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Obituaries » Jonelle Lawrence

Consummate maker and insatiable experimenter Jonelle Lawrence, 76, of Jeffersonton, died March 17, 2018.

She was born Dec. 22, 1941, in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., to John and Ellenor Shillito and spent her formative years in Greenwich Village in the hotbed of the hippie movement.

A gifted artist, she attended Parsons and the Art Students League while working as a graphic designer for various NYC publications. In 1961, she met fellow artist and neighbor Charlie Lawrence in the stairwell of their walk up at 128 Charles Street and they married in 1964.

In 1968, Ms. Lawrence moved to Philadelphia where she had a multifaceted career of constructing elaborate art-to-wear, combining techniques borrowed from fisherman’s macramé, men’s tailoring, knitting, crochet and quilting. She produced couture pieces for a small but fortunate group of people, from gowns for brides and philanthropists to costumes for ballet dancers, ravers and drag queens.

In her retirement, Ms. Lawrence drove a school bus for special needs children in Pennsylvania, learning to care for people with cerebral palsy. In her spare time, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Gwynedd Mercy College.

She moved to Virginia to live with her sister, horse trainer Tracy Mullen, in 2014. Ms. Lawrence died in hospital after a 20-year battle with the blood disorder Polycythemia Vera. It was her conviction that the drug Jakafi extended her life an additional five years. Costs for the expensive drug were underwritten by the charitable organization, My Good Days.

Survivors include her daughters, Tracy Cangelosi and husband David of Chicago and Vanessa Watts and husband Austin of Brooklyn, N.Y.; her sister, Tracy Mullen of Jeffersonton; her nieces, Jonelle Mullen of Marshall and Kelly Mullen of Franklin, Tennessee; her nephew, Jay Mullen and wife Colette of Northport, N.Y.; her grand-niece Kelsey Stern, and her grand-nephew, Jake Stern.

A celebration of Ms. Lawrence’s life will be held this summer in Philadelphia. Interment will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made at

Online condolences may be offered at
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