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“Mary was a delight. Always helpful, caring, energetic and keen to learn all she could about stained glass and share it. She warmly welcomed my...Read More »
1 of 19 | Posted by: Virginia Raguin - MEDFORD, MA

“I am so sad to learn this news of Mary's passing. We had a chance to collaborate on some fine projects. I have always had a great amount of respect...Read More »
2 of 19 | Posted by: John Wardell Clark - Aurora, IL

“My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family in the loss of your daughter and sister Mary. You are in our thoughts and prayers during this...Read More »
3 of 19 | Posted by: Susan Kellar (Davis) - NY

“Years ago when looking for someone qualified to restore stained glass windows at Grace Memorial Chapel in upstate NY I spoke with Rowan LeCompte who...Read More »
4 of 19 | Posted by: Robert Strong - Valley Cottage, NY

“A long time ago a man called Obama ran for President - and he won. On election day November 4th 2008 my then small daughter Lila and I ran into Mary...Read More »
5 of 19 | Posted by: heidi olson - New York, NY

“I met Mary for the first time in july 1995 in the restoration studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY). She was so enthusiastic about a...Read More »
6 of 19 | Posted by: Aletta Rambaut - Gent-Wondelgem

“Remembering Mary: Mary's thoughtfulness ran deep: ranging from protecting her unborn son by wearing a mask while painting to teaching me, me an...Read More »
7 of 19 | Posted by: Jean Farnsworth - PHILADELPHIA, PA

“Please send my condolences to Mary's family. She was a very nice person and a talented Artist. I first met Mary at Mel Greenland's Studio in 1977...Read More »
8 of 19 | Posted by: Daniel Herbst - Brooklyn, NY

“Condolences to the family. I knew Mary through the AGG. A beautiful soul, remarkable woman and teacher.gentle in nature, and caring about others...Read More »
9 of 19 | Posted by: Doris Cultraro - Germantown, NY

“Mary was a mentor and a friend to me while we served on the board of directors of the American Glass Guild. She was an inspiration and welcomed me...Read More »
10 of 19 | Posted by: Rebecca Hartman - Greenwood, SC

“What a sad loss for the field of stained glass. Mary was an artist, a scholar, a dynamic and important mover and shaker in the profession.I met Mary...Read More »
11 of 19 | Posted by: Judith Schaechter - Philadelphia, PA

“Mary's memories will of course include her stained glass and conservation work, but for me, it was her manner of discussing the stained glass work of...Read More »
12 of 19 | Posted by: Barbara Krueger - Hartland, MI

“Mary and I became friends because we were both involved in the restoration of stained glass windows. Her expertise was unquestionable, her aesthetic...Read More »
13 of 19 | Posted by: Bill Cummings - Rio Vista, CA

“Mary founded the American Glass Guild with me and a few others. I started to list all she contributed to the AGG, and realized that I couldn't...Read More »
14 of 19 | Posted by: Maria Serpentino - Needham, MA

“I first met Mary around 1985 when I started working at The Greenland Studio. Although at that time I had about 15 years of stained glass experience I...Read More »
15 of 19 | Posted by: Vic Rothman - Bronxville, NY

“Mary is already missed and will always be remembered. ”
16 of 19 | Posted by: Audrey Cohn-Ganz - New York, NY

“Dear Steve and Walker, Dana and I send our deep condolences on the passing of Mary. This obituary is so beautifully composed, a perfect reflection of...Read More »
17 of 19 | Posted by: Frankie Dunleavy - Middlebury, VT

“Mary, me dearest friend. Having so many memories of our working and living adventures since 1984, leave a full 'supply' of moments to remember about...Read More »
18 of 19 | Posted by: Marie Foucault-Phipps - Elizabeth, CO

“To my international traveler and stained glass friend of over 30 years, you are greatly missed and you will always be loved and remembered fondly...Read More »
19 of 19 | Posted by: Linda Cannon - Glasgow, Scotland

Wheat Emblem

Mary Clerkin Higgins, renowned stained glass artist and conservator, died on Christmas morning in Manhattan, following a four-year struggle with breast cancer. Steven, her husband of forty-four years, and their son, Walker, were by her side.

Mary was born Nov. 16, 1954 in Queens, New York, the daughter of Thomas and Margaret Walker Clerkin. Her family moved to the village of Sandy Creek, New York when she was a young child. She graduated from Sandy Creek Central School in 1972 and earned a BA from Fordham University at Lincoln Center in 1976. She and Steven were married on Oct. 9, 1976.

Mary was one of the nation's leading artists and conservators of stained glass, entrusted with conserving panels dating as far back as the twelfth century, up to the present day, for public and private collections around the world. In addition, she was an award-winning artist whose original works received several awards, among them inclusion in the Corning Museum of Glass's prestigious annual survey New Glass Review 36 (2015).

In 1976, she began an apprenticeship with Melville Greenland at his studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. She rose quickly to the position of lead conservator for Greenland and, in 1986, founded Clerkin Higgins Stained Glass Inc. in Brooklyn, New York. Over the years, she became a close collaborator with Rowan LeCompte, the renowned artist responsible, among much else, for the West Rose and clerestory windows at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Mary worked on over a dozen of Rowan's Cathedral commissions and was wholly responsible for the fabrication at her Brooklyn studio of two large clerestory projects – "The Suffering and Redemption of Job," and "The Faith of the Hebrew People."

Mary presented her research at many conferences across North America and Europe and was a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). She was a co-founder and past president of the American Glass Guild (AGG), receiving the AGG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. She contributed the chapter on "Origins, Materials, and the Glazier's Art" to Stained Glass: From Its Origins to the Present (Abrams, 2003) and wrote the preface to Strangest Genius: The Stained Glass of Harry Clarke (The History Press, 2010). Mary was featured on NPR's "Science Friday" website and in Peter Swanson's films Let There Be Light (2012) and Rowan LeCompte: A Life in Light (2020). In 2018 she was an expert guide for Ama Waterways "Stained Glass Along the Enchanted Rhine River" cruise.

Mary's restoration work lives on in numerous collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, and Duke universities, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Morse Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the United Nations, and the Neustadt Museum of Tiffany Glass. In addition to many original autonomous panels, she created an original ensemble of eleven panels depicting the risen Christ and the four evangelists for the Cloister Chapel at Sea Island, GA.

Mary is survived by her husband, Steven; their son, Walker and his wife, Ana, all of New York City; her mother, Margaret Clerkin, of Sandy Creek; eleven sisters and brothers; fourteen nieces; eleven nephews; several in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many friends and associates in the stained glass community, here and abroad.

Mary entered the stained glass world at a time when few women practiced the craft, or ran their own studios. She carved out a unique place for herself in the male-dominated field through humble tenacity and a simple dedication to the perfecting of her art. She inspired everyone she encountered with her unwavering courage in the face of her disease, with her brilliant laughter, wonderful cooking skills, and, above all, her kind and generous spirit. Her 25 nieces and nephews adored her.

A private celebration of Mary's life, and the scattering of her ashes, will take place at a later date.