Telegraph Herald - Dubuque, IA
July 29, 2006
Artist remembered for creativity, enthusiasm

Joan Mulgrew began painting in the 1960s and helped others reach their potential


Dubuque artist Joan Mulgrew, who died Thursday at 78, is remembered as a charismatic woman who delighted in leading others to discover their artistic potential.

Terry Mozena said her first memories of Mulgrew are of the "Lunch Bunch" Mulgrew formed, a group of aspiring female artists who met regularly at Derby Grange, the Mulgrew family estate northwest of Dubuque. "It was always about being creative and we always had a delightful time," Mozena said.

Mulgrew was the primary motivator for those women, thanks to her charismatic personality. "We all wanted to be around her," Mozena said. "She was always pushing the envelope."

Mulgrew was a prolific artist whose oil miniatures were always the first to go when offered for sale at the Dubuque Museum of Art's annual Christmas fund-raiser, Mozena said.

The mother of a large family, Mulgrew began painting in the 1960s, encouraged by the late Frank Licciardi, a Dubuque artist.

"I never thought of her that I didn't think of Frank Licciardi," Mozena said. "He would have been so proud of her as a student."

Even as her reputation grew, Mulgrew remained humble and had to be encouraged to show her work. "I think she always saw herself as the student, but I think at some point in every person's life you stop being the student and start being the teacher," Mozena said. "She taught by example. Her enthusiasm for the arts was very infectious."

Mozena was instrumental in putting together a 2001 exhibit of Mulgrew's work. The exhibit was held a year after Mulgrew was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a condition that made it impossible for her to continue her work.

But on the night of the exhibition, Mozena said Mulgrew was very aware of the large number of friends and art patrons who  came to honor her. It took two Lower Main Street art galleries to hold all her works, and all night long, people walked between the shops, buying every piece of Mulgrew's work that was for sale.

"It was a happening," Mozena said. "Something really special in the arts happened that night and it was a real tribute to   her."

Mulgrew was the wife of Dubuque businessman Thomas James "T.J." Mulgrew, who died in 2004. Their eight children, six of whom survive, include television actress Kate Mulgrew, of New York. 

Copyright: Copyright 2006 Telegraph Herald

Kate Mulgrew's mother, Joan Mulgrew, passed away on Thursday, July 27th, 2006.

[Saturday, July 29th] I received the following message from Kate's nephew, Rory Mulgrew:

[I am sad to ...] announce the death of my grandmother. We had her funeral yesterday at one of her favorite places, the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. It was a private ceremony in the abbey cathedral. Kate spoke beautifully, as did my aunt Jenny and my father, Joe. The woman who made it possible to have the funeral at the abbey was Mother Columba, former abbess at Our Lady of the Mississippi. Mother Columba was a great friend to my grandmother for over 30 years. She gave the eulogy and moved us with a recitation of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge without Music." We proceeded to the cemetery to bury her next to my grandfather. There Jenny touched us all with a written piece she had prepared in the middle of the night. Afterward we had a reception for those who wished to pay tribute to my grandmother, whom we called Beanie.

In lieu of cards and flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be sent to the Alzheimer's Association of Dubuque, 5900 Saratoga Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52001, and Hospice of Dubuque, 2255 Kennedy Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52002.

Telegraph Herald - Dubuque, IA
July 28, 2006
By Jenny Beck Mulgrew

Joan Virginia (Kiernan) Mulgrew, 78, a renowned artist and wife of the late Thomas J. "T.J." Mulgrew II, of Dubuque, died Thursday, July 27, 2006.

The family will have a private ceremony. Friends are invited to a reception from noon to 3 p.m. today at Sweeney's Supper Club, 11777 Highway 52 N., Sageville, Iowa. The Egelhof, Siegert and Casper Westview Funeral Home, 2659 Kennedy Road, is in charge of arrangements. Her casket was provided by Trappist Caskets, Peosta, Iowa.

Mrs. Mulgrew was born on Oct. 21, 1927, in Montclair, N.J., the middle child of Florence (Saunders) and Frank Kiernan. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, and St. Mary's College, Kansas, where she earned a degree in philosophy.

While attending Sacred Heart Boarding School for Girls, Pennsylvania, she met her life-long friend, Jean Kennedy, sister of John and Robert. Mrs. Mulgrew spent many summers at Hyannis Port with the Kennedy clan who fondly named her Jiki.

After serving as John Kennedy's private assistant during his run for Congress, Mrs. Mulgrew moved to Chicago, where she worked as an art director for an advertising agency. It was here she met Thomas. J. "T.J." Mulgrew. They married in 1952, and moved to Dubuque. She had eight children in 10 years. Two daughters did not survive: Margaret Anne and Therese Louise.

An adored wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Mrs. Mulgrew was perhaps best known for her artistic talents and generous contributions to the local art community.

Under the tutelage of her dear friend, the late Francesco Licciardi, she found the courage and confidence to pursue art as a career. She studied all over the world and became quite a successful artist, exhibiting her works throughout the United States and Europe.

A final retrospective of her paintings was displayed at a sold-out show at Dubuque's Plane Art Design gallery in 2002. It was a profound testament to the woman as a fine artist and beloved friend.

Mrs. Mulgrew was very much a Renaissance woman. Her curiosity and passion for life was boundless. She loved to travel, cook, read, sew, play the piano and entertain guests in her home. She had a special place in her heart for the Trappestine nuns at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, the bright lights of New York City and a good burger at one of her favorite haunts, the Dubuque Mining Company.

Married for 50 years, Mrs. Mulgrew (affectionately referred to as Beanie) and her husband (T.J.), lived in a pre-Civil War house outside of the city called Derby Grange. The 40-acre estate was a magical oasis for all who lived there or visited. While T.J. offered wit, wisdom and wine; Joan shared intellect, inspiration and ideas, often prompting exciting conversations. They were a dynamic duo; funny, clever, eccentric and lovable.

Mrs. Mulgrew's view on life was simple: follow your bliss and never resist a good impulse.

Surviving are her six children, Tom Mulgrew, of Nashville, Tenn., Kate Mulgrew and Jenny Mulgrew, both of New York, N.Y., Joe Mulgrew, of Dubuque, Laura Mulgrew, of Center Point, Iowa, and Sam Mulgrew, of Monmouth, Iowa; 15 grandchildren, Annie Mulgrew, Thomas Mulgrew IV, Ian Egan, Alec Egan, Rory Mulgrew, Madde Mulgrew, Ryan Mulgrew, Sarah Buelow, Gregory Buelow, Anthony Buelow, Joe Buelow, Therese Mulgrew, Josephine Mulgrew, Isabel Beck and Michaela Beck; and two great-grandsons, Jackson Mulgrew and Devon Buelow.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be sent to the Alzheimer's Association of Dubuque, 5900 Saratoga Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52001, and Hospice of Dubuque, 2255 Kennedy Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52002.

The family also would like to give special mention to Joan's long-time caregivers, Lucy Ledezma and Felipe Torres.