Lois Butterworth Reed, 84, artist

May 29, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Lois Butterworth Reed, an artist, musician and social activist whose integrated Harford County art school for children was attacked by racists during the early 1960s, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at her Bel Air home. She was 84.

Lois Butterworth was born and raised in Douglaston, N.Y., where she also graduated from high school.

After graduation in the late 1930s from the Traphagen School of Design in New York City with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, Mrs. Reed worked in the city's Garment District during the 1940s, designing stage sets used by fashion models and photographers.

In 1945, she married Charles Hopkins Reed, and after he finished law school at the University of Maryland, the couple settled in Bel Air.

Mrs. Reed, who was known as Rose, pursued her artistic interests while raising her four children at her Catherine Street home in Bel Air.

"She helped in the design of the house, which was the first modern one in Bel Air. And because of its square shape and flat roof, people called it `The Barn,' a name which stuck," said a son, David W. Reed of Silver Spring.

Active in liberal political and social causes with her husband, Mrs. Reed co-founded The Studio, an integrated art school for Harford County youths, in 1960 with another artist, Mary C. Woodward, also of Bel Air.

"Because the school was open to children of all races, our building was stoned because we were bringing into the neighborhood children people didn't care for. She stood fast. But it was the principle of the thing, and we never gave up and kept right on with it," Mrs. Woodward said.

"Not only was she a loving wife, mother and a talented artist, she was also a sensitive and concerned civic activist. She believed in opening the doors to everyone and didn't make an issue of it."

Christopher H.C. Weeks, a Bel Air author and longtime friend, lauded Mrs. Reed for her civil rights activism.

"She and her husband were early supporters of the local NAACP program, which did a lot to further the cause of integration in Harford County during the 1950s. She never attached prejudice to anything in her life," Mr. Weeks said.

He described Mrs. Reed as being "gently indomitable" and said "she always had a smile on her face no matter what."

Mrs. Reed also was a founder in 1955 of the Unitarian-Universalist Association of Harford County, and in 1995 helped found the Northern Chesapeake Unitarian-Universalist Society in Fallston. She was also a founder of the World Federalist Association of Harford County, which sought to promote world peace.

During the 1960s, she worked to establish the Bel Air Teen Center, and in 1966 founded the Bel Air Art Show, which later became the Bel Air Festival of the Arts, and the Harford Artists Association.

Mrs. Reed's artwork was of abstract design and highlighted by her vivid use of colors.

"She enjoyed looking up through the trees and studying the light patterns. She was an abstractionist but not to the point where you couldn't tell what you were looking at. She loved colors and shapes," said Kristin V. Helberg, a Fells Point artist and friend.

"She used color and arrangement of plants in her perennial garden the same way she used color in her paintings. The colors were almost stained-glasslike," Mr. Weeks said.

After the death of her husband in 1991, Mrs. Reed stopped painting and began playing the alto recorder, eventually forming the Catherine Street Quintet with several friends. The quintet performed throughout Harford County.

"She always had that New York sense of sophistication, and at 84 was still dressing in high heels and going to the opera. She was also vigorous and a month and a half before her death was hiking along the Susquehanna River," said her son.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. June 7 at Liriodendron, 502 W. Gordon St., Bel Air.

Mrs. Reed is survived by another son, Michael C. Reed of Findlay, Ohio; two daughters, Susan R. Walls of Bel Air and Laurie Reed-Lemmond of Charlotte, N.C.; a sister, May Mullen of Santa Cruz, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.

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