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Mary Custer Jul 23, 1930 - Sep 14, 2013




Mary A. Custer, 83, celebrated Delaware Valley artist and entrepreneur

Opportunities for creative expression were everywhere for Mary Custer.  Owner of The Studio in Swarthmore for almost 3 decades, she was more than a painter. She was an entrepreneur providing a venue for local artists to sell their work and to introduce original art to the community.  

Mary’s painting career began by studying pastels, oils and acrylics inCaliforniain the late 1950’s. When Mary, husband Don and 3 children returned toOhio, in 1960, she took painting and craft classes. The family, now with 5 children, moved to Swarthmore in 1968 and watercolors became her focus. The spontaneity and challenge of watercolor was appealing and her talent soared. Studies continued privately and at theWallingfordCommunityArtsCenter. Preferring nature subjects, her later works were more contemporary and abstract, utilizing collage and impressionistic techniques.

Mary Custer exhibited her work at juried and open shows, locally and regionally, including a solo show atWidenerUniversityfeaturing more than 50 works. Honors include Best of Show for mixed media in the Chester County Art Association Juried Show,Second Placefor Watercolor/Collage in the Montgomery County Juried Show,and   Fourth Placefor Watercolor in the Pottstown Artists Juried Show. Her work is in private and corporate collections in theU.S.and abroad.

When Mary and two potters opened The Studio in Swarthmore in the fall of 1980, they entered a specialized market. Their catch phrase was “the store that’s a gallery, the gallery that’s a store.”  The Studio was soon recognized for its uniqueness. In the 1990’s, NICHE Magazine, a publication for independent retailers, bestowed a Top Retailer Award to The Studio. This award recognized retailers offering handmade North American art. The shop was also featured in the Philadelphia Bulletin and Philadelphia Inquirer.  When The Studio in Swarthmore closed in 2009, Mary and husband Don had been the sole owners for several years and their 2 daughters were also involved in the shop, making it truly a family business.Mary A. Custer died peacefully on Sept. 14th at home, surrounded by her loving family. Born in Mitchell, IN to the late Hester A. and Dr. C. Nelson Busam, Mary grew up in Dayton OH and graduated from Fairview High School, Dayton. Mary attended Bowling Green State University and The Ohio State University in Ohio. Mary and Don Custer met on a blind date while at OSU. They married in April 1953, while Don was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force.  Settling in Roseville, Michigan, Mary worked for TWA as a ticket agent. In August husband Don was sent to Germany by the Air Force and Mary pulled up stakes too. They returned to Dayton the fall of 1954 with their first child, Steve. Over the next 14 years Mary and Don- an accountant, was transferred to Riverside, CA, back to Dayton, and then to Cincinnati. In 1968 they were packing again, this time for Swarthmore, PA.   

While living in Swarthmore, Mary was active at Trinity Episcopal Church. She enjoyed needlepoint, playing bridge and tennis. Mary was a member of the Swarthmore Women’s Club, Swarthmore Garden Club and Riddle Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. She also taught children’s art classes in their home. Over the years, those youngsters, now adults, have shared their memories and the positive influence of those classes.  Mary was also an award-winning exhibitor in the annual PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, the Media Flower show, and the PHS Harvest Show.

In her later years, Mary courageously challenged Alzheimer’s disease. Beginning each day with a smile and a song, she was eager to spend time with her family. Mary’s sensitivity, humor, and appreciation of art and nature, was not lost to the disease.

Mary’s life will be celebrated at a memorial service on Saturday, October 26 at Trinity Episcopal Church inSwarthmore,PA.Visitation begins at 10:00, the memorial service at 11:00, and a reception follows at the church. Internment will be private. 

Mary is survived by her husband of 60 years, Don; son Steve of Waltham, MA; son Jim(Gail)of Grayson,GA; daughterCathy and Sue both of Swarthmore; and son Tom(John)of San Diego, CA; grandchildren Andrew (Kristiana) Custer of Oceanside, CA; Jennifer (Chad) Baer of Fredericksburg, Virginia and one great great grandchild, Isla Baer.

In lieu of flowers, a donation to Trinity Episcopal Church, inSwarthmore,PAor the Alzheimer’s Association would be appreciated.


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