My Mother, E. Claire Healey: Professor, Scholar, Actress, Pianist, Painter, Sailor, Skier, Figure Skater, Fashion Plate

Dr. Ray Healey
12 min readMay 3, 2023


She Also Tooled Around Town in her Hot Red Convertible

My mother, Eleanor Claire (nee Voyer) Healey, earned a PhD in English Literature from Columbia University, became an American Lit Professor, and ultimately became the first woman to chair the English department at Montclair State College (now Montclair State University) — but when I was a kid, growing up in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, she was just my Mother, taking care of two rambunctious boys, driving us around in her convertible for adventures in Montclair’s numerous parks, and thus pretty indistinguishable from the other suburban moms in our neighborhood.

[This story is one chapter in a memoir I am writing — “Growing Up in the Healey Clan: Playing Sports in Parks and Clubs in Upper Montclair — which I will be publishing serially on Medium.]

Claire Healey about to collect her MA in English literature from Columbia University, spring 1954.

She also, incidentally, had movie-star looks, which may explain why she performed in local theater productions throughout my childhood, including a collection of starring roles at The Montclair Dramatic Club, and before that roles with the Clay Hill Players, but that’s another story.

Claire Healey and son Ray Healey Jr., sporting holiday finery at his first Christmas, Dec. 1948.

She also was a very smart dresser, who wore the latest fashions on her statuesque figure (she was just a hair under 6 feet tall), and in the above photo you can see that she made sure that I was fashionably clothed in my own outfit during my first Christmas season. Note the color coordination between mother and son.

Ray Healey Jr. exercising his Second Amendment rights, albeit with a water pistol

Admittedly, this aspiring academic had her hands full with me, a rambunctious youngster who like nothing better than tearing around the house firing off my water pistol, imitating my TV hero Roy Rogers.



Dr. Ray Healey

English Lit. Professor. Novelist and short story writer. Adventurer: Pamplona Bull Running, Boston Marathon, "Deliverance" River Running, Cross Country Bike,…