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Madeline DeFrees


1919 - 2015
Madeline DeFrees Obituary
Madeline DeFrees

Nov. 18, 1919 ~ Nov. 11, 2015

On November 11, 2015, Poet Madeline DeFrees passed away at her home in Portland, Oregon, from complications of dementia. Her writing career spanned more than sixty years, during which time she published eight poetry collections, including Spectral Waves (2006) and Blue Dusk: New and Selected Poems 1951-2001 (2001), which was awarded the 2002 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, as well as essays, reviews, short stories, and two nonfiction books about convent life. She received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and was twice awarded the Washington State Book Award. Ms. DeFrees spent 38 years as a nun with the Catholic Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. She entered the community after high school and later requested release because, she said, "religious life and poetry both demand an absolute commitment." As Sister Mary Gilbert, she earned a BA in English from Marylhurst College (1948) and an MA in Journalism from the University of Oregon (1951). She studied briefly with Karl Shapiro, Robert Fitzgerald, and John Berryman. Ms. DeFrees taught at Holy Names College in Spokane from 1950 to 1967, and resumed her baptismal name before going on to teach at the University of Montana from 1967 to 1979. From 1979 to 1985, she taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After retiring to Seattle in 1985, she continued to travel and teach. She moved to Portland to be closer to family in 2010. A celebration of Madeline's life will be held Dec. 4, 3:00, at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, 2310 SE 148th, Portland. A Seattle celebration will be announced soon on madelinedefrees.com.
Published in The Seattle Times on Nov. 15, 2015
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