Muriel J. McCarl, a lifelong Beaver Falls resident, classically trained musician and lover of Americana who endowed two galleries, died Friday at Heritage Valley Hospital. The cause of death was congestive heart failure, said her son, F. James McCarl. She was 89.
Mrs. McCarl and her late husband, Foster McCarl Jr., collected hand-made quilts and coverlets for more than 50 years, amassing what their son called "a unique, world-class collection."
"In the early 1950s my parents developed a real passion for Americana," he said. "They connected the fabric of the quilts to the fabric of history and the lives of the people who made them."
Eventually, he said, they decided to transfer the collection to galleries that would display and preserve the pieces for others to appreciate.
They donated the quilts to the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, also endowing the McCarl Folk Art Galley there. But they wanted to keep part of the collection in Western Pennsylvania, which lead to the creation of the McCarl Coverlet Gallery at Fred Rogers Center of Saint Vincent College.
Mrs. McCarl was born Muriel Phillips in Beaver Falls, where her father was secretary-treasurer of Moltrup Steel. She graduated first from Beaver Falls High School, then from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where she studied classical piano.
She could have gone on to a career in New York, said her son, but she chose to marry Mr. McCarl, her high school sweetheart. They were together 63 years, until his death in 2007.
Mrs. McCarl worked as a music teacher, then joined her husband in his business, McCarl's Plumbing and Heating. As the business grew into a mechanical contracting firm, the family grew to include four sons, and Mrs. McCarl stayed home to raise them.
She also became a busy volunteer at Chippewa United Methodist Church, where she was choir director and music teacher for 30 years, as well as a donor of musical instruments.
"She believed people could connect to God spiritually through music," said her son.
In addition to her son James, of Bluffton S.C., she is survived by three other sons, Brian of Beaver Falls; Kevin of Downtown; and Shawn of Hollidaysburg, Blair County; and 12 grandchildren.
A funeral service was held Monday in the Chippewa United Methodist Church.
Sally Kalson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1610.