Our beloved Lorraine passed away peacefully on September 4, 2023, surrounded by her family. Lorraine, the oldest of two children, was born on January 2, 1935, to the late Robert Brown and Vernell Waller Brown in Harlem, New York. She was the niece of Thomas (Fats) Waller, the legendary jazz pianist of the Harlem Rennaisance period.
Lorraine graduated from Julia Richmond high school and Brooklyn College in New York. From a young girl, Lorraine was blessed with natural beauty, grace, and an amazing smile that simply captivated family and friends. As a youngster, her mother always reminded her “…always be a lady”, to which Lorraine would respond…” but I’m just a little girl.” I think we can all agree that Lorraine took her mother’s advice to heart.
As a teenager, Lorraine was invited to attend the renown Ophelia De Vore School of Self Development and Modeling in New York City which focused on etiquette, make-up instruction, and modeling. She later joined the Grace Del Marco agency which represented Black models. Some other well-known graduates of the Grace Del Marco agency included friend and neighbor Diahann Carroll, actors Ciceley Tyson, Richard Roundtree, Gail Fisher, and New York newscaster Sue Simmons. Lorraine also joined the American Modeling Agency of New York. At the age of sixteen, Lorraine began her modeling career when she was selected as the first African American female to be named ‘Miss Empire State’ for the State of New York. She was also one of the first African American women selected as a runway model for designer clothes, television, and print ads for national consumer products such as, Jon Weston fashion creations, JC Penney, Kent cigarettes, Old Gold cigarettes, Shredded Wheat cereal, Bayer Aspirin, The Old Taylor Distillery, and Pepsi Cola, among others. Lorraine skillfully combined her modeling career with homemaking. She married William Ewing and had three wonderful sons, Billy, Steven, and Michael. Her sons were often included in her ads. Lorraine and her boys looked forward to and enjoyed spending their summers on Martha’s Vineyard each year.
Lorraine was an incredibly beautiful, engaging, social woman who always carried herself with class and elegance. She also achieved several significant firsts in her illustrious corporate career. She became the first African American female executive hired by Clairol Products to head their consumer education division representing the company at seminars, on television and radio talk shows and interviews. Lorraine was selected to be the company’s first Black “Miss Clairol”. She also represented Clairol at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as the official host of Clairol’s booth. One of her most memorable experiences was being selected to escort former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, her daughter Caroline, and sister Princess Radziwill throughout the World’s Fair.
Lorraine met the love of her life, Gregory, at a fortuitous chance meeting in New York in 1979, and they enjoyed 43 years of love and happiness together. They lived abroad in Japan, Singapore and Salt Lake City, Utah and made lifelong friends in each place they lived. Lorraine loved to travel and while living abroad, they travelled to more than 100 countries including China, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the European Union, the Mediterranean, Egypt, and Cuba, as well as US national parks.
Lorraine was very active in many civic, community and social organizations wherever she lived, including the New York Doll League Inc., the National Black Child Development Institute, The National Urban Affairs Council, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Association of Market Developers, the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm, the Jr. League of New Jersey, the National Girl Friends, Inc, the Ritzy Ladies of Sarasota, the ‘Divas of the Cork’ Winetasters of Sarasota, the Tokyo Chapter of Ikebana International, among others. While living in Tokyo, Lorraine learned and taught Ikebana--the art of flower arrangements, and Calligraphy—the art of decorative handwriting. In Singapore, Lorraine explored cuisines from different countries by taking international cooking and wine tasting classes at the world-famous Raffles Hotel.
Following Gregory’s retirement from American Express Company in 2001, the couple moved from Montclair, NJ to Lakewood Ranch, first as snowbirds and full time in 2013.
Lorraine was predeceased by her parents, Robert and Vernell, her brother, Robert, and oldest son, William, Jr. (Billy). Lorraine is survived by her beloved husband, Gregory, two wonderful sons and daughters-in-law, Steven (Terri) Ewing and Michael (Donia) Ewing. In addition, she is survived by her four grandchildren, Stephen, Halle, Michael, and Kayla. She is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, and other family members. Also, survived by her former husband and friend, William Ewing. Lorraine leaves a host of dear, loving friends who will miss her and mourn her passing.
A celebration of her life will be announced and held later in Sarasota and New Jersey. Condolences may be shared at online at www.yourtraditionsfuneralhome.com
The family requests in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org/FallMatch2X
,in the name of Lorraine E. Matthews.