh, former mayor of Boston. “Her steadfast leadership paved the way for an innovative and vibrant downtown Boston that generations to come will be able to explore and enjoy. It was a privilege to call Rosemarie a friend.”

Sansone went straight into politics after graduating from Lexington High School, working first with then-Lt. Gov. Francis X. Bellotti in 1964 and later getting involved in Kevin H. White’s 1970 gubernatorial campaign. In 1976, after working for several years in advertising, Sansone became director of the successful campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Massachusetts.

At a time when few women held elective office, Sansone was elected in 1977 to the Boston City Council, which at the time was a nine-member citywide body. She was the third woman elected to the Council and the only woman councilor for much of her two terms in office. 

“She was definitely a path breaker in terms of women in Boston politics,” said Carol Hardy-Fanta, senior fellow at the McCormack Graduate School, UMass Boston. “We have recently become a bit blasé about women on Boston City Council—including the accomplishments of Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu—but let’s not forget women like Rosemarie Sansone, who ran and won a seat twice on the City Council in the late 1970s when there was even less support for women in what was definitely a ‘man’s world.’”

Then-Councilor Sansone, who wanted to expand opportunities for people interested in municipal service, formed the Committee for Change, which led to an expanded City Council with nine district representatives and four at-large members. She felt that the new configuration would give Boston’s neighborhoods a stronger voice in City Hall and make it easier and less expensive for neighborhood-based candidates to seek office. Sansone did not run for a third term.

“Rosemarie was a dear friend, mentor and colleague whose friendship, advice and loyalty were a lifelong blessing,” said former District 1 City Councilor Diane Modica of East Boston. “Her leadership at the helm of the Committee for Change established Boston District City Council seats and subsequently gave me the wonderful opportunity to serve on the Council.” Modica, an attorney who served as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs and Licensing in the Flynn administration, also worked with Sansone to bring the acclaimed Concerts on the Common to Boston in the 1980s.

Mayor Ray Flynn invited Sansone to join his administration as director of the Mayor’s Office of Business and Cultural Development, where she played a pivotal role in attracting businesses, tourism and conventions to the city. 

“Rosemarie leaves her mark in every Boston neighborhood,” said Flynn, who later served as ambassador to the Vatican. “She worked closely with community activists to offer family-friendly neighborhood events, and she expanded the international Sister Cities Program, encouraging residents of paired cities to visit and learn from one another. Her vision for revitalizing Boston’s downtown business district—initially during her time at City Hall and later as the BID’s leader—led to the area’s transformation into a national model. And through her efforts the once-notorious Combat Zone was made over into a thriving center for commerce and culture.”

In 1994, she joined Suffolk University as director of public affairs, with responsibilities that included collaborating with public- and private-sector partners on downtown’s ongoing revitalization.

“Rosemarie brought both professionalism and fun to her role at Suffolk,” said Professor Robert J. Allison, chair, of the University’s Department of History, Language, & Global Culture, who noted that Sansone was the driving force behind the yearlong celebration of Suffolk’s 2006 centennial. “I was fortunate to have met her early in my career and have had her example of honesty, integrity, candor and good humor as virtues to emulate. Rosemarie was one of those rare people who told you what she thought, but also asked you what you thought.”

Sansone transitioned from Suffolk University to the Downtown Crossing Partnership in 2007.

“The city of Boston was her life, and Rosemarie was constantly making it better from her time as a city councilor to that of a downtown leader,” said BID board member Margaret Ings, vice president for Government and Community Relations at Emerson College. “She had a unique ability to bring people together. She was empathetic and committed, not only to the BID and its members, but to everything going on downtown. She got up each day to serve this city, and, because of her personality and infectious energy, Rosemarie more than deserves the title of ‘the Heart of Boston.’”

Sansone studied liberal arts at Suffolk University and earned a master’s degree in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Boston. For her significant contributions to Boston’s built environment, Sansone was honored with a Norman B. Leventhal Excellence in City Building award in 2019.

She has served on many boards, including Revolution 250, which commemorates the anniversaries of significant events that led to the outbreak of the American Revolution; the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the Economic Development Industrial Board. In 2013-14 she served on Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s transition team, and in 2016 she cochaired the commission that oversaw the creation of the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park in Boston’s Seaport. 

While she was dedicated to her professional activities, Sansone also was an artist who worked in watercolor and printmaking. In recent years she realized her artistic calling was in fabric arts and quilt-making, and many friends’ and colleagues’ homes are graced with her vibrant pieces. 

She also enjoyed travel and visited Italy, where her mother was born, dozens of times on her own and as a representative of Boston. New York City was another favorite and frequent destination. 

Sansone was the daughter of the late Stephen J. and Rose M. (Picciarelli) Sansone and the sister of the late Michael S. Sansone. In addition to her life partner, David Lancaster of Lexington, Sansone leaves a circle of very close friends. 

Her death resulted from a rare clear cell endometrial carcinoma. 

Funeral services were private. Interment was at Westview Cemetery, Lexington.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the Kaji Aso Studio, 40 St. Stephen St, Boston, MA 02115.

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