Gretchen Joyce Dater was a junior at the Maryland Institute of Art, studying in London, England, through Syracuse University. She lived in Ramsey, New Jersey, with her parents, Tom and Joan, and her brother, Christopher.
Showing artistic talent at an early age, Gretchen's years at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, represented the culmination of a dream to study art at a top college. Those years were the delight of her life. While working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, her skill at drawing and painting increased measurably and steadily. Her work was chosen more and more to be displayed in various exhibits. She spent the last two summers working in Cold Spring, New York, at "Elisart," painting and designing motifs for custom designed tee-shirts.
Her fall semester in England represented a goal that she had set for herself when entering college. Her entrance portfolio for the Syracuse's DIPA program revealed an aesthetic sense, innate perceptual ability, and acquired skill. Her experience abroad led her to appreciate original works of the masters in museums and galleries in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Florence. Her aspiration was to apply to graduate school and continue further study in art education. She was thinking about teaching art to children on an elementary level.
An acrylic painting, signed by Gretchen, was found amongst the wreckage at Lockerbie. Sent to the Dater family, it was restored and framed. Since it was not completed, Gretchen's mom has named it, "Unfinished Business." Its photo shows the unfinished sky of a scene in London. It has been the focal point of several art exhibits since the bombing.
Prior to the disaster, Gretchen and several members of her art class at the Syracuse Art Center in London had visited Windsor Castle to see the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Library. Two weeks after the bombing, letters of sympathy were received from Queen Elizabeth, and from the librarian at the Royal Library. The Queen's sympathy was expressed by her Equerry, Sir Robert Fellowes, from Sandringham as follows:
The Queen has only just heard that your daughter, Gretchen, was a victim of the tragedy at Lockerbie. Her Majesty knows that she, together with three colleagues had spent a most enjoyable morning at the Royal Library at Windsor, looking at the drawings by Leonardo da Vinci there. Her Majesty was told that the party was an extremely popular one with the employees of the Royal Library, who were as shocked to hear of the tragedy, and particularly Gretchen's death, as she was herself.
This letter comes with The Queen's heartfelt sympathy to you both in your tragic loss.
Friends remember Gretchen for one attribute above all others: her broad and everpresent smile. Her artwork has continued to be on display in her hometown area, in Bennington, Vermont, and in Washington, DC.
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