Jessica (Betsy) Reed, 94, died on March 31, 2017. Born in Chicago on Dec. 6, 1922, to Claire Burleigh Reed and S. Benton Reed, both professional artists, she continued in their tradition. She went on to become an accomplished pianist, organist, choir director, harpist, music and piano teacher, voice coach, calligrapher, and paper sculptor. She even became an airplane pilot. A vocal coach and accompanist for such professional singers as William Conroy, Mark Love, Giorgio Tozzi, Robert Maluta, Alger Brazis, and the Meister Singers quartet, with whom she toured around the country, she also performed in concert at Orchestra Hall, the Auditorium Theatre, the Civic Opera House, Grant Park, and other venues in 10 states.
As organist and director at Oak Park’s St. Catherine of Siena Church from 1950 through 1970, she conducted the liturgical choir of men and boys and taught music appreciation at the parish grade school. She later became the organist and director of the mixed choir at Oak Park Temple.
Her calligraphy was featured in a juried exhibit at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and her paper sculptures have been on display at the Mount Prospect Library. Her professional memberships include the American Federation of Musicians, the American Guild of Organists, the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the MacDowell Artists Association, the Women’s League of the Art Institute, the Society of Illuminators, the Chicago Calligraphy Collective, and the Ninety-Nine organization of women pilots.
Jessica Reed is survived by her daughters, Valerie Gager (the late David), Linda Porter (Michael) and Maura Simms (the late Ricky); her grandchildren, Dawn and Marc DeMuro; her great-grandson, Panos Anastasiou; her brother, Robin Reed; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by former husband, William Conroy; her brother, Alan Reed; and her parents.
A memorial visitation will be held on Saturday, April 22 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. in Oak Park.