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John Michael Cleary

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10/13/1937 - 02/01/08 JOHN MICHAEL CLEARY passed away Friday morning, February 1, 2008, after a very brief illness. He was born in Findlay, Ohio and moved to Bellaire, Texas in the late 1940's. Attended Bellaire High School and Sam Houston State University, where he was a proud member of Sigma Chi fraternity. John was very much a self-made man who began working part-time at age 16 for the Bellaire Post Office, was a realtor and founded Prestige Apartment Locators in 1967, started and later sold Wallpapers Inc. of Houston. It amused him to recall how he supplemented his income though his outstanding ability at cards - his specialty was gin rummy. He joined the firm of Eppler, Guerin & Turner and was an investment broker for 14 1/2 years. Finally, after personally collecting fine art photography since 1972, he realized his dream of establishing the John Cleary Gallery in 1996 as a specialist dealer in vintage and modem prints of the master photographers of the 20th century, including Andre Kertesz, Edward Steichen, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Aaron Siskind and continued to operate the Gallery, sharing his passion, vast collection and expertise, until his death. He became a mainstay of Gallery Row on Colquitt Street in the Upper Kirby District of Houston. John was extremely knowledgeable and well-respected throughout the international art scene as a collector, dealer, exhibitor and lecturer in the world of tine art photography in Houston, New York, the West Coast, the Southwest and in Europe. John was responsible for introducing numerous individuals in Houston and other cities to photography as a collectable art form, and many major collections have resulted from his efforts. He was a mentor and good friend to collectors, fellow dealers around the world, as well as photographers. He was a strong believer in educating collectors and potential collectors about photography and gave willingly of his time to that effort. His approach was unfailingly honest and he was known for his depth of expertise and integrity in the manner in which he ran his business. John was a long-time and respected member of The Association of International Photography Art Dealers, a founding member of the Houston Center for Photography and an active participant in Houston's FotoFest events since 1983. He was also a member of Photo Forum at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. A bright light in the lives of many has been extinguished, but fond memories will endure. John's work ethic, expertise in his field, quick wit, and sense of humor are only part of his lasting legacy. He is predeceased by his father, Joe Cleary, mother, Helen Harvey C1eary, great-nephew Capt. Andy Houghton. He is survived by his son, Russell Andrews, sister Ann Cleary Maroney (husband Mike, nephews Todd and Tyson), Dee Damron, nieces Cindy Houghton and Pam Baca, great nephew Matthew Houghton, great niece Christina Baca, father's widow Louise Cleary of Midland, and especially his truest friend for life and beyond, Eileen Savage. Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from four o'clock in the afternoon until eight o'clock in the evening on Monday, the 4th of February, in the Library of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering, Houston. The funeral service will be held at three o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday, the 5th of February, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons. Pallbearers include Tres Basse, Henry Feldstein, Clive Fields, Don McDaniel, Roger Moss, Burt Nelson, John Parsley, Ken Shotwell. Honorary pallbearers include Rod Crosby, Mike, Todd and Tyson Maroney. Mike Marvins and Del Zogg. A private interment ceremony will be held at a later date. A reception will immediately follow the chapel service at the John Cleary Gallery; 2635 Colquitt, in Houston. A special thank you to Dr. Clive Fields, Burt Nelson, John Parsley, Gallery Manager Catherine Couturier and all advisors for invaluable assistance, and many, many friends for prayers and kind thoughts. In lieu of flowers, for those desiring, a memorial contribution may be made to the John Cleary Photography Library. Please make checks payable to Houston Center for Photography, or HCP, noting on memo line: HCP/Cleary Library donation. Mailing address: Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, Houston, TX 77006. Please visit www.mem.com to express condolences and tributes.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Feb. 3 to Feb. 4, 2008
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