Story last updated at 3:13 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2002

Rachel Weiser Kaplun Obituary
photo: obits
 
Rachel Weiser Kaplun  
Rachel "Betty" Weiser Kaplun, 101, died June 17. A memorial service for friends and family is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the Bunnell Street Gallery, with many of her paintings on display for the occasion. A private family ceremony will be held later to scatter her ashes.

Ms. Kaplun was born Sept. 24, 1900, in New York City, the third of seven children, and the first to be born in the United States. She was raised on New York City's Lower East Side. Ms. Kaplun went to work at age 14 constructing hats for a Fifth Avenue milliner. She decided to become a school teacher in her 20s, and subsequently put herself through college, receiving her bachelor's degree from Hunter College and her master's from Columbia University. She helped put some of her sisters through college as well. She taught school for 32 years in New York City -- 23 years in New York's Chinatown, seven years in the Bronx and her last teaching years in Harlem, where she taught the developmentally challenged.

She loved developing innovative ways to teach the disabled math, reading and writing, using musical instruments and puppets. Music and art have been her passions in life. Ms. Kaplun studied painting during the summers with many renowned artists, including Thomas Hart Benton and Robert Motherwell. She was employed by the Works Progress Administration to write and illustrate a children's story book, 'The Ten O'Clock Scholar,O which tells of the adventures of a little boy who always went late to school and a bear that loved blueberry pie. In the 1960s, Ms. Kaplun created a cast of characters from Plexiglas and wire modeled after Balinese puppets for six favorite fairy tales, including "The Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella." This project included writing the scripts for her puppets.

In 1989 she moved from California to Homer to be near her two daughters, Lois Schneyer and Karla Freeman, and their children. Starting in 1991, when she was 91, Ms. Kaplun developed a group of paintings inspired by the subjects of the Old Testament.

Her family described the works as "unique, strange and provocative, and referenced Judaism, feminism, existentialism and Freudian psychology. In mythical and metaphorical terms, these paintings reflect the profound cultural and political transitions of her lifetime."

In 1994 she was part of The Pratt Museum's Winter Invitational. A retrospective of her life's work in the arts was presented at Bunnell Street Gallery in 1998 when she was 98.

Ms. Kaplun is survived by her two daughters, Lois Schneyer and Karla Freeman, her grandchildren Mat, Jess, Joel, Tara, Asia and Molly and 10 great grand-children.

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