Dianne Roussel, Artist and Designer

Oct. 19, 1960 - Dec. 25, 2016
Dianne Roussel, Oct. 19, 1960 - Dec. 25, 2016

Dianne d’Etreillis Roussel, who was an artist and designer from a young age and through Roussel Art Conservation, a family firm, worked on Ronald Reagan’s official White House Christmas ornament and many sculptures at Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Center, died on Dec. 25 at Haven Hospice in New York City of complications of lung cancer. She was 56.

Ms. Roussel had a long career, which included being the director of design of Thai Presents, a manufacturer of pewter and bronze decorative objects in Bangkok, where she lived for eight years and traveled around the world to visit clients. She relocated to the South Fork in 1998, first to Sag Harbor and then to East Hampton, where she founded Surfaces, which specialized in high-end furniture and art restoration.

Her family described her as an adventurous traveler who spoke English, French, and Greek in addition to Thai. She skied in the Austrian Alps and went yak-skiing in Tibet. With friends, she trekked to remote areas in Borneo and Sulawese, staying in huts and rafting with tribesmen. She also did scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, where she observed giant whale sharks. Wherever she went she left a legacy of generosity, supporting girls with school tuition and families with money for medical aid, her family said.

  She was born Oct. 19, 1960, in Providence, R.I., to the former Christine Leo and Christian Roussel. At the age of 11, three of her drawings and a letter were published in Peter Max’s “Super Poster Book.” She was also selected that year from hundreds of applicants to join the Children’s International Summer Village, a global, camp-based peace organization. She would later say that camping with 43 kids from many different countries helped form some of her strongest beliefs.

Ms. Rousell attended Public School 6 and the High School of Music and Art in New York City before going to Athens, Greece, where she lived for three years, attending the American Community School. She earned American and European degrees and won an international art award upon graduation.

Coming back to New York at the age of 17, she became the youngest designer at Tiffany & Co., where she worked on awards, monograms, and calligraphy. She left Tiffany in 1979 to attend the School of Visual Arts in New York City and, at the same time, worked as a finisher of bronze and stone sculptures at the Reproductions Studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Joining the family firm as a painter, gilder, and project manager, she designed a Frederic Remington chess set for the Time-Life corporation in addition to working on museum-quality sculpture and the Reagan Christmas ornament.

In East Hampton, aside from her work with Surfaces, Ms. Roussel studied ballroom dancing and adopted and placed many needy animals, including a stray dog she named Woofie, whom she found bedraggled and starving alongside a road. Her beloved pug, Bruno, who became known for the costumes he wore in Sag Harbor’s Ragamuffin parades, was a companion for 19 years. Her family said she had striking red hair, joie de vivre, and an expanding circle of friends.

“Dianne was beautiful, glamorous, insightful, and had a wicked sense of humor. She was also kind, generous, and loving to a great number of people, but had a special place in her heart for her family, especially her nieces and nephews, whom she adored without reservation. We are fortunate to have had Dianne in our lives. She fought hard to live and died too young,” her family said.

Ms. Roussel is survived by her mother, Christine Roussel of New York City and East Hampton, a sister, Elizabeth Rousell of Sag Harbor, a brother, Marc Rousell of Sag Harbor, and four nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory have been suggested to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105. A memorial service will be held on Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East

Hampton.