York Town Square

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Noted Pennsylvania German art historian will be missed

Some might have missed the death of Donald Shelley, an expert on Fraktur, on April 19. The York County native lived in Berks County, and his obituary did not appear in county newspapers.
June Lloyd, who wrote a book on a form of Pennsylvania German Fraktur in York County, credits Shelley with rediscovering the art form in the 20th century… .

(I’d recommend Lloyd’s “Faith and Family,” covering Pennsylvania German Taufscheine. Order at www.yorkheritage.org.)
Caryl Clarke’s York Daily Record story on Shelley follows:
Apr 26, 2006 — Donald A. Shelley, a York County native who loved art history, died April 19 at his home in Oley Township in Berks County. He was 94.
June Lloyd, formerly of the York County Heritage Trust, said she held Shelley in high regard.
“He was such a brilliant man and a gentleman,” Lloyd said. “He rediscovered Fraktur – Pennsylvania German brightly colored, illuminated manuscripts. He studied it when people did not realize what a treasure the Fraktur documents were.”
He did the grueling research. The 18th-century art form had been ignored during World War I and World War II, Lloyd said.
Shelley’s book in the late 1950s on Fraktur was the most well-known reference for many years, Lloyd said.
When Lloyd wrote a book on Fraktur as practiced in York County, Shelley wrote the introduction, she said.
His positions include curator of paintings and sculpture at the New York Historical Society from 1938-49, curator of fine arts at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Michigan from 1952-54, and executive director, president and CEO of the Henry Ford Museum from 1952-76.
From 1978-80, he served as acting director of the Historical Society of York County.
He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Esther Rose Lightner Shelley; daughter Lee Shelley Glasius of Fort Myers, Fla.; son David L. Shelley of San Francisco; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Services were held Monday at Saint Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Douglasville, Berks County, with burial at Paddletown Cemetery in Newberry Township.