Norma Claire Frey was born in Buffalo, New York, April 15, 1929 to Severn Michael and Antoinette Langlois Frey. The oldest of four children, Claire and her siblings were moved to Charleston, West Virginia early in 1931 where their father worked as a chemical engineer. Catholic education always being important in the Frey household, Claire attended St. Anthony Elementary School.
Socially adept, Claire was the center of boys’ attention at St. Anthony. Claire’s artistic side flourished during these years, and she was quite the accomplished piano player by age 10. So much so that Principal, St. Mary Justin, O.S.F., had her play the “Four Horsemen March” as students exited the school.
In 1940 her family moved to Galveston where her father worked for Union Carbide in Texas City. Claire graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1946. She was awarded a scholarship and attended Ursuline College in New Orleans, where she received her B.A. in Social work in 1950. Claire first worked in New Orleans serving the poorest of citizens, many living in cardboard lean-tos. She applied to Tulane University and began her master’s degree work. She repaid the state by working a one-year appointment to Louisiana State Family Services in Shreveport. Claire additionally worked in Gretna and Alexandria, Louisiana as a child welfare worker.
Claire missed family and long-time friends in Galveston returning to take a position as a case worker with the Texas Department of Human Services at the University of Texas Medical Branch from 1956-1959. Every day after work, Claire would meet friends at the Turf Grill where they would crowd into a single booth, laughing and talking for hours.
She took a position with the Texas Research Institute of Mental Science in Houston as a psychiatric social worker in 1960. That same year, Claire was accepted into McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and there she completed her Master of Social Work degree.
It was during this time that Claire began publishing in national social service journals. She frequently donated her services and spoke at support groups for parents with violent and/or suicidal children. She also had a deep interest in the homeless, and stated, with the closing of the Texas State Facilities for the Homeless, we would soon see people sleeping on park benches and sheltering under overpasses in Texas metropolitan areas.
It was apparent to Claire that the homeless quite often suffered from mental illness. Work experience led her to specialize in schizophrenia. Claire said, “I was kinda schizophrenic myself, and I felt that was why I understood them.” She began to receive many invitations to speak at national social service meetings and was regarded as an expert in psychiatric social work.
Claire was a past member of the advisory council of the Adult Mental Health and Mental Retardation of Houston, Vice President and founding member of the Texas Chapter of Alliance Mental recovery, and an adjunct faculty member of the University of Houston School of Social work.
She was recipient of the Honor Merit Award for Alumnae at Tulane University in 1974. She subsequently received the Honor Merit Award for adjunct faculty from the University of Houston in 1978.
Claire loved the arts. She was a great fan of opera and an accomplished painter. She helped raise money for Catholic Charities by holding auctions of donated art objects. She enjoyed entertaining and hosted many dinner parties and luncheons for friends and family at her residence in Houston and, later, Galveston.
Claire believed that her nieces and nephews should experience the theater, opera, drawing and painting. She would treat them to trips to these venues and foster their interest in the fine arts. Quite often these outings would end in a trip to her favorite restaurant, the Pelican Club, and a lesson in fine dining.
Claire was preceded in death by her parents, Severn Michael Frey and Antoinette Langlois Frey, and her younger sister, Frances June Frey. She is survived by her sister Marcia Frey Giglio of Beaumont, brother Louis James Frey of Houston, their spouses, and a host of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews.
A memorial mass will be held at 11:00 AM, Saturday, August 7, 2010, at the Holy Family Catholic School Chapel, 2601 Ursuline Avenue in Galveston. Rite of committal will follow at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 2506 65th Street in Galveston. A luncheon reception will be held at Malloy & Son Funeral Home, 3028 Broadway in Galveston, to provide a grace note to what the family considers a homecoming celebration for Claire.
Donations to the Ursuline Retirement Convent, 4045 Indian Road, Toledo, OH 43606 may be made in lieu of flowers.