Sheila Warfield Johnson died on March 9, 2023 at home in Stamford, CT after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
She was born in New York, NY on December 2, 1943 to Eleanor and Collister Johnson, and attended Ms. Porter’s School and Smith College. She majored in French Literature, studying abroad her junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris, and was a member of the Octavians singing group. After graduating in 1965, she worked at Life magazine where she spent seven years as a member of the editorial staff.
In Far Hills, NJ, rarely a day went by in the Johnson household without a song. Sheila’s father “Coddy” sang with the Yale Whiffenpoofs and often gathered with his three brothers who lived nearby to make music. She was a soprano with a bell-like tone and a natural gift for performing. While raising her family in Princeton, NJ she became an original member of the Boudinotes, a female a cappella group that performed both locally and nationally for over a decade. She also worked as a research assistant to William Bundy, a foreign affairs advisor to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, who at the time was writing A Tangled Web, a book on Nixon foreign policy. After her second marriage ended she moved to Hopewell, NJ, and joined the coed singing group Jersey Transit. Sheila vigorously pursued a passion for gardening, thanks in part to the influence of her beloved mother, “Elle”, who held positions in the Garden Club of America and was known to encourage strict use of Latin botanical names. In 1996, Sheila became a New Jersey Master Gardener and attended NYU’s Rusk School to study horticultural therapy.
In 2007, Sheila met and married Harry Wise, whom she described as the love of her life. After a few years in Manhattan, the couple moved to Stamford, CT where they enjoyed a life filled with music – Sheila on vocals and Harry on the piano. She also sang with the Greenwich Grace Notes and joined the choir at St. Luke’s church in Darien. Sadly, Harry passed away in 2014, but Sheila remained in Stamford, living near her children.
In recent years, Sheila traveled to Paris to serve as a judge for several rose competitions and took trips to Europe with friends as well as with her kids and grandkids. She continued to enjoy a cherished family tradition of gathering each summer on Martha’s Vineyard where her parents, siblings and cousins had spent time since the 1960s. She is survived by her son, Eben MacNeille, daughter Alisa MacNeille Kuhn, four grandchildren, her sister, Lee Auchincloss and brother Collister Johnson, Jr. Her maternal grandfather, Malcolm Muir, was president of McGraw-Hill Publishing Company and created Business Week magazine in 1929. He also served as editor-in-chief, publisher and chairman of the board at Newsweek magazine.
Sheila’s determination at the end of life was inspirational. She never openly complained as she pushed through life-prolonging treatments to gain more time with friends and family. Last summer she enjoyed one last swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Her lyrical spirit, strength and joie de vivre will be ever present in our hearts.