Schmitz, Marie Lenfest
May 29, 1930 - January 30, 2020. Wife for sixty-plus years of Walter Schmitz; mother of Lauren (J. Isaac) and the late Nan; grandmother of Scott and Claire; sister of her late twin brother Gerry (Marguerite), Lauren and Robin.
Marie was born in Jacksonville, FL but spent most of her early years in Scarsdale, NY. After her mother died when she was 13, her father, a naval architect employed in New York, moved her and her brother to a farm in northwestern New Jersey and enrolled her in Hannah More Academy, Reisterstown, MD. From there she went to Swarthmore College in the Philadelphia area, where she majored in Art History. After college she spent time at Columbia University studying for a master's degree and went to work at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1957, traveling alone, she went on an extended tour of Europe. Returning to the U.S., she worked briefly at the Museum of Modern Art and then went to work in research at the Yale University Art Gallery. In the fall of 1958 she became reacquainted with a Swarthmore classmate, Walter. They were married at the New Jersey farm in June 1959, shortly after she received her Master of Arts in Art History from Columbia with a thesis on the futurist artist, Joseph Stella.
In St. Louis, Marie had various employments over the years. Initially she worked at the Education Department at the St. Louis Art Museum. After having her children, she taught art history at Washington University. She then moved to the University of Missouri, St. Louis, where she again taught art history for seven years. Along the way she and Etta Taylor instructed the first docent class at the St. Louis Art Museum. In 1980 she joined the Missouri Historical Society as the first full-time registrar for their vast collections. In 1987, with her children both graduated from college, she left gainful employment and turned to volunteer work, principally at the Missouri Botanical Garden. There she joined the Tower Grove House Historical Committee, which was formed to open the neglected house to the public. She ultimately became its chairman and presided over the rehabilitation of the interior to reflect its use as the summer home of Henry Shaw. In 1986 the Garden acknowledged her efforts with an award for "special achievement." But a few years later the committee was disbanded and the house was taken over by Garden staff. In recent years Marie has devoted her attentions to other worthy activities such as the National Society of Arts and Letters and most particularly the Wednesday Club.
Marie was an accomplished gardener and cook. She enjoyed hosting family and friends at thoughtfully organized and beautifully executed parties. Her kindness earned her many friends.
Services: A memorial service will be held at the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Saturday, February 8, at 3:00 PM, with a reception afterward. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center or the Missouri Prairie Foundation.