Claire Leven, 89, of Evanston, Illinois, passed away unexpectedly on February 5, 2021. She was born to the late Jacob Ames and Sylvia Bespechney, May 5, 1931, at the Williamsburg Maternity Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. The family, including brother Irv and twin sister Ruth, soon moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Claire attended the High School of Music & Art and then attended the Cooper Union Art School in 1952. At Cooper Union, Claire was awarded a scholarship for the study of sculpture at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Claire was then awarded a scholarship for the study of sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School where she studied from 1952 to 1953. In the fall of 1953, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study sculpture at the Institute of Art in Florence, Italy. While in Italy, Claire cast into bronze eight of her own pieces that she completed at the Institute. In 1956, when Claire returned to the United States, she worked as a sculptor with the Greneker Corporation (designers and manufacturers of mannequins and displays). After her work there, Claire worked as a freelance artist. In 1957 she was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to carve the ‘Patrons of The Museum Collection’ title plaque. In the late 1950s, Claire prepared clay models in the packaging field for Revlon, Inc. and Norman Gardner Associates. Claire worked with many different mediums, including sculpture (clay, wax, plastic, papier mâché, wood, stone), mold-making-casting (plaster, wax, bronze), lettering (design, carving, calligraphy), drawing (illustration, design layout), painting (water color, tempra, oils), and crafts (puppetry, costumes). Over her life, she produced dozens of sculptures and paintings. On January 12, 1959, Claire married Benjamin Leven (1925-2011) in New York City. Claire and Ben had three children, Jane (1960), Kate (1962), and Sara (1965). Ben served in World War II and worked in the construction business, as an estimator. Claire’s family grew as Jane married Mark Cole and brought granddaughter Sophie into the family. Kate married Alan Tabachnick, and they brought Lexie, Charlie, and Mariel into the mix. And Sara married David Gregg, bringing Shayna and Levi into the family. Claire had a wonderful strong and supportive family, including three loving daughters, two sons-in-law, and six grandchildren. Claire was very active in the town of Greenburgh, New York. She served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Fairview Greenburgh Community Center in White Plains, New York, where she was Chairwoman of the Program Committee. She was a member of the Edgemont Community Committee on Education Sub-Committee on “Programs for the Gifted and Talented Grades K-12.” On that committee she participated in the research and writing of a ninety-page report which was submitted to the Edgemont School District. Claire was a social activist her entire life, fighting for causes such as civil rights, women’s rights, minority rights, voting rights, international health, among many others. She loved Mozart and classical music, Woody Guthrie and folk music, politics and progressive thought. One of her true passions was cooking and baking, where she created gourmet meals, breads, cakes, and desserts. Claire was endlessly positive and upbeat, and her boisterous and infectious laughter was a hallmark of every conversation and Zoom event. She passed on her social justice ideals and her caring, loving, and unconditionally supportive approach to her children and grandchildren. Claire was so happy and so proud of her entire family, loved everyone, and “kvelled” endlessly over every achievement, large or small. She was loved by all and will be sorely missed. The Shiva minyan service was held via Zoom due to the pandemic on Tuesday, February 9 th , and it was attended by over 70 of Claire’s friends and family members from all over the United States. Claire will be interred in the Washington Crossing Veteran’s Cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with her husband Ben, a World War II veteran. The family requests that anyone wishing to make a donation in honor of Claire choose from her two primary charitable organizations, Doctors without Borders (providing free medication and mental health care to the people who need it the most (https://doctorswithoutborders.org)), or Fair Fight (promoting free and fair elections across the country (https://fairfight.com/)).
Arrangements entrusted to Evanston Funeral & Cremation, Roland F. Weis director. Info 847 866-8843, condolence and guestbook at evanstonfuneral.com
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