OBITUARY: Elizabeth Campbell Heide, art patron and volunteer, dies at 84

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Elizabeth “Betsy” Campbell Heide, who for decades served Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in a variety of volunteer capacities, died Dec. 19 at her home in Marblehead.

Heide’s lifelong passion for literature and the arts began during her time as a student at the Bancroft School and at Radcliffe where she majored in English as a member of the class of 1960. Upon graduation from Radcliffe, Heide took a management course at Filene’s with the goal of a career in marketing. She soon discovered, however, that her real passion was the world of arts and letters. Heide’s first job was for Boston’s Houghton Mifflin Company where she served as a copy editor and met many of the publisher’s well-known authors. Subsequently, she worked for Walter Muir Whitehall who was director and librarian of the Boston Athenaeum.

In 1957, Heide met her future husband, Ulf Backer Heide, when she was at Radcliffe and he was at MIT. They were married in 1961 and eventually settled in Marblehead during the period when Mr. Heide, an inventor and businessman, was establishing his manufacturing company. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1967.

Heide began volunteering at Boston’s MFA during the early 1980s. Her various positions over the years were very important to her. She became a member of the Ladies Committee, and later a docent guiding visitors. Among her favorite activities at the museum was presenting slide shows to Boston school children to introduce them to the world of art and history. “Education was always important for her,” said her husband. “Besides her work with Boston school kids, she volunteered for the Junior League. She also conducted alumnae interviews for Radcliffe for over 30 years. She was very good at reporting on the students she interviewed, and was honored by Harvard for her efforts.”

Heide also served as an MFA board member and was a member of the visiting committee for the Arts of the Americas department and of the Conservation and Collections Management committee.  A descendant of 18th-century pewter maker Roswell Gleason, Heide, together with  her husband, assisted in preserving and installing two original, ornate rooms of Gleason’s Dorchester mansion at the MFA.

In addition to her work with the MFA, Heide was also involved with the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem where she served on the visiting committee for American Decorative Arts. Together with her husband, she was also a long-time member of the PEM’s Maritime Committee and of the East India Maritime Associates.

Betsy was a member of three clubs including the Eastern Yacht Club, the Tedesco Country Club, and the Chilton Club where she was on the Board of Governors. 

Married to a sailor, Betsy enjoyed many cruises with the Eastern Yacht Club and Caribbean charters. “What she really liked,” said her daughter Elizabeth, “was the beauty of the places they sailed, swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean, and dining in fine restaurants. She herself was an accomplished cook.”

The Heide’s traveled widely, often visiting Mr. Heide’s native Norway and Europe. They also visited Africa, Japan, Russia, and China, usually traveling on their own but also with MFA, Harvard and PEM.

Heide was born in Boston in 1938 to Charles Bryden Campbell and Beatrice Hall Campbell. She chose to battle cancer privately for two years while efforts continued with  gene therapy. She is survived by her husband Ulf Backer Heide of Marblehead, daughter Elizabeth Hall Heide of Boston, and two brothers: Charles B. “Chad” Campbell and Alexander Campbell II, both of Chatham, Massachusetts.

The Funeral Service will be held at the Old North Church, 35 Washington St., Marblehead at 11 a.m.  on Thursday, Dec. 29, followed by a reception at Eastern Yacht Club, 47 Foster St., Marblehead. Interment in Waterside Cemetery will be private. Donations in Betsy’s honor could be made to the MFA, PEM or to the Radcliffe Institute. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for Betsy’s family.

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