Hill's Van Sciver Furniture chain descendant dies at 53


Carolyn Louise Van Sciver Armstrong, formerly of Chestnut Hill, who worked as a television producer and in property management, and was the great granddaughter of Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, founder of the successful J.B. Van Sciver Furniture Company, died unexpectedly March 27 in Orlando, Florida.

According to family members, the cause of death has not yet been finalized, but Carolyn recently was treated for chronic headaches and high blood pressure. She had been sick for three weeks when she died four days before what would have been her 54th birthday.

“We would most like people to remember Carolyn's cheerful nature and lovely voice,” her brother, Jay, told The Local, “plus her love of doing kind deeds for others such as meals for the sick with her [leadership of] Church of the Ascension’s monthly Lord’s Lunch (in Orlando) for nine years.”

Carolyn, a “lifer” who graduated from the Springside School in 1988, was part of a family with a generations-long connection to Chestnut Hill. The family’s notable history includes Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, founder in 1881 of  J.B. Van Sciver Furniture Company, which was later run by Joseph's sons, Joseph B. Van Sciver Jr. (Carolyn's grandfather), Lloyd Van Sciver and Russell Van Sciver. The company, which at one time had stores in locations including Abington, Bala Cynwyd and Fairless Hills, closed its last store, in Cherry Hill, in 1985.

After graduating from Springside, Carolyn received a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, in 1992. She first worked in New York City and later Philadelphia as an associate TV producer before starting her own production company in Orlando where she met and married the late James Armstrong. In Philadelphia and Orlando, she produced mostly TV commercials and mostly TV show specials in New York.

For the last five years, Carolyn worked for the Wyndham Hotel Corporation in property management and sales.

Carolyn left Philadelphia for Orlando in 1994 because “she visited a friend there and met some possible future clients on that visit,” Jay said. “She enjoyed the people she met and decided to try it. She later met her husband, but after about 12 years they went separate ways in 2010. We heard he passed away last year.”

Jay and Carolyn had a sister, Julie Margaret “Meg” to family and friends) a Peace Corps worker in Africa and adventure-seeker who on May 12, 2013, was paragliding over Lookout Mountain in Colorado when she fell 40 feet. Emergency personnel took her off the mountain that afternoon and rushed her to a nearby hospital, but she died that night. She was 39. Meg was also a pilot, and she and Jay both ran triathlons.

“Carolyn was also an enthusiastic ice skater when she was young, but she gave it up to have time to be in school shows and the choir, and she often did outside performances on invitation,” Jay said. “In fact, when she drove carpool, she would turn on music on the radio and start singing and
encouraging the young people to join her on the way to school!”

Family members said that Carolyn loved and sang everything from classical and choral music to Broadway musicals. She often sang in both school and local community productions while in college, and she was one of the Ithaca College Centennial producers in 1992.

Carolyn was one of several recipients of the Mayor’s Award for her volunteer media library work for the Orlando School District’s Bay Meadows Elementary School. In addition to her singing and love of music, she was a talented photographer who entered several photographic art competitions.

Funeral services were April 5 in the Memorial Chapel at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, where Carolyn was interred in the family burial grounds. There will be a celebration of her life in May at the Church of the Ascension in Orlando.

Carolyn is survived by her parents, Carol M. and Joseph B. Van Sciver III; her daughter, Chloe May; her brother, Jay Van Sciver, and his wife, Carol; their son, Jay (Joseph 4th); his wife, Dr. Kate Olson; nieces, Elodie and Auden Van Sciver, and nephew, Beckett Van Sciver, as well as many cousins. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Carolyn's name to the Church of the Ascension, 4950 S Apopka Vineland Rd., Orlando, FL 32819.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com