Christine van S. Cheston, 76, supporter of the arts

April 12, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Christine van S. Cheston, a patron of the arts who survived imprisonment in a Japanese prison camp during World War II, died Monday of cancer at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. She was 76.

A longtime Roland Park resident who enjoyed gardening and travel, she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Baltimore Opera Company and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Christine Jacoba Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, who was known as "Tiny," was born in Paris and educated privately.

She was reared in the Netherlands and, in 1936, moved to the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, where her father, Jonkheer A.W.L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, was the last governor-general. Her mother was the former Christine Marburg of Baltimore.

Mrs. Cheston was the granddaughter of Theodore Marburg, who lived at 14 W. Mount Vernon Place and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Belgium by President William Howard Taft in 1912 and served until 1914. He was also a founder of the Municipal Art Society.

When Japanese forces overran the Dutch East Indies in 1941, Mrs. Cheston and her mother were sent to Tjideng, a POW camp in Java, and her father was sent to a camp in Manchuria with Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, who commanded American forces in Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines.

Forced to live in a crowded house that was designed for 10 people but held more than 100 women, Mrs. Cheston and her mother endured malnutrition and slept in a 16-inch space on a rough wooden floor. She spent her days working in the children's ward of the camp's hospital.

At the end of the war, she and her mother were evacuated by an American Army major and flown to Calcutta, India, and eventually to Baltimore, where they were reunited with her family. At the time of the family reunion, she had not seen her father for 3 1/2 years.

Her 1947 marriage to Fendall M. Clagett ended in divorce.

In 1969, she married Robert M. Cheston, who survives her.

Mrs. Cheston took an active interest in the restoration of Borg Verhildersum, a 17th-century residence in Groningen, her native province. She donated family paintings and artifacts that were installed in the residence, which is now a museum.

There will be no services. Mrs. Cheston will be interred in the Netherlands.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Cheston is survived by a son, Tjarda van S. Clagett of New York City; two daughters, Fendine Clagett Wood of Chelsea, Quebec, and Christine F. Clagett of Harwood, Anne Arundel County; and four grandchildren.

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