SPRINGFIELD — The birthplace of Dr. Seuss author Theodor S. Geisel mourned the passing of his widow, Audrey Geisel, who helped establish the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden and The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum on the grounds of the Quadrangle.
Audrey Geisel, who died on Wednesday at the age of 97, worked closely with David Starr, president of The Republican Co., and the Springfield Museums to create the bronze sculpture garden in 2002 effort. Later, she paved the way for a museum dedicated to her late husband’s work.
“The number one request after the sculptures were installed was for a Dr. Seuss museum.” Springfield Museums President and CEO Kay Simpson said. “Audrey Geisel was integral to the sculpture garden, stepping forward with a $1 million donation that kicked off a major fundraising effort for the project. And she was also in full support of creating The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, granting us permissions to use Dr. Seuss assets. Audrey helped make it all happen.”
Simpson added, “She wanted to honor Ted’s Springfield roots. Audrey was a great friend to the museums and we are saddened by her passing.”
Starr called her “a very strong, forceful woman and a wonderful partner for Ted.”
“She wanted America and the whole world to know the influence he had on children and adults through his writings,” Starr said.
Audrey Geisel made her first visit to Springfield shortly after her 1968 marriage to the beloved children’s author.
The couple returned to Springfield for a much-publicized visit in 1986 to attend an exhibition of his work that has been mounted at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. The exhibit included sketches and drawings from 14 of his books, including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” which is based on a city street.
Audrey and Theodor Geisel walked down Mulberry Street and Mayor Richard E. Neal, now a U.S. representative, also took them on a tour through Forest Park, where Theodor Geisel’s father had been the long-time superintendent.
Neal presented them with a weathered sign, “Geisel Grove,” which had been found high in a tree near the Forest Park picnic area frequented by the Geisel family decades earlier. (The sign now hangs in a gallery on the second floor of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.)
“She was a remarkable woman who took great joy celebrating the literary legacy of her late husband Ted,” Neal said. “Thanks to her long and tireless advocacy, a new generation of young children across the globe are enjoying the work of Dr. Seuss. I was fortunate to have spent time with both Ted and Audrey and remain grateful for their friendship. They never forgot the City of Springfield, and the Dr. Seuss Museum and National Memorial Sculpture Garden are in the Quadrangle thanks their generosity and foresight. At this sad time, my thoughts are prayers are with the entire Geisel family.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno lauded Audrey Geisel for her generosity and kindness to her husband’s hometown.
“My sympathy, thoughts, prayers and encouragement to her daughters Leagrey and Lark, family and friends of Mrs. Audrey Geisel,” Sarno said. “Even though she was always so gracious and kind to our Springfield about enhancing our tributes to her husband, Theodor S. Geisel – ‘Our Beloved Dr. Seuss’ – she was fiercely protective of her husband’s “Dr. Seuss” on how it should or should not be promoted. For that she was deeply respected and appreciated.”
The mayor added, “May God rest her soul – as she reunites with Ted – “Dr. Seuss” in Heaven.”