Obituary & Remembrances



Erena Rae, 65, of Highland Park, died on Friday, May 19th at home of lung cancer (she had not smoked in more than 30 years and was evangelical in her anti-smoking sentiments). Her husband of 44 years, Rutgers University Dean of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies Gus Friedrich, survives her. They met during their first year of college, in 1959, and married in 1962.

A native of Hopkins, Minnesota, Rena earned her BFA degree in drawing and printmaking from the University of Kansas and pursued a 30-year career in graphic design and commercial illustration while following her husband to Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Oklahoma. Her commercial art garnered awards from professional magazines and organizations, and the Oklahoma Arts Council continues to use the calligraphic logo, which she created in the 1980s. Rena was also instrumental in the highly praised redesign of Calligraphy Review Magazine, serving as the publication’s art director (and occasional writer/editor) from 1985-1992.

She retired from commercial art and returned to her drawing and printmaking roots in 1998 when her husband accepted his current position at Rutgers University. Her award-winning prints and mixed-media works focusing on feminism and social issues have appeared in publications and juried exhibitions throughout the United States, as well as in China, Russia, and India. A mixed-media print which Rena created in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was selected for inclusion in the book, The Best of Printmaking: An International Collection, and three of her works were included in Milton Glaser’s 2005 publication, The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics. Rena especially enjoyed creating “mail art” to commemorate unusual “holidays” (e.g., Buy-Nothing Day, Chair Awareness Day, Discovery Day) and sending the letterpress postcards to her “AEPW list” — a select group whom she deemed “artistic, eccentric, or potentially weird.” Her work is in numerous private collections, as well as in the permanent collection of the Ben Shahn Galleries at William Paterson University, the archives of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Wood Engravers Network archives of Princeton University.


Over the years, Rena served as a volunteer for numerous organizations: in her home churches in the Midwest; as an editor and graphic designer for various Plowshares activists, and for state and local chapters of the National Organization for Women; as a tutor for Laubauch Literacy International; and in New Jersey as a board member and exhibitions chair of the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, advisory council member for the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, and program committee member for Friends of the Rutgers University Libraries. Both Rena and Gus were avid collectors of contemporary art, focusing primarily on prints, paintings, hand-made books, and three-dimensional works by living artists.

In addition to her husband, Gus Friedrich, Rena is survived by her son, Bruce Friedrich, and daughter-in-law Alka Chandna, both of whom work for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Virginia; a grandson, Kai Lucas Haskins, Ithaca, New York; two brothers and their spouses, Bruce and Kay Bakeberg, Norwell, Massachusetts, and Greg Bakeberg and Mary Pepin, Wayzata, Minnesota; two nieces, two nephews, and a grand-niece, Massachusetts; an aunt and uncle, Verna & Omar Glessing, of Howard Lake, Minnesota, numerous cousins, and best girlfriends Ellen Jonsson, Elizabeth Beard Nelson, Maribeth Berg, and Anita Lee.

The family requests that memorial contributions be sent to the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, Rutgers Center for Innovative Print & Paper, or the National Museum of Women in the Arts.