In Memoriam: Costume Designer, Member, Claremarie Helen Verheyen

May 16, 2024

Claremarie Helen Verheyen was born Oct. 13, 1944, in East Moline, IL, to Esther Catherine (Roob) of Port Washington, WI, and Lawrence George Verheyen of Quincy, IL. On April 4, 2024 she left a large hole for many and no doubt began a chorus of "YoooHooo" across Heaven's landscape! Claremarie was surely greeted by her parents and beloved brother Jeff (of Port Washington), his wife Vickie (of Random Lake) and other members of the extended family, who preceded her in death.

Claremarie attended St Mary's grade school in Port Washington, WI and graduated from Port High, in 1962. Maintaining life-long friendships was one of her many gifts; she staunchly attended reunions and remained connected to friends her entire life.

After high school, she attended St. Norbert's and received a BA in Education. With a brief teaching stint in Rogers City MI, she transferred to a high school in Cudahy, WI where she ran the Theater Program. Her love of theater was starting to bloom, and she attended UW-Milwaukee and in 1970 received a BFA in Theater. At UWM she cemented many friendships that would remain beside her. In 1972, she received an MA from Illinois State University and in June 1974 accepted a position at San Diego State University, running the costume shop. While at SDSU, she became involved in costuming and worked in television and regional theaters, including The Globe Theater, in San Diego. In 1978 she received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.
In 1980 she took a position as the Costume Designer and Theater Lecturer at University of California, Santa Barbara. Seizing the opportunity Claremarie stretched her wings with costume design at many regional theaters including Utah Shakespeare Festival, Western Stage and Pacific Conservatory Theater (PCPA). Her contributions to local theaters included: Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera and SB City College, with a brief stint in Santa Rosa. In 1986 and 1987 she designed for the Music Academy of the West, working with director Bodo Igesz.

In 1988 it was time for a move and she headed to the University of Houston. As Associate Professor in the BFA Program, she mentored and inspired countless students. She was the principal costume and makeup designer, instructor, technician, and director for the Department of Theatre and Dance, teaching costume history and costume design. Living in Houston, Claremarie's zeal for community theater continued, leading her to design for Unity Theatre, the Alley Theatre, Opera in the Heights, Shakespeare by the Book, Stages Repertory Theatre, Stages Children's Theatre, Houston Community College, Moores School of Music, and Houston Ballet. Her talents weren't sequestered to TX as she also designed for the Notre Dame Shakespeare Initiative, IN and some shows in NY.

She shared her expertise, working as the resident costume designer for the Texas Repertory Theatre and serving on numerous advisory boards including, The Costume Society of America, The Houston Community College of Fashion, The Texas Educational Theater Association, The International Thespian Organization, The Houston Hat Net Society and The University Women's Network. To say she influenced the theater world is an understatement as she guided a myriad of young artists to find professional careers in theaters and the arts across the country.

During her 50 years as a professional, she designed over 400 productions in drama, opera, dance, high fashion, film, video, TV and commercials. Claremarie was presented with the Outstanding Lifetime Service Award by USITT. She regularly presented workshops for USITT, and served on the Advisory Board. In 2006 she was inducted to the Port Washington High School Wall of Fame, an honor she thoroughly enjoyed receiving. She has won many awards nationally for her costume designs and her work can be seen on TVs and stages from California to New York, Texas to Wisconsin, and international scenes.

Claremarie touched countless lives with her devotion to theater. She felt fortunate to teach Introduction to Theater and share her passion, guiding new generations to experience and appreciate the wonders of live theater. Messages from her students and colleagues talk about her zest for her profession and her commitment to their success. "She pushed, she advised, she caught things on fire." Claremarie believed and instilled in others that every problem has a solution and when all else fails, if it couldn't be repaired, feature it!
Claremarie is survived by six siblings: George (Liz) of Cedarburg, WI; Lawrence (Diana) of Port Washington, WI; Mariann (Joshua Miles Weiner) of New Preston, CT; Greg (Debi) of Port Washington, WI; Rosemary, of Sheboygan, WI; and Anthony (Nancy) of Waterford, MI. Harold (Sandy) Sandstead was her favorite traveling companion with many a tale together! She is survived by 17 loving nieces and nephews, 29 great nieces and nephews all of whom she was closely connected and a litany of cousins, life-long friends, students and colleagues.

Her favorite movie was Auntie Mame, and it isn't difficult to understand why. Mame said: "Life is
a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Claremarie was never going to settle for being even a little bit hungry! Bigger than life, she swept into every room with a YoooHooo, panache and verve, flowing fabrics and a red hat. She left her mark. Of Course.

A Celebration of Life was held on April 29, at the University of Houston, Jose Quintero Lab Theater. In lieu of flowers she requests donations be made to: Catholic Newman Center at University of Houston, The American Kidney Foundation, The Red Hat Society or USITT.