1951-2019

John van Duyl, specialist in architecture public relations, passes

East Obituary Professional Practice West
John van Duyl (Courtesy Corbin Smith)
John van Duyl (Courtesy Corbin Smith)

John Edwin Temple van Duyl died at home on Friday, May 10, 2019, two months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.

John was born in Sharon, Connecticut, on October 2, 1951. John’s mother, Winifred “Wini” van Duyl, was an accomplished violinist and painter. She was born in Indonesia to Dutch parents and grew up in Java, in California (for a year as a young girl), in Holland, and in Germany where she studied music and taught violin in Berlin. She spent World War II with her partner, Ellen von Stackelberg, in southeastern Germany after which she emigrated with Ellen to northwestern Connecticut, where they lived on a farm outside Salisbury. After parting ways with Ellen, Wini and John settled in Salisbury, living in the apartment above Thornhill, the unique flower shop that Wini owned and operated for many years.

John went to Rumsey Hall School and Salisbury School, studied at Pratt and Vassar, and received his degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He created and developed a highly successful career with his own public relations firm, Media Sky, promoting architects and interior designers to get their work published. He established productive working relationships with much of the print media for architecture and interior design, and he produced a book, Natural Houses, with Princeton Architectural Press for one of his clients.

John was passionate about writing and attended a number of workshops where he began work on a memoir about his mother and his impressions of the remarkable life she and he lived, a life that had a profound effect on him. In his late teens, John learned that his father was Werner von Kuegelgen, an Estonian aristocrat descended from Russian royalty who had been best friends with Ellen Biddle von Stackelberg’s husband.

John had an amazing eye for design and art and collected many exquisite paintings and drawings, a number of which were by his mother. John loved classic cars of the 1950s and ‘60s, in particular, American station wagons. He had a collection of original brochures and would incorporate the grand-sounding names of these cars into passwords for his online accounts. He loved jazz, R&B, and folk, and was a serious connoisseur of high-quality audio equipment.

John lived in Berkeley, California, for over 40 years before moving to Los Angeles in 2015. He loved his life in California, and he also had a deep fondness for the Northeast, in particular for his home town of Salisbury. Every year he would spend time visiting friends in New York City, the Hamptons, and Connecticut; he often thought about moving back to Salisbury. John shared warm memories about growing up there and of the influential families in his youth. He inherited his intellect, curiosity, and creativity from his mother; his education was in large part made possible by the generosity of families in Salisbury who had great regard for his mother and who recognized John’s potential.

John traveled frequently both for business and for his own pleasure; Australia was a favorite destination. A lightning storm early in his childhood launched his life-long fascination with weather and storms. Over a 10-year period, he went on at least a dozen professionally organized storm-chasing tours in the Midwest and witnessed, from a reasonably safe distance, the power of Mother Nature.

A legion of friends and business associates will miss John’s spirited engagement in life, his curiosity about the world, his easy generosity, his impeccable courtesy, his great sense of humor, and his deep loyalty to those around him.

Through the years John had several serious and important personal relationships. Ken Alan who survives him was a kind, dedicated, and loving partner for John’s time in Los Angeles, and was a tireless caregiver in the last months of John’s life.

Friends will organize events celebrating John in the next several months. If you wish to honor him you are encouraged to do so by donating to a cause or charity important to you.

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