Marjorie von Moschzisker, 98, an accomplished portrait artist and icon maker, known late in life as Mother Brigid, an Orthodox Christian nun, died in her sleep Tuesday November 17 at Cathedral Village in Roxborough only a few days short of her 99th birthday.
She was known amongst friends and family for her devotion to religious matters. Baptized an Episcopalian in childhood, she converted to Roman Catholicism in her forties and, decades after that, joined the Holy Orthodox Church in North America.
Born Marjorie Elliot Drayton at Langley Field, Virginia, to Capt. Harry Coleman Drayton, a pilot in the Army Air Corps, and Marjorie Elliot, a celebrated Bryn Mawr charmer, Marjorie, as she was known most of her life, was widely traveled in her early years. As a child she lived in Honolulu, where her flyer father was stationed. As a young teenager, she spent two years in the south of France during the buildup to the Second World War. It was there that she took her first instruction in painting. When the family moved back to the United States, she continued her learning at Tyler School of Fine Arts and the nascent Hussian School of Art.
In 1942, she married Michael von Moschzisker, son of the judge Robert von Moschzisker, who for many years was Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Michael went on to become a distinguished defense lawyer. He also was an enthusiastic actor in local dramatic productions, and a newspaper columnist. They remained married until his death in late 1995.
Ms. von Moschzisker’s family, the Draytons, were plantation owners in the antebellum south. Her great-grandfather, a union sympathizer, moved to Philadelphia in 1833. At the start of the Civil War one of her great-uncles, Percival Drayton, was the commander of a gunship during the invasion of Hilton Head Island. His ship bombarded the garrison commanded by his older brother Gen. Thomas Drayton. This was one of the many storied brother-to-brother confrontations for which that war is known.
During her child-bearing years, Ms. von Moschzisker continued painting and making sculpture. Her work appeared in group shows at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In her long career, she painted well over 100 portraits, many of them commissions. Her work was noted for its impressionistic use of color and a supernatural ability to attain true likenesses of her subjects. Her commitment to Orthodox Christianity began not long after she took up the making of icons. She worked in the traditional Byzantine mode, using egg tempera.
Her work, both portraits and icons, is represented in private collections up and down the Eastern seaboard, and in Ohio, Tennessee, California, England, France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Years after her husband died, Ms. von Moschzisker, already converted to Orthodoxy, was formally tonsured by an Orthodox bishop to become a nun. The ceremony took place in the living room of her apartment at The Hill House in Chestnut Hill, and she thenceforth adopted the name Mother Brigid of Carlisle. For the rest of her life, she kept to a monastic schedule. Her duties were prayer, meditation and reading, and she signed her correspondence “Mother Brigid, unworthy nun and pilgrimess.”
Ms. von Moschzisker was also deeply interested in the education of children. In the 60s she was one of the first people in the Philadelphia area to receive certification in Montessori teaching. In addition, she helped found the Please Touch Museum and remained involved for years afterwards.
She was buried November 19 in a private ceremony at Pillars of Orthodoxy Church in Carlisle, PA, and is survived by her son Felix von Moschzisker in Vermont, her three daughters Colette Barrere in England, Lila Lamanna in New Jersey, and Susan Morse in Philadelphia, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
In place of flowers, the family asks that donations in memory of Mother Brigid von Moschzisker be made to the valiant caregivers at Cathedral Village and/or her beloved Please Touch Museum by mailing to the addresses below.
The Cathedral Village Caring Community Employee Hardship Fund
One Trinity Dr E. Suite 201
Dillsburg, PA. 17019
Att: Maggie Bowley
Please Touch Museum
Samantha Gibb Roff
Chief Development Officer
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, PA 19131