Obituary: Gloria Plemmons | Enthusiastic artist, teacher 'was a natural'
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Ever since she was a young girl, Gloria Peterson Plemmons had a pencil or paintbrush in hand, enthusiastically working on her newest creation.
Her ability to bring about beauty in the countless works of art was accomplished with seemingly little effort, according to her son, Erik V. Scully of Wexford.
"She was a natural," he said. "I am so proud of her work."
The Economy resident, who was also accomplished in the swimming pool, died Thursday at the age of 87.
She was born in Chicago on Oct. 14, 1924.
Ms. Plemmons received significant schooling to expand her inherent artistic capabilities, including art degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as stints at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and The Art Students League of New York.
Eager to share her tricks of the trade with others, Ms. Plemmons also taught throughout her career. She did so locally at the Pittsburgh Public Schools from 1970 to 1971 and at the Universal Art Academy in Pittsburgh from 1971 to 1973, where she served as art director.
This willingness to help others perfectly exemplified the type of woman she was, said her daughter, Joni Scully.
"She was so sweet and very caring," she said. "She didn't get angry, even in tough situations."
As a figurative artist, she had the ability to produce a diverse range of pieces, such as landscapes, still lifes and her favorite type: portraits.
"She made her living primarily from pastel portraits," said Ms. Scully of New York City. "That was her specialty."
Ms. Plemmons' artwork can be found around the globe, with private pieces as far off as Europe and Sweden. Nationally, she has a landscape painting at the University of Notre Dame and other works at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield.
She dedicated much time and effort to several art associations, including The National League of American Pen Women, a group that supports female professionals in the art community. She served as president of the Chicago chapter from 1990 to 1992 and of the Pittsburgh chapter from 1995 to 1996.
Ms. Plemmons was also an active member of the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society and Pittsburgh Society of Artists.
Outside the studio, she also used raw talent to excel in the swimming pool. Never having received a lesson in her life, Ms. Plemmons swam in the Senior Olympics during her 50s and early 60s, receiving numerous gold medals throughout her career.
While she was married to Eddie Plemmons for 12 years, their relationship dates back much further.
After becoming sweethearts when she was 14, the two were separated by World War II, ultimately leading Mr. Plemmons overseas. While taking an instructional course years later about the Internet, however, she learned of Mr. Plemmons' whereabouts thanks to help from her instructor, Mr. Scully said.
The two reconnected online, and quickly fell back in love.
"It was the happiest 12 years they ever had," Mr. Scully said. "They tried to live and take in everything as fast as possible during those years, to make up for lost time."
Jeanne Adams, a close friend to Ms. Plemmons for almost 20 years, remembered how she held family as such a high priority.
"She sort of filled in as a mother for me since I lost mine. She would always ask about my children and give me advice." Ms. Adams said. "And then she would talk about her children, and you could tell how much they meant to her."
The two met at the North Hills Art Center as part of a Thursday morning group of independent artists, as described by Ms. Adams of Glenshaw.
"We all had a good time as part of that group," she said. "Gloria provided a great deal of wisdom and insight."
Another friend, Fran Cohen of Highland Park, knew Ms. Plemmons since the 1960s. Ms. Cohen was amazed by her perseverance and ability to maintain good faith during hard times.
"She never complained, even in situations when others would be complaining a lot," Ms. Cohen said. "She was never bitter, even when faced with a great deal of adversity."
In addition to her son, daughter and husband, Ms. Plemmons is survived by nine grandchildren.
Memorial contributions can be made to the North Hills Arts Center, 3432 Babcock Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15237 or the Butler Associated Artists, 344 S. Main Street, Butler, PA 16001.
First Published July 11, 2012 12:00 am