Branson loses an arts pioneer

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BRANSON MO NEWS: Ozark Mountain Country lost a champion for the arts Tuesday when Jean Cantwell died at the age of 92. In addition to being instrumental in forming the Branson Arts Council, Missouri Arts Council and Tri-Lakes Community Theatre, Cantwell was a writer, musician, and took great pride in preserving the history and heritage of this area, especially the legacy of Kewpie Doll creator Rose O’Neill.Born on Oct. 20, 1925 in Logan, Illinois, to Grace and Carl Barker, Cantwell grew up in West Frankfort, Illinois. After graduating valedictorian from Frankfort Community High School in 1943, Cantwell earned academic and music scholarships to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.While a student at Northwestern, she played regularly with the Chicago Women’s Symphony and filled in with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She was also the first chair oboist of the Northwestern Symphony Orchestra all four years, and was named “Most Outstanding Woman in the Music School.”

Cantwell eventually earned a Bachelor and Master of Music degree from Northwestern, and joined the music faculty at Stephens College in Columbia, where she met her husband, Clay, who was in law school at the University of Missouri.They married in 1952, and two years later, made their home in Branson. Cantwell joined the faculty at the School of the Ozarks, now College of the Ozarks, and in addition to being a wife and mother, she also contributed to the up-and-coming Branson arts community. She was instrumental in forming the International Rose O’Neill Club, and was a founder and member of the Bonniebrook Historical Society, dedicated to preserving the homestead and educating about the life of artist Rose O’Neill.She was the also organizing president of the Tri-Lakes Community Theatre, TLC, and the organizing president of the Taney Arts Council, now known as the Branson Regional Arts Council. The …


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