In Memoriam: Cynthia Mills and Mel Wachowiak

Cynthia J. Mills

Cynthia Joy Mills, 67, of Takoma Park, Md., died May 1, 2014, at Montgomery Hospice’s Casey House after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Cynthia J Mills

Cynthia Mills

Born in Detroit, on February 28, 1947, Ms. Cindy began her career as a journalist in New York City after graduating from the University of Michigan. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1973 and worked for United Press International until returning to school in 1985 to earn her master’s degree and doctorate in art history from the University of Maryland.

In 1999, she was named executive editor of American Art, the academic journal of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and for many years coordinated SAAM’s fellowship program. She retired in 2011 and was named a Smithsonian Historian Emeritus. She lectured widely in the United States and abroad, and published numerous papers and essay collections. She finished her forthcoming book, Beyond Grief: Sculpture and Wonder in the Gilded Age Cemetery, during her illness and saw the final proofs just weeks before her death. It will be published by Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press in September 2014.

A generous mentor, avid reader, budding Francophile, nature and animal lover (especially her horse, Tinker), she is survived by her husband, Sean P. McCormally, of Takoma Park; daughter Brenda (McCormally) Nardone and granddaughters Natalie and Eve Nardone; and a sister, Judith Conahan, of Groton, Mass.

Melvin J. Wachowiak, Jr.

Mel Wachowiak, senior conservator at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute died May 28, 2014, at his home in Davidsonville, Md., after a long struggle with cancer. He was born on February 15, 1958, in Springfield, Mass.

Mel Wachowiak

Mel Wachowiak

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1981 from Springfield College, Mr. Wachowiak  went on to earn a master’s degree in art conservation from the Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Program at the  University of Delaware in 1989. He began his career at the Smithsonian’s MCI, then known as the Conservation Analytical Laboratory in August 1989 as a professional furniture conservator.

Over the course of his career, he developed new techniques and materials for examining and restoring wooden objects, including identification of wood types, and textile and paint sources for Spanish Colonial sculpture in the U.S. and Mexico; guided restoration of Yup’ik Indian masks for display and of a Hawaiian outrigger canoe for the Hawaiian Treasures exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History; and documented the steam-bent plywood on the world’s first all-wing jet aircraft, the Horten H IX V3, for the National Air and Space Museum. Mr. Wachowiak was an instructor in CAL’s Furniture Conservation Training Program from 1989 to 2001 and served as its Director from 1995 to 2001. He also served as the Assistant Director for Programming, the Assistant Director for Conservation, and the Head of Conservation between 2001 and 2006.  Over the past decade, he developed and led the use of 3D scanning, multi-spectral imaging, other digital imaging techniques to demonstrate the importance of portable, non-invasive techniques to preserve cultural heritage.

Mr. Wachowiak is survived by his wife of 28 years, JoAnne Butler Wachowiak, son Nikolas Joseph and daughter Natalie.

Posted: 19 June 2014
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.