Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Virginia Zafirau, 1916-2012: Watercolors, oils artist sold work at museum

PORT CLINTON — Virginia Zafirau, an artist since her teens who, with a delicate palette, portrayed the world and water around her, died Tuesday at her home in Ottawa County’s Catawba Island Township. She was 95.

She had congestive heart failure, her daughter Shirley Zafirau said.

Mrs. Zafirau painted in watercolors and oils until about four years ago.

“When you’re an artist, you have to express yourself, and it doesn’t end when you’re 20 or 30 or 40. It’s with you forever,” her daughter said. “It gave her great pleasure, and she enjoyed sharing her art with other people, and she liked documenting nature.

“She was like a chronicler of the local flora and fauna, and architecture in Catawba and Port Clinton.”

She sometimes embellished the world she saw. She might give a window lace curtains or, in subtle tones, place hollyhocks in the yard.

“She would move things around and create her own reality,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Zafirau was known for her skill at rendering water. She best liked her own painting of sailboats on Lake Erie.

“When she did a sunset, she would set a bird into the sunset,” said Rona Rothschild, owner of Split Winds Gallery in Port Clinton, which represented Mrs. Zafirau. “Maybe he really wasn’t there, but she put him there — and maybe a bench where you would visualize that someone could come and sit down.”

Mrs. Zafirau’s botanical-themed artwork decorated greeting cards, with her poetry inside.

She also sold her work through Collector’s Corner in the Toledo Museum of Art.

Mrs. Zafirau and her late husband, Samuel, moved to a home on Lake Erie in the 1960s, and art became more than an avocation.

“She was a master of water colors,” said her daughter, an artist who has been a designer for a home furnishings company.

Mrs. Zafirau was a member of the Port Clinton Artists’ Club, the Port Clinton Literary and Social Club, and the Catawba Island Club.

She also was one of five artists who created a mural for the Ida Rupp Public Library celebrating children’s literature. In her youth, three of her watercolors were exhibited at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, her daughter said.

Born in 1916 in Risingsun, Ohio, to Florence and Otto Miller, she moved with her family to the Bay City, Mich., area during the Great Depression when her father became a farmer.

She graduated from Bowling Green State University and taught early grades at a university-affiliated school, then taught elementary students in nearby Weston.

She left the classroom to sell educational materials for Field Enterprises, publisher of World Book Encyclopedia, and was a regional manager.

She enjoyed sailing and playing bridge, and often invited friends to watch sunsets from the cliff in front of her house, where she served her signature oatmeal or lemon butter cookies.

“There was a certain joy to living with my mother. There was always the possibility of something wonderful happening every moment,” her daughter said.

She and her husband, Samuel, married Jan. 24, 1938. He died Feb. 25, 1996.

Surviving are her son, S. James Zafirau; daughters, Shirley Zafirau and Jinny Mrozek; sisters, Pat Moore and Margaret Boroughf; eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today in the Gerner-Wolf-Walker Funeral Home, Port Clinton. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Immaculate Conception Church, Port Clinton, where she was a member and sang in the choir.

The family suggests tributes to the Ida Rupp Public Library or a charity of the donor’s choice.

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