Remembering UI writer, artist


Though Kathleen “Kay” Burford’s professional accomplishments were significant, she is also remembered for the presence she and husband Byron Burford exuded on the UI and Iowa City social scene.

“They were important to the whole social ambiance of the university,” said Wallace Tomasini, a UI art professor and longtime friend of the couple. “They were close friends with anybody involved in the music, humanities, or arts; they always entertained those people in their home.”

Kay Burford, 89, died Tuesday after a long illness. The Dubuque native was one of the first three women accepted to the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Kathleen “Kathy” Burford, one of her daughters, remembers famous writers and artists, including David Hockney, coming to her home for dinner parties and eating her mother’s curry.

“She was a very good cook,” Kathy Burford said. “It was all about entertaining.”

Kay Burford received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in art at the UI, where she met Byron Burford, a painter.

“They were a wonderful example of the perfect couple,” Tomasini said.

Virginia Myers, a UI professor who worked with Kay Burford’s daughter, Joanna “Nana” Burford, said the younger woman inherited the family’s natural artistic ability.

“Nana was well-endowed with drawing and painting skills before she was even a student at the university,” Meyers said.

Kay Burford wrote myriad works in different areas of print. As a journalist, she was responsible for the women’s page at the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. Her “Bedtime Story” was published in Junior Bazaar magazine in 1947, while she was attending the Writers’ Workshop.

She was also an artist and illustrator.

“I remember her making illustrations for children, books, and Christmas cards,” Tomasini said. “She was very inventive.”

Kathy Burford said her mother also published postcards featuring cats making witty remarks that are still available through the university.

Kay Burford was involved in the community as a member of the Raphael Club, a UI women’s organization that supports the arts. She read to children at the Public Library and loved animals — she donated regularly to the animal rescue league.

Burford is survived by husband Byron Burford, daughters Kathy and Nana, and son Kevin. Memorials may be sent to Friends of the Animal Center Foundation or Friends Foundation of the Iowa City Public Library.

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