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Eileen Caslow, family matriarch who taught theater at the Renaissance Institute, dies

Eileen Caslow had a lifelong devotion to theater and film.
Eileen Caslow had a lifelong devotion to theater and film.(handout / HANDOUT)

Eileen Bracken Caslow, a family matriarch who taught drama at the Renaissance Institute, died of congestive heart failure Feb. 17 at the Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson. She was 97 and had lived in Roland Park.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Atwick Road, she was the daughter of William Jerome “Jerry” Bracken Sr., a court reporter, and his wife, Elizabeth Murphy, a homemaker. She was a 1940 graduate of Seton High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University.

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In 2019, Mrs. Caslow celebrated the 75th anniversary of her college graduation at a reunion at which she was honored.

“My mother was the surviving member of that particular generation of the Brackens of Baltimore,” said her son, Douglass Caslow of Alexandra, Virginia. “She in turn had had eight children of her own, twelve grandchildren, six great-grandchildren."

Her son also said, "Personal friendships were just about as important to Eileen, and throughout her life, she made it a point to make friends of people from all ages and all walks of life.

“Whether family or friend, Eileen was always excited to spend some time and have some fun with those she loved.”

Terri Bracken Fromme, who is among Mrs. Bracken’s 38 nieces and nephews, said, “Even though there were so many of us, Eileen always had time for a chat. She had a kind and upbeat attitude and she raised her family on love."

Her son said that while in college, she was introduced to theater and film.

“It brought her untold hours of enjoyment throughout the rest of her life,” he said. “While most of her participation with those entertainment avenues was basically centered around just attending plays or watching movies, she took her involvement to a higher level by teaching acting at her senior citizen continuing education institution.

“She was a charter member of the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame University and taught acting and improvisation for a number of years,” her son said. “New York theater was in her wheelhouse too. She had lots of friends who drove, and they would be off to plays there. She would buy the tickets and put together a group.”

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The Renaissance Institute, a continuing education program, became one of her chief interests.

“It spurred an artistic rejuvenation deep down in her spirit and in her soul,” her son said. “And even beyond being a student there, she elevated her game by volunteering to teach.”

She joined the Institute when she was 67.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn," she said at that time.

She was a member of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where she was a volunteer librarian and a member of the church’s Welcoming Committee for 30 years.

She was a voracious reader and attended lectures and film festivals.

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“While she had traveled to Paris and Rome, she loved busy American cities,” her son said.

Her niece, Terri Bracken Fromme, recalled Mrs. Caslow as a woman who loved to walk long distances.

“She was a vigorous lady,” said Ms. Fromme. “I recall seeing her at the Towson Library sitting at the little cafe at the front door. She got around.”

On October 20, 1945, she married Arthur S. Caslow Sr. a childhood sweetheart who lived across the street from her. The ceremony was at SS. Philip and James Church.

In addition to her son, survivors include three daughters, Diane Caslow Unruh of Princeton, New Jersey, Bonnie Caslow Allan of Garrison and Lacey Caslow of Woodside, California; three other sons, Jeffrey Caslow of Timonium, Rodney Caslow of Baltimore and Andrew Bruce Caslow of Fairfax, Virginia; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A son, Arthur S. Caslow Jr., died in 2018. Her husband, who owned a gas station in Roland Park, died in 1976.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.

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