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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Jenifer Gillen Cohn on Her 'Pop'

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Dear Leif,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reminisce and talk about my father, Denver Gillen. As I said before, we kids used to call him 'Pop', so in discussing family memories, that is how I will refer to him. You posed some very fine questions, and it just so happens that I have a few answers. But first, a little family background..."



"Pop is not my biological father, but he is the one and only person that I consider to be my father. He adopted my brother, sister and me when he married my mother when I was in fourth grade. I think that made me around 9 years of age at the time. My mother was a beautiful woman and a community theatre actress who was married to another artist at the time (Eric Sloane). We had moved to New Milford, Connecticut after she married Sloane. It was a very short marriage of convenience which lasted less than a year. My mother (Mimi) and Denver were both in dead-end situations and fell in love."

"Of course, we kids didn't know about this until, one day, Mimi loaded us all in a little car, along with our baby sitter, and we headed on down to Florida. After we landed in a coastal community on the west coast of Florida, she made the announcement that she was divorcing Eric and marrying Denver. Please understand, my mother was raised in a family where one did not get a divorce. Our biological father was an abusive alcoholic. She was encouraged to get out of that marriage to save her life. Then, she met Eric Sloane and married him as a way of providing a better life for her children. Eric and Denver were friends and ran in the same circles of other artistic people in Connecticut. We all visited one another's homes. But, we kiddos didn't understand the dynamics of the grown up world, so this announcement was quite a surprise."

"A good surprise. A very good surprise. Eric was just not father material, although he tried. And, being quite older than even our mother, he seemed ancient to us."


"Mimi and Pop married that spring and a very good childhood began. He loved my mother more than anything, and he adored us children. He asked us to call him anything but 'Denver' or 'Mr. Gillen'; we opted for 'Pop'."

Jenifer explains that the new family settled into Denver Gillen's home near New Milford, CT and...

"I had to laugh, a few years ago, when a former childhood neighbor remarked that she was in awe of Pop and Mimi, thinking them very exotic and bohemian. Well, they did dress the part, from time to time. But, no, my parents were quite puritanical, to my way of thinking as a teenager. No "dating", although we were permitted to go places in groups of friends, to school functions and activities, and to play sports. We lived on a huge lake (Lake Candlewood) and had a dock and several types of boats: a water-skiing boat, little outboard for the kids, a "sailfish", and a pontoon party boat. Pop was a great water-skier and my mom wasn't bad either. And, in the winter, we snow skied, traveling throughout western New England, and ice skated on the lake and local ponds."



"I have many great childhood memories to share with you," writes Jen, "I worked in his studio and tried to follow in his footsteps, so be prepared!"

Denver Gillen Flickr set.

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