Salon 14

Hilda Witherspoon

November 16, 1935 ~ January 21, 2020 (age 84)


Hilda Witherspoon of Washington DC died peacefully at home surrounded by her family. Beloved wife of Robert Witherspoon; mother of Eric Bentley Raffi Witherspoon; mother in law of Elizabeth Regnier Brady Witherspoon; “grandmama” of Eliot James Oshin Witherspoon, Conlan Robert Hagop Witherspoon and Cora Vivian Mari Witherspoon.

Funeral Services will be at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, 4125 Fressenden Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20016 on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 11:00 am. Interment to follow at Parklawn Memorial Park. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Hilda’s name may be made to:

• C.A.R.S. (Constantinople Armenian Relief Society, Inc.), (Checks payable to CARS, with “Hintliyan School” on memo line; mailed to: C.A.R.S., P.O. Box 769, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108) Hovhannes Hintliyan was a progressive educator and Hilda’s first teacher in Istanbul. A Maria MontessorI disciple he founded Nor Tbrots (New School), a prestigious Armenian school in the Pangalti district of Istanbul, where she lived. Nor Tibrots was closed in 1988 but given new life in Armenia in 2003, thanks to the help of alumni like Hilda.

• the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir (Checks payable to DESAP with “Show Choir Donation” on memo line; mailed to Duke Ellington School of the Arts, c/o Monique Spells, 3500 R St. NW, Washington, DC 20007), which she enjoyed especially during holiday seasons.



In Hilda we remember a vibrant, free spirited soul.

She was my beloved wife of 53+ amazing years, Eric’s and Liz’s loving mother, a devoted “grandmama” to Eliot, Cora & Conlan and a cherished member of our extended family and circle of friends. 

Born in Istanbul, Turkey to Hagop and Mari Ekmekciyan, Hilda was Armenian by origin and proud of her heritage and religion. Educated in Istanbul (the Hintliyan School and the French Lycée Notre Dame de Sion) and Paris (Sorbonne), she arrived in America legally and become an appreciative U.S. citizen in 1974. A self-described “late bloomer,” Hilda dreamed of becoming an artist but deferred her career to care for her family. Her first exhibit in 1982 won Honorable Mention as jurors likened her work to Milton Avery. She received her art education in drawing, painting, design and sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC under Leon Berkowitz, William Christenberry, Blaine Larson, and Berthold Schmutzhart. “Hilda Witherspoon’s paintings are emotional statements: deeply felt, painted with surprising directness and rendered in vivid color and unhesitating brushwork,” said Leon Berkowitz, founder of the Washington Color School. After the Corcoran School of Art in 1990, she gained international recognition in collections and museums in the US and abroad. She created in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture and assemblage, but is best known for her big, bold paintings in vivid colors and thick brush strokes.

Chosen in an art competition of 1500 artists for the 1991 Washington-Moscow Art Exchange, Hilda was one of 10 artists invited to attend the opening ceremony, when her “The Earthquake in Armenia” (pictured above) was featured at the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow, and is now at the Modern Art Museum of Armenia in Yerevan. 

In recognition of her accomplishments, she was invited by the Library of Congress to present an illustrated lecture about her artistic career and contributions at the Library’s Madison Building in Washington, DC. (See ) 

Striking and photogenic, Hilda was full of life and fun. Fluent in many languages, she was also a gourmet cook, delightful hostess and our family’s “social spark,” not to mention playing a mean game of tennis! Our wanderlust together took us across the globe, each trip another exciting adventure.

I say not in grief “Hilda is no more” but in gratitude that she was. 

Robert Witherspoon, January 2020.


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Funeral Service
January 28, 2020

11:00 AM
St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church
4125 Fessenden Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20016

Interment following funeral service
January 28, 2020

Parklawn Memorial Park
12800 Veirs Mill Road
Rockville, MD 20853


C.A.R.S. (Constantinople Armenian Relief Society, Inc.)
P.O. Box 769, Times Square Station, New York NY 10108

Checks payable to CARS, with “Hintliyan School” on memo line

Duke Ellington School of the Arts
c/o Monique Spells, 3500 R St. NW, Washington DC 20007

Checks payable to DESAP with “Show Choir Donation” on memo line

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