Having fun in memory of a community leader

A tribute brunch will feature a table game loved by Marsha Froelich.

Late local activist Marsha Froelich and the tabletop game mah jongg are indelibly intertwined in the minds of executives at the Dayton Art Institute, where a tribute to both will take place next Sunday.

In the museum’s Shaw Gothic Cloister, attendees of the Mah Jongg Brunch will see live demonstrations of the game and a video lesson and learn about the life and work of Froelich, executive director emeritus of Clothes That Work. She died last year.

“(Froelich) was a friend of the museum and a dear friend (of DAI staff members),” DAI executive director Michael Roediger said. “We want to honor her generous volunteer spirit. She gave so much to the community and left us too soon.”

In addition to Clothes That Work, which provides job interview-appropriate clothing and other employment-related services for clients, Froelich served as vice president for development for the YWCA Dayton, and held offices with numerous other community organizations including the United Way. Her fundraising work helped to raise millions for underserved people in the Dayton region.

A breast cancer survivor, Froelich privately counseled women with breast cancer and was recognized as a YWCA Woman of Influence, one of the Dayton Daily News’ Top Ten Women, a Woman of Valor by Beth Abraham Synagogue and was a recipient of the Dayton Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award.

After retiring from Clothes That Work, Froelich “offered to teach mah jongg in the Asian Gallery after she retired from Clothes That Work as a way to bring more people to the museum,” Roediger said.

Lest people think mah jongg is a just an older person’s game, Roediger noted that the game is attracting a new demographic. “Mah jongg has been very popular in the Asian and Jewish communities for a long time and is growing in popularity among younger people,” he said.

True mah jongg – also known as mahjongg, mahjong and in its native China, má jiàng – bears little resemblance to the single-player, tile-matching game many of us have played online. To aficionados, it is a four-player table game requiring even greater skill, strategy and a certain amount of chance.

Attendees of the Mah Jongg Brunch will also be able to sign up for future lessons, as well as receive a discounted rate to see the special exhibition “Stephen Knapp: Lightpaintings.” Knapp’s art is created entirely from dichroic glass, which displays a shifting array of colors as light reflects off of or passes through it. His work will be shown through Jan. 6.

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