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Florence Temko

Florence Temko, one of the greats of American origami, died on November 12, 2009. She will be greatly missed. If you would like to post a thought or memory of her or how she touched your life, please post a comment on this page. (Feel free to sign your comment if you like.)

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I first learned of Florence from her appearance in Harbin’s Secrets of Origami, which was my childhood introduction to the vast world of origami possibility. Throughout my origami career, I saw examples of her simple, elegant creations, and decades later, I had the privilege to meet her directly on several occasions, most recently in March of 2009 during a visit to San Diego. She has always been generous, charming, and amazingly prolific with her designs and books. Although I do mostly complex designs myself, I actually find simple designs to be much harder to create than multi-legged insects, and so my admiration for Florence’s continued productivity in creating accessible origami is immense. She was active in origami right up to the end, corresponding on the OAC mailing list in recent weeks, with her final posting being the day before she passed away. As one of the first generation of Western folders of the modern era, she will be sorely missed.

Robert J. Lang

Like Robert Lang, I knew Florence Temko through books, Harbin's Secrets and the Randletts' work. But when I was 13, she moved to my town.

I used to go over to Missus Petzl's house -- she was always Missus Petzl to me -- and fold, every week, with a small circle she had put together. She introduced me to corrugation and grafting and any number of other valuable techniques. When she had a show at a local museum, she made sure I contributed and helped set up. Once, when I was ill, she lent me all her back numbers of the BOS newsletters, all the way back to Vol. 1, No. 1.

A gentle and kind lady who knew that origami, like conversation, is a social art. She will be much missed.

Philip Chapman-Bell

To the family of Florence Temko:

Origami lovers of Greater San Diego and the rest of the world were greatly saddened by Florence's passing. Thanks to her many outstandingly clear origami books, her lively presentations, and the exhibits she helped to organize and/or inspire, she will be forever known as a genuine pioneer of contemporary origami.

Although I had known Florence for many years via phone and mail communications (mostly through the privately-circulated magazine, FOLD), I did not meet her in person until Charlotte and I moved to the San Diego area in 2000. Thanks to her and the late V'Ann Cornelius, I was warmly welcomed into the Greater San Diego Origami Group and was quickly drawn in to helping with organizing many events, including the Pacific Coast Origami Convention and the landmark Origami Masterworks Exhibition at Mingei International in 2003 (which Florence had been eagerly advocating for more than a decade).

I am indebted to Florence for her encouragment and thoughtful criticism of my very modest origami writing efforts, and I am sure that many other authors have also benefited from her kind advice.

May the many happy memories of her long and most eventful, productive, and fulfilling life soon ease the sorrow of her passing.

Sincerely,

Arnold Tubis

I first met Florence at Lillian Oppenheimer's Greenwich Village apartment back in the early '70s, when I was a student. Sitting and folding around Lillian's table with other origami enthusiasts, I admired Florence's skill with paper, and was warmed by her great spirit and accessible teaching style.

Ever since, I have counted Florence among my greatest friends and mentors. She has given so generously of her time and expertise, to me and to so many others. She connected me to other wonderful people like herself, who understood not only origami and other paper crafts, but how to share it with great joy.

During the last few years I enjoyed visiting with her in La Jolla and chatting on the phone, catching up on each other's projects.

I can't begin to express the depth of my loss. I will miss Florence so very much.

Joel Stern

I had first heard about Florence on the internet about a decade ago. Soon after, we became online friends and exchanged many warm emails. I consulted her on writing my first book and she wrote a blurb for the back cover. Then last year when I visited San Diego I had the golden opportunity of meeting her. My second visit followed in two months and it was during the Thanksgiving break of 2008. Little did I know at that time that it was to be my last. In just two visits she had so much to offer, it was unbelievable. I also admired her for how alert and active she was for her age. An email from her about copyrights just one day prior to her demise was amazing as well. This is a tremendous loss to the origami community and to me, but I am sure she passed away peacefully with the sound of the ocean waves fading and she is resting somewhere in peace. An article about my visit with Florence was published both by BOS and OUSA magazines earlier this year, and you can read it here to find out more about how prolific a person she was:
http://origamee.net/about/temko.pdf

Meenakshi Mukerji

I first encountered Florence back in the 80s when we were contributors to the private origami collaboration "FOLD". I was delighted to meet her at a British convention and I kept in communication on a regular basis afterwards, addressing her as "Aunty Florence". As I began to write books, Florence offered countless words of wisdom and encouragement, as well as her designs. During the last few years she worked hard to connect me with publishers in America and to advise on the contents of my new books. I had an email from her just a few days before her passing.

As well as a friend and colleague, Florence was an inspiration through her tireless work, her limitless enthusiasm and her her positive approach to life in general. Hers was truly a life lived to the full. Her contribution to origami cannot be underestimated and the thousands of folders who started with her books area fitting tribute. She will be missed by many.

Here's a photo of David Lister, Florence and myself back in the 80s.

http://www.nickrobinson.info/origami/images/lister_temko_robinson.jpg

Nick Robinson

I first encountered Florence back in the 80s when we were contributors to the private origami collaboration "FOLD". I was delighted to meet her at a British convention and I kept in communication on a regular basis afterwards, addressing her as "Aunty Florence". As I began to write books, Florence offered countless words of wisdom and encouragement, as well as her designs. During the last few years she worked hard to connect me with publishers in America and to advise on the contents of my new books. I had an email from her just a few days before her passing.

As well as a friend and colleague, Florence was an inspiration through her tireless work, her limitless enthusiasm and her her positive approach to life in general. Hers was truly a life lived to the full. Her contribution to origami cannot be underestimated and the thousands of folders who started with her books area fitting tribute. She will be missed by many.

The first time I met Florence Temko was at the Pacific Coast OrigamiUSA Conference (PCOC) in 2003. She said, “We’ve never met but I feel like I know you through origami.” I said I felt the same and we had a moment of the instant rapport that folders sometimes feel when they first meet. We did not have much time to talk because we were standing before a large crowd with the other board members of OrigamiUSA getting ready for a big announcement.

It was the announcement of the establishment of “The Florence Temko Award” which had recently been approved by the board of OrigamiUSA at the suggestion of Jan Polish, V’Ann Cornelius and Robert Lang.

The Florence Temko Award would be given to a “lone folder” to be given annually and decided upon by a committee that Florence herself would be a part of. The awards committee, chaired by Rachel Katz, would look for someone who was an accomplished folder but not part of any organized group—someone who was missing the wonderful moments of sharing paperfolding. And find them they did. Year after year, our group has been enriched by the Florence Temko Award winners becoming members and coming to the annual Convention.

It is such a fitting tribute for Florence since she was there in the very beginning writing the books that brought so many of us to folding and ultimately to the organizations which create the community of paperfolding. Though I am so sad she is gone, I am happy knowing that she was able to enjoy this tribute and contribute to it as well. It is the end of an era, but the legacy of Florence Temko will live forever—in her books and in us, paperfolders from around the world connected.

Wendy Zeichner

Although I've only spoken with Florence on the phone a half-dozen times, I felt our conversations strengthened my confidence to write a kirigami book. It was because Ms. Temko could not complete a project for B&N a few years ago that I was asked to step into some pretty big shoes. Just because I could run with scissors didn't mean I knew much about kirigami! Florence assured me I would learn everything I needed to write a good book, and with her guidance I did! She even helped with the editing.

I learned a great deal from this queen of paper arts, cut or folded, or both. Thank you so much for being there for me.

Jeff Rutzky

Dear Family of Florence,

It is with sadness that I write this note. Yesterday, on the day of her death, I was teaching a Girl Scout Brownie Troop Origami. I had three books with me to show different ways of origami being explained. One book was in Japanese, so learning to read the symbols is important, another had only photos for each step. The third book that had photos of the finished fold, great line drawings for each step and thoroughly written text was my first origami book that I purchased, Paper Pandas and Jumping Frogs, by Florence Temko.

I would like to tell you how that became my first book, and my adult introduction to Origami. In 1989, each student in the 6th grade religion class of my youngest daughter Monica, was to make a Noah's Ark. I had learned the inflatable bunny from my High School Chemistry lab partner, and later my oldest son taught me the crane that he learned in Vacation Bible School. Monica also knew these two folds, and a classmate knew two other animals. Together, they figured an origami ark it would be. Our local library had several origami books, and Florence's had the Chinese Junk, which when modified would make an Ark. The girls became stuck, and asked for help. As I read, and they folded, they discovered what they were doing wrong. I became interested, and as it is said, the rest is history. I ordered the book from the local college book store, and I now have over 400 origami books. I still treasure my first origami book by Florence Temko. It has been taped back together, yet it still allows others to learn. A photo of the Ark, folded from a 5 foot square is taped to the inside cover of the book. Her book has been my introduction to all the basics. Sometimes, I still call a waterbomb base a Magic Triangle, and the preliminary base the Magic Square.

I have never met Florence, but her book is a treasure to me, and along with other books of her's I feel that she is a friend. It is she who really jump started me on my way to my love of Origami.

I pray that your memories of her will always be a treasure to you.

With sympathy,

Kathy Knapp,
Peoria, Illinois, USA

To know her, was just to love her, but more - to be inspired! I met her only once and briefly at an Origami Convention. If Florence was going to be at the Convention or a Seminar, or in the house!... you made sure to try and get to that session! Like so many before me, I felt the fervor of her passion, and the infection of her smile and laugh. I have all her books on my shelf (I think!) and refer to them so often in my teaching and sharing of origami! We all know how much she has done for origami and the origami community. Did you ever see her fold with her feet? When I first started collecting my books on origami, & researching the thousands of models to use and share, her name was always on the tip of my tongue. Hers is one of the early names my folders will hear.
She was a powerhouse of a force and - so available, so involved, so "in touch" with folders! I found myself smiling and nodding as I read other entries here. Yes, that's what I would say, that's exactly how to describe Florence, yes! she will be so missed!
"connected, generous, magical, prolific, an expert, a origami queen (tho she would never have thought of herself that way), lively.".. she was all of them and more. Her legacy is indeed well established and it is very difficult to realize she is off folding still, but not here with us in person. She will continue to live through origami as long as there is paper, and life in this universe of folders!!

Barbara Turner

I am quite speechless at the loss of our dear Florence. She was always there for me: encouraging, sharing, and being a friend. I will always remember her as active, intelligent, and compassionate with a immense willingness to share.

Diana Lee

I met Florence through the O-List when she was looking for someone to take on a large collection of origami, which was later given to Diana Lee, resulting in the Origami Resource Center online. Florence was truly an encouragement. Though I only had a few online conversations with her, I loved her enthusiasm and joy of sharing the art.

J Graham, Oklahoma

Only yesterday did I learn that Flory passed away last year. I frankly thought she would live forever - her spirit would necessarily defy the forces of life... and, of course living on the East Coast I would be fortunate enough to plan a visit to see her many times again - this teaches you that we need to appreciate dear friends whilst they are with us - every single day. I will forever remember when I fell into the position of Publicist of Childrens' Books at Doubleday - my boss was fired and I was 22/fresh out of college - knowing Florence Temko was a great asset - I had this idea that we should travel to Ithaca NY for a conference to show off her new book - of course she brought lots of squares of paper with her - and despite the 102 degree heat/even at night (no air conditioning in the dorms where we stayed!) - she was a big success - attracting crowds of people around her - wowed by her innate skills - we met so many friends that weekend - she made wonderful contacts - Over the years we got together a few times - she met my children when they were very young and we were visiting the West Coast - we had a memorable day together in Newport Beach - she made a ring out of a dollar bill for my daughter who to this day (she is 22) has it in her jewelry box - The world has lost some of its brilliance with her passing - that sparkling smile of hers.... I remember the owl ring she wore all the time that Henry made her.... I am thinking of you, Florence - and I know that somehow, some way you are with me..... I want to extend belated condolences to her family.... Debra Judell/Mamorsky