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At her request, pieces of Marsha DuPre’s origami were placed on tables during her celebration of life earlier this month. Friends were invited to choose from among the decorative folded paper designs as keepsakes to remember her and her love of origami.


majestic bird -- the crane -- is revered in many Asian cultures.

In Japan, this tall, flying bird is regarded as a symbol of longevity and good luck.

That theme is also carried forward in a tradition associated with the art of decorative paper folding known as origami: If a person folds 1,000 paper cranes, it is believed he or she will be granted a wish, in hopes of health, happiness and peace.

The late Marsha DuPre of Ninety Six was an accomplished educator, musician and artist, who folded 1,000 paper cranes for a large-scale origami mobile.

That mobile was part of an exhibit several years ago at the Arts Center of Greenwood and now is a permanent installation at a Greenwood retail shop and art gallery -- Main and Maxwell. The origami mobile was installed Jan. 20 at Main and Maxwell.

The 1,000 paper crane tradition is attributed to Sadako Sasaki, who, as a very young child, was a victim of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, and diagnosed with leukemia as a result of radiation exposure. Sasaki set about folding 1,000 paper cranes as a means of mitigating her suffering, but it is said she died before reaching her goal.

There is a memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, depicting Sasaki holding a single crane.

DuPre’s friends and her husband, Billy, say her interests were varied and that anything she set her mind to she would master, be it playing the Celtic harp, knitting, singing or other passions.

During a celebration of DuPre’s life in January, at Sundance Gallery in Greenwood, those close to DuPre said they knew her love of origami deserved to be a focal point. DuPre died in November after a battle with an aggressive form of cancer.

“I was asked to help plan her celebration of life,” said friend and potter Dohnna Boyajian of Ninety Six. “She was determined to fold those 1,000 cranes and make something of it. It took her months to fold them for that mobile and the show at the Arts Center, but she did it.

“The way it was displayed for that show, it was hung at a height so that you walked into it,” Boyajian recalled. “Smooth stones formed a circle at the bottom and you walked into the mobile, so that you were surrounded by these 1,000 cranes.”

Friends say DuPre studied with an origami master from Japan who conducted classes in the United States and she traveled to Japan, too.

Allison Muller of Greenville is one of DuPre’s longtime paper-folding buddies.

The two got to know each other more than 20 years ago when they roomed together at an origami conference and a lasting friendship formed. The two worked on projects together, folding paper for table centerpieces for Girl Scout gatherings and grown children’s wedding receptions.

“We were true kindred spirits,” Muller said. “Marsha was a force of nature and took things to the next level...She had teaching in her soul and origami is a wonderful thing to share with people.”

Muller said she doesn’t know exactly what inspired DuPre to tackle folding 1,000 paper cranes, but she said the gesture is regarded as a very supportive thing to do for someone going through a crisis. Muller said she and friends have folded cranes and strung them together for people battling cancer.

“Marsha had bins and bins of origami,” Boyajian said. “One was all insects. One was all geometric shapes and one was all flowers. She loved folding things. She mentioned before she died that she wanted every guest at her celebration of life, to take something that she had folded.”

Boyajian said dozens of origami pieces were placed on tables for guests at the celebration.

“I remembered that mobile was in her garage attic and we unpacked it and hung it as a centerpiece of her life celebration,” Boyajian said.

After the celebration, it was suggested by artist Colleen Tebo that the mobile be hung as a permanent installation in Main and Maxwell.

“We rented a scissor lift and got it up to the ceiling, using a pulley,” said Laura Bachinski, a potter and owner of Main and Maxwell. “It’s hanging by fishing line. The cranes move around when the air moves. Marsha was one of the first artists to sign a contract to be part of Main and Maxwell. It definitely feels like she’s watching over us.”

Member artists with the gallery pay monthly membership fees that go toward rent.

“The loss of Marsha has left a big hole,” Muller said. “...She would be over the moon to know that her piece is in that gallery. She is a Renaissance woman who is dearly loved and had the most amazing giggle.”