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Eleanor Dearborn
COURTESY ANN CAVALLO Eleanor Dearborn, seen here in an undated photo, taught art for 35 years in the Montclair public schools.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Eleanor Dearborn taught generations of students in Montclair how to express themselves through art. Her work helped establish the arts magnet program in the school district.

And for theater kids at Montclair High School, Dearborn was the essential stage mom, the “angel in the wings.”

The Montclair schools now are mourning the former art teacher.

Dearborn, who taught art in the township for 35 years, died on April 13. She was 73.

She had retired from the district as of 2007.

“She was a big kid who loved to play with art. And the kids really responded to that,” says Ann Cavallo, Dearborn’s daughter, who is also an art teacher in the Montclair schools.

Dearborn met her husband while both were students at Miami University in Ohio, where both were participating in the same arts fellowship program. Dearborn agreed to marry him and move to New Jersey. She began her teaching career in the Paterson School District.

From her first day of teaching, Dearborn looked out for all of her students, Cavallo said: “They were always her babies.”

Cavallo recalled one student of Dearborn’s who had a troubled home life, and Dearborn began looking after that student and making sure he had everything he needed. Several years later, the Dearborns met up with that student again when he appeared on Broadway in “Grease.”

She started out as a painter, but moved into mixed media, with a lot of work in collages.

Besides her own work as an art teacher in the Montclair schools, Dearborn helped her husband develop the theater program at Montclair High School.

Her husband, Patrick, was involved with the School of Visual and Performing Arts as a set designer. Earlier in his career, he did sets for off-Broadway productions.

After his retirement from the district, Patrick Dearborn continued to act as a consultant for the tech program in the SVPA.

Dearborn taught at almost every Montclair school over the course of her career, and she helped develop the Creative Eye program at Hillside. The Creative Eye program helped spur several other art and music programs, including the Drums of Thunder percussion troupe.

Dearborn is the second current or former educator in the Montclair schools to pass away in recent weeks. Karen Wingfield, a 40-year teacher and paraprofessional, died on April 12. She was a paraprofessional at Glenfield at the time of her death.

Cavallo followed in her parents’ footsteps. She is now the art teacher at Watchung.

Cavallo set up a scholarship fund in her father’s memory after he died in 2013. The scholarship is now being dedicated to both her parents’ memory. Cavallo decided that would be the most appropriate thing to do, since in-person memorial services are now limited due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Details on how to contribute to the scholarship, including possible future fund-raisers, have not yet been determined, she said.