Friday July 13, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Priscilla Dewey Houghton, the longtime director of a creative arts program for children in Massachusetts and the wife of former U.S. Rep. Amory Houghton Jr. of New York, has died. She was 87.

Houghton's son, Peter Dewey, said she died July 6 at her Cohasset home after a long battle with lung cancer.

She worked as director or co-director of the Charles River Creative Arts Program in Dover for two decades, developing an arts education program that became a model for programs worldwide.

Six years after losing her first husband to cancer, she married Houghton, whose family founded the Corning glass company. He spent 18 years as a congressman.

Dewey said his mother was also a playwright and poet who loved watching children gain self-confidence when they became involved in the arts.

"So many kids would come who were shy, who wouldn't think of getting on a stage. She loved watching these kids blossom. All of a sudden, they would just come out of their shell," he said.

Houghton lived a full life despite serious health problems. In the 1950s, she spent a year in bed recovering from polio, her son said. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in the 1980s, but far exceeded an initial prognosis that she would only live a few months, Dewey said.

"When she had polio, she just fought it. She went from the bed to a wheelchair to crutches and a cane, then nothing," Dewey said. "She just fought it and fought it and fought it and walked around and never looked back. She fought the lung cancer the same way. There was no feeling sorry. It was straight forward, enjoy every minute."