Lillian Silverstone

From her husband John Cahman:

Lillian Anne Silverstone was born on June 27, 1948, in London, England. Her father was a professional violinist who played with the Joe Loss Orchestra, had his own band, and made several recordings. Her mother was a seamstress and homemaker.

Lillian left school and began working as an office assistant when she was about 18. She wanted something better, something more glamorous, and tried out to be a Blue Bell girl. She was accepted and began working as a showgirl at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. She continued there for about six months, then worked as a showgirl for another month or so in Puerto Rico.
Lillian left Puerto Rico for New York where she began working as a fashion model. At the time, newspapers were not able to reproduce pictures well enough for clothing advertisement, so models were drawn wearing the clothing that department stores were selling, and the drawings were used in the newspaper advertisements. Fashion modeling then became her major source of income for the next few years.

While living in New York, Lillian began acting and learning the guitar. She acted in, and produced, off-Broadway plays, including her production of ‘Three By Dorothy Parker.’ During this time she met and married her first husband, whom she soon lost to a friend because (according to Lillian) ‘she had bigger boobs.’
Lillian had a small part in the 1981 Peter Bogdanovich movie ‘They All Laughed.’ In 1982 she played Irene Gibson in the British Broadcasting Company production ‘Nancy Astor.’ (Irene Gibson was Nancy Astor’s sister; she became famous at the time as ‘the Gibson Girl.’)

The Nancy Astor production by BBC became a PBS presentation on Masterpiece Theater in the United States. Lillian thought that her role in that production might open some doors for her in Hollywood, and moved to Los Angeles in 1984. She was disappointed to learn that very few people in Los Angeles watched PBS, or even knew what it was for that matter. She still made a valiant effort to enter the film industry, but alas, was not successful.

In December 1984 Lillian met John Cahman at a Christmas party. The two were attracted but initially did not get along at all; nevertheless, they married the following September. Lillian began working as a legal secretary. She also became more serious about the guitar and began taking lessons.

In the early 1990’s an artist friend saw some of Lillian’s artwork and suggested that she seriously study art. Lillian took the advice and began studying art at Los Angeles Valley College. While at Valley College she participated in the Guitar Ensemble, where she met Miguel Mireles, another guitarist. The two began playing duets and continued to do so up until the pandemic.
After finishing the required basic courses at Valley College, Lillian completed her coursework at California State University at Long Beach. She graduated summa cum laude, with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree in 2002. Notably Steven Spielberg received his bachelor’s degree in the same graduation ceremony.

Lillian then spent the next years painting and playing guitar. She was active in Songmakers for many years. During the pandemic she participated in multiple ‘Zoom hoots’ and especially enjoyed the camaraderie of those meetings, The hoots were her primary social outlet during the pandemic.

In August 2019 Lillian began a long battle with cancer. She was initially diagnosed as having ovarian cancer. During treatment she was also found to have lung cancer. Both cancers were treated with chemotherapy and surgeries and both were in good remission after about two years.

However Lillian’s battle with cancer was not over. In March 2023 she developed what appeared to be symptoms of Bell’s palsy. A scan revealed a tumor and she underwent surgery on April 5. Although the tumor was removed, it was found to be glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer with a very poor prognosis. Her guitar playing skills deteriorated progressively over the next few months; this was most painful for her. She had been a Sudoku ace but by September she couldn’t balance her checkbook. The tumor returned and she had a second surgery in October; following that surgery she was unable to even hold her guitar properly. Her decline continued rapidly afterwards. She walked around the block at Christmas but was unable to walk to the bathroom by New Years’ day. She had a short hospital stay and came home, where she spent her last two months. She died at home on March 6, 2024, almost exactly eleven months after the initial diagnosis.
Lillian really, really wanted to live. She wanted more chemotherapy even when it was clear that the treatment was not helping. At the same time, she realized that she had tremendous losses, both due to the treatments (surgery and radiation treatment) and due to the tumor; she felt she was ‘wrecked’ by both. Her entire last year was a great tragedy in which she tried so hard to keep living despite impossible odds and increasing losses.
Lillian was charming, pleasant, witty, and generous. She was a person you wanted to be around, to have as company. She would tell you her opinion and maybe argue with you about your opinion, but she would still accept you for who you are. She enjoyed achieving in art and music, and would work for hours to perfect a piece of music. She was a very decent human being, and is greatly missed by all who knew her.

From Dvora Gittelson a fellow Songmaker:

Lillian Siverstone passed away on March 6 after a courageous 4 year fight with cancer. Our condolences to her devoted husband, John Cahman.

Lillian gave much of her time and talent to Songmakers, performing at the Roundup and the Fireside and other venues, as well as leading the East Valley Hoot after Barbara Greenspan was gone. She was a huge talent, vocally, instrumentally, and artistically.  Her paintings can be seen on Google as well as Facebook. Born in London, England, she emigrated and  earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing and painting at CSU.

 She was also a song-writer, and some of her songs can be heard on her website along with her art:

Lillian was a treasured friend and recorded WHILE WE’RE HERE , WE SHOULD SING on my album of the same name. We are so blessed that while she was here, she did indeed SING. She shall be missed.

Here is Lilian’s performance from Roundup 2019, with Dale Carter, Genie, Steve Berman, Arnie Gordon, and Jim Higby.