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Published: 6/8/2007

Museum of Art employee was artist, teacher

Eileene L. Rafferty, a former gym teacher at Rosary Cathedral School and a longtime employee of the Toledo Museum of Art who was an artist and calligrapher, died yesterday in the Springfield Township home of her daughter Maureen Cray, where she lived about two years.

She was in declining health after a stroke in March, although she was well enough to enjoy a party with family members to mark her 90th birthday Monday, her daughter said.

Mrs. Rafferty, formerly of the Old West End, became a gym teacher at Rosary Cathedral School in the early 1960s. The school didn't offer physical education until the mothers' club initiated gym classes. Mothers took turns teaching classes. She was sent to the University of Toledo for education courses and, for a time, was in charge of the program at Rosary Cathedral School.

"She enjoyed the activity, and she enjoyed children a lot," her daughter said.

She retired in the mid- 1980s.

Mrs. Rafferty was artistic early on. She attended classes at the art museum from the age of 8. After graduation from DeVilbiss High School, she attended the Boston School of Fine Arts. She worked in Toledo photography studios for several years, retouching photographs.

She drew in pastels and charcoal and painted in oils and water colors, creating cityscapes, nature scenes, and portraits. In later years, she engraved Toledo scenes on plates of glass.

About 1969, she learned of an opening at the museum's information desk. She later worked in the bookstore and in Collector's Corner, where she sold original pieces of art.

"She enjoyed seeing the artists and talking with them," her daughter said. "She liked so many different types of art."

Mrs. Rafferty and Ms. Cray learned calligraphy together. Mrs. Rafferty became so skilled, she taught night adult classes at Bedford High School and was engaged to demonstrate calligraphy at the museum - and to create invitations and placecards by the hundreds for museum galas.

She retired from the museum in the mid 1990s to care for her husband, James, who was ailing. Her creativity continued. She worked on notebooks about family history - hers and her husband's - many of which she illustrated.

"I don't feel confined," Mrs. Rafferty told The Blade in 1999. "Time means nothing to me. I don't think of what I have learned or done in the past, but what I will be doing. Never in my life have I been bored."

In recent years, Mrs. Rafferty had bouts of double vision. But while out with family to see Christmas lights, her daughter recalled, "she'd say to me, 'Maureen, I wish you could see what I see. I see double the lights, and it's just beautiful.'

"She had a good outlook," her daughter said.

Mrs. Rafferty and her husband married June 14, 1944. He died Feb. 12, 2000.

Surviving are her daughters, Kathleen Weber and Maureen Cray; sons, J. Patrick and Brian Rafferty; 11 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

The body will be in the Coyle Funeral Home after 2 p.m. Sunday, with Scripture services at 7 p.m. Sunday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Monday in Rosary Cathedral, of which she was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Rosary Cathedral or St. John's Jesuit High School.



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