Posts Tagged ‘Edward Reep’

#1 Daughter: Longevity and Loss


2013
03.28

Photo by Felix Adamo

#1 daughter.  Susan. That’s how I signed cards to my parents.  It was just a fun thing because I was the first-born, a way to bring some levity to the same old “Love, Susan.”  Now both my parents are dead and #1 daughter takes on a new meaning because a new word takes its place – the M word.  Matriarch.  #1 in birth order. That word has a forbidding sound.  Kind of like the name Bertha, which always intimidated me.

But let’s back up a bit.  I’m 66.  I feel I may be a tad unusual to have had both my parents so long; Mom living until 87 and Dad until 94.  The last 10 years have been a rocky journey demanding a great deal of attention from us kids as Mom and Dad navigated hospitalizations, and then increasing dementia with Mom, while continuing to live independently.  “Independently” was a misnomer but we enabled them to believe it was so because we knew there were no options: they were not going anywhere or having anyone in.  Dad knew, however.  But he was a master of self-deception, not recognizing what he knew to be true.  Yet even that isn’t true, because on a deeper level he knew what he was doing and chose to ignore it.  He was a master of levels.

Mom died just in time.  She was on the verge of major cognitive changes and neither she nor Dad would have handled them well.  But losing her broke Dad’s heart.  It broke all our hearts, but Dad’s irreparably.  He showed so much courage in tackling life and trying to move forward but the struggle was brutal.  I found myself thinking it was time for him to die and wondering how it would come to pass.

And then he planted a rose bush on the coldest day of the winter.  My sister Janine, who was visiting from Alaska, and I were on an adventure – a day trip to Boron and having a wonderful time.

Janine in Boron

Dad had his own unexpected adventure.  We got a phone call from my housekeeper Connie who had been cleaning Dad’s house too – had we seen her glasses?  She had left them at Dad’s house, we said.  And the next thing we knew Connie was at Home Depot with Dad buying a rose bush.  What?  Janine and I were ecstatic!  Maybe this would be our answer – maybe Connie could take care of Dad and that would give a spark to his life!

Before we could even get to the idea we heard that Connie was too much woman for Dad – too “take charge.”  But planting the rose bush on that very cold day almost did him in, and he told us it was time for him to move to a retirement home.  We were so excited!  We had such high hopes for him to have two or three or who knows? even more good years where he would meet people, have more to do, more to eat.  His new apartment was wonderful and he was so happy and excited.  And he only got eight days and he died.

Photo by Felix Adamo

It breaks my heart.  I was not ready.  None of us were.  It’s been a month and I’m still not ready. We wanted Dad to have more.  That’s what we wanted.  And Dad wanted it for us – he was making the very best of what he had but truly, he hadn’t had a happy day since mom died, and he was ready.  It’s not about us.  He lived a remarkable life and he died a remarkable death and that is the end of his life on earth.

My dad, Edward Reep the artist in his studio in the mid-60s

It’s hard to believe he is gone.  And after 27 years in Bakersfield, there will be no more trips out to the house on Crowningshield Drive.  I won’t be driving out two to three times a week and calling every other day or more.  When the phone rings at 7:00 a.m. I won’t be cursing the fact that I’ve been woken up and it won’t be my dad.  Just like that, the pattern breaks.

And I contemplate a new role.  Matriarch.  Does that mean anything nowadays?  My father took his role as patriarch quite seriously.  I’m not sure he actually did anything but he felt a responsibility.  We aren’t a tribal society and we don’t look to the tribal elder for advice or approval or special dispensation for anything and I am not sure I’d want to be giving it anyhow.  But I am the female head of the family and the oldest family member, male or female.  I’d like to think I acquitted myself well in the role of daughter – not perfectly, but well – and now there’s a new role to play.

What family am I head of?  My own little (or not so little) family?  My extended family – sisters, brother, nieces and nephew?  Their spouses?  Cousins? It’s probably a meaningless contemplation but interesting nonetheless as we think about the structure of family and how families are coming back together as finances shrink.  How the wagons are circling and kids are gathering around the campfire again instead of scattering to the four winds.  Or is that the wild winds and the four corners of the earth?

I guess it will sort itself out, probably by disappearing completely as anything to think about at all.  A meaningless contemplation.  I just won’t be #1 daughter any more because there won’t be any more cards to sign.  My role as a daughter is over.  Now it’s part of history.  It’s an overwhelming thought, that the role of daughter is over.  I don’t want to give it up.

Maybe we’re never ready.  We just move on.  But I’ll be all right.  And as Dad said the night before he died, “I’ll be all right.”  I love you, Dad.

Trip to D.C.- Tribute to Richard Holbrooke


2012
07.26

Much earlier this year we took a trip to Washington D.C. and I wrote a series of blog posts talking about viewing my father Edward Reep’s World War Two art work at the Army Art Archives, visiting the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian to view my father’s work in their collection, and a whole series of  posts involving a particular painting of my father’s titled The Shrine and a successful effort to get it on permanent display.  I also talked about our visit to the Newseum and seeing the Berlin Wall, which was so interesting since we had just viewed my father’s paintings at the Army Archives of that very wall, which he painted when he was temporarily commissioned brigadier general and sent on special assignment in the 1970s to paint the wall before it fell.

All of that was tremendously exciting but it’s not why we went.  We went for a tribute to Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who died last year.  For those of you unfamiliar with Holbrooke, you can check out his resume here.  Besides being an Assistant Secretary of State, the person who brokered the Dayton Peace Accords, and many other seemingly impossible achievements, he was to us Dick Holbrooke, our in-country Peace Corps director while we were volunteers in Morocco in 1971-1973.  So we went to Washington to honor him and the founding of CorpsAfrica, a sort of in-country Peace Corps by and for country nationals, by establishing a fund to support the Morrocan in-country director in a pilot program.

Tribute to Richard Holbrooke

We only heard about it a week or so before the cocktail party reception and that was sure a new kind of thing for us to do – say, well, ok, let’s just do this, fly across country for a cocktail reception.  We stayed at an interesting place – the Hotel Harrington.  It was very old, in fact, Washington’s oldest continuously operating hotel.  I might call it marginal but I also think I’ll stay there again because it was cheap and within walking distance of everything – including a Forever 21, H and M, Macys, and other shopping.    We rented a car for an afternoon to go to Fort Belvoir, the Army Art Archives, but other than that, we walked.  (We did not brave eating there.)  I will say that I left lots of clothes in a closet and they mailed them to me, no charge, for which I was very grateful.  Especially when they arrived and I saw I left many more than I remembered.

Hotel Harrington

We enjoyed the reception.  We were the only volunteers from our group who came although one of the staff members attended.  We did have the honor of meeting Rachad Bouhlal, the Moroccan ambassador to the United States and it was his first official function- he had just arrived in the U.S.  His easy, friendly manner belied the sophistication and knowledge these diplomats have.  Besides having a degree in mathematics, speaking three languages, serving as the head of several government agencies and the ambassador to several countries including seven years in Germany, this man is a pilot and founded a wildlife film festival in Morocco.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my life sleepwalking.

We did urge Ambassador Bouhlal to visit us in Bakersfield.  After telling him we lived two years at 38 bis Hassan L’Oukili in Oujda, we told him Bakersfield is like the Oujda of California – under-appreciated but full of interesting things and actually, agriculturally important to his country.  Or potentially so.

My husband Mark Smith and I with Ambassador Bouhlal

So that’s about it.  We did have a lovely dinner at the home of friends Larkin and Katie Tackett and their children Maya and Ben.  They have just recently moved to Austin where we will visit them again as we are driving through there in a couple of months.

Me, Larkin and Katie with Maya and Ben

Finally, I again saw my friend Jack Duvall.  That is so odd.  We went to high school, graduated in 1964, may have seen each other 30 minutes in the intervening 40+ years at reunions (I’m sure that’s an overestimation), and then last October when I went to New York for Occupy Wall Street I heard someone call my name and it was Jack!  We had dinner together several times.  Since he lives in Washington, Mark and I had dinner with him again.  I’m not complaining since Jack was always one of my favorite people. I guess leaving California was the key.

Dinner with Jack Duvall at Bombay Club

Mark and I walked back to our hotel.  It was quite cold, the walk was brisk, but who could complain?  We had scenery like no other.  It was a splendid trip.  And finally – six months later, that concludes the blog posts about this trip!  It’s about time.

Our Amazing Adventure in Washington D.C. Part Three: The Berlin Wall and The Newseum


2012
02.25

The Berlin Wall

There are several threads to this part of the adventure, and again one of them weaves my father Ed Reep’s art into the story.  We’ve been to Washington many times and we went for a specific purpose this time, which I haven’t even blogged about yet.  The one sight we hadn’t seen and wanted to see was the Newseum.  First, though, we saw my father’s World War II work, produced when he was a soldier and war artist with the 5th Army in Italy, at the Army Art Archives. And we also saw this.

In the Army Art Archives

That’s my husband and me standing in front of two large paintings of the Berlin Wall.  Sometime in the 1970s I think, the Army recommissioned my father as a brigadier general and sent him to Germay to paint his impressions of the Wall.  The paintings are stunning.

 

There were also a number of drawings.  So that was something we didn’t expect to see.

We made it over to the Newseum, which is spectacular.

The Newseum

 

And were unexpectedly greeted by the…

 

Eight sections of the wall were on display as well as a large guard tower.  It was surreal to imagine a city cut in half and living in the shadow of a wall.

So far, there seemed to be a lot of synchronicity in this visit.

If anyone has seen the movie Goodbye Lenin, the next photo will elicit a chuckle.  This real-life scene figured in a funny yet poignant scene in the movie.

So we got a double dose of the Berlin Wall – the real thing and the Wall as recorded by my father while visiting the real thing.  But on to the Newseum.

The purpose of the Newseum is to tell the story of news and how it has been reported since the printed word was first able to be spread.  Starting with the first papers up through modern times an impressive array of front pages has been assembled.  I found these interesting.

Guy Fawkes caught my eye because there were people at Occupy Wall Street in masks I didn’t recognize and I believe they were from Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.

The lighting was very dim in this particular exhibit to preserve the media.

The exterior of the museum and again on the 6th floor is the Front Pages Gallery.  Every morning before the museum opens, the front page of a newspaper from every one of the 50 states is printed and put on display.

It’s pretty awesome.  There are interactive displays where you can find the front page from any paper in the nation so I found our Bakersfield Californian and one from Wyoming where one of our daughters lives.

If editors make good choices, headlines and photos can tell us much about the tenor of the times.  I think The Bakersfield Californian made a particularly good choice the day we were there.  I was not a particular fan of President Bush, but I would have never shaken my finger at him and given him a scolding.  What bad form!  Yet Obama seems to be responding with concern and dignity.

All kinds of things were tucked into the Newseum as they traced news from the beginning through the digital age.  Tim Russert’s office was recreated – or rather moved just as it was when he died – over here.  There was an FBI and the News exhibit and for some reason the Unibomber’s cabin was there as well as a mock-up of the shoe bomber’s shoes – which were quite complex!  And the Greensboro lunch counter was here – one of the places the civil rights movement began with sit-ins.

By then, television news was starting to influence events unlike in any other time in history and nothing would be the same.

The Newseum also has an exciting array of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, an excellent First Amendment exhibit, and an interactive ethics center.  There’s an interactive newsroom – so so much.  It took us an entire day and part of another and we still weren’t done.  I haven’t mentioned nearly everything there is to see.

One unfortunate feature that they are particularly proud of is a 4 D movie that everyone is strongly encouraged to see.  Much is made about “be careful if you’re pregnant or have back problems,” etc. so we were ready for some excitement.  The seat lurched a few times.  Well, lurched is too strong a word.  It was lame.  That’s the only thing I can say.  Anti-climactic.  The movie itself started off strong and then kind of stopped.  So spend your Newseum time on anything but the 4D movie!

So far, this trip had exhibited unexpected synchronicity topped off by the Berlin Wall, and we hadn’t even reached the event that brought us to Washington in the first place.  That’s next.

 

 

A Discovery of World War II Photographs of the Original Piazza Nettuno Shrine


2012
02.21

Recently I blogged about a painting of my father’s titled The Shrine.  If you haven’t read that post you might want to because this part of the story is pretty incredible, at least to me.  My father Edward Reep was a war artist in Italy in WWII and unbeknownst to us until just recently he had roll and rolls of film stashed in his studio in a cigar box.  I only found out by chance.  I found a book of contact prints on a shelf and was thrilled to find those – and even then he didn’t think to say he had the actual  film!  He’s almost 94 but I don’t think that’s it – he just doesn’t see this stuff as important.  I, however, am extremely interested in the history, not just because he’s Dad.

Anyhow, in the previous post I talked about a visit my husband and I made to Washington D.C. and our meeting with a curator at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  We feel The Shrine should be on permanent exhibit (the painting is owned by The Smithsonian) and the blog post details the history of the painting itself.  So now we have these negatives and I am getting them digitized.  I’m kind of wearing myself thin trying to do all kinds of things at once but I feel time pressure – although Dad is in good health, he’s almost 94, and when he is gone, the history is gone with him.  So I want the photos so he can explain them.

The first 12 rolls are back and here are three that were amongst them.

This is the brick wall in Bologna with fresh blood where the shrine sprung up.  Dad was there watching the whole thing happen.

The photos are amazing.  I hate to keep using that word but it keeps springing to mind.

I was so excited to see these!  I had no idea they existed and they complete the history I was able to piece together in my previous post.

I’ll finish with the image of the painting although it’s in the previous post.  And I have some good news from museum director Elizabeth Broun who thinks  she may be able to find a place for the painting to be on permanent display in the Luce Foundation Center for American Art on the third floor of the museum. I hope for some follow-up news on that soon.

Amazing Adventures in Washington D.C. Part Two: The Shrine


2012
02.13

Our recent trip to Washington D.C was packed with special  moments.  In my last post I wrote about seeing my father’s World War Two art at the Army Art Archives.  We were also able to see some of his art at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

My father’s (Edward Reep’s) painting The Shrine is a significant work of art historically, artistically, and emotionally.  It’s painted brilliantly and my father considers it one of the two best works of art he’s ever done.  He painted it on his Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946 based on photos he took during World War II in Bologna, Italy.

About the situation, my dad has this to say in his book A Combat Artist in World War II:

In the town square of Bologna, where the city jail is located,  a collaborator had just been slain beneath the iron-barred windows of the jail, his fresh blood still visible on the brick wall below. Within minutes an Italian flag was hung on the wall, above and to the left of the blood-stain, the tricolored red, white and green presenting a startling panache of color against the ancient, dull brown bricks.  The House of Savoy emblem had been ripped away from the white central panel of the flag; pinned in its place was a stiff black ribbon of mourning.  This became a dual gesture: it signified the end of the monarchy and Fascism, and it became a memorial to those who had given their lives in the long struggle for liberation.  A derelict green table was then thrust against the bedecked wall, and placed upon it were little mementos, mostly photographs and flowers commemorating the loved ones who had perished; more photos were pinned to the flag.  The images of those who had seen service in the Italian army were adorned with delicate multicolored ribbons of red, green and white.  Lastly, an ornate filigree cross of black wrought metal was placed toward the front of the table to become the crowning touch in completing the impromptu shrine.  Today, in Bologna, a permanent shrine stands on that sacred ground.

My dad’s notes on the execution of the painting from his book are as follows:

The Shrine was executed after the war from notes and sketches during the hectic moments when we captured Bologna.  The hastily erected shrine depicted is now a permanent and more elaborate national monument in that city.  The painting relies heavily upon the contrast of transparent color glazes against impasto (thick) paint.  After initially priming the canvas, I covered it with a green ground that would peer through the multitude of brownish-red bricks.  Painting on the field of battle had to be quick and spontaneous; it was rarely studied.  Equipment was always portable and never comfortably complete.  In my postwar studio I was able to exercise care and patience, select the appropriate medium, and – of greater importance – reflect deeply upon significant issues.

This historical explanation and photo of the shrine today comes, with permission, from  Scott D. Haddow 0n flickr,

photo

Il Sacrario dei partigiani in Piazza Nettuno, Bologna

Memorial to the partisans of WWII (1943-1945).

Bologna was one of the Italian cities most affected by the war, both for its importance in the communication/transportation system, and for its location in the rear of the Gothic Line. Between September 1943 and April 1945 the city was occupied by the Nazis. The people suffered from cold and hunger, Allied bombings and Nazi reprisals such as that of Monte Sole. Throughout this period, the courageous action of groups of anti-fascist partisans kept the people’s hopes alive.

A high toll was paid by the Bolognese: the number of civilian deaths under the bombing was 2481, while 2064 partisans were killed. On the morning of April 21 1945 Bologna was free.

Women’s groups began to lay flowers and put up pictures of their loved ones in Piazza Nettuno, on the wall where many partisans had been shot .

Thus was born the shrine of the partisans.

(translated from Italian: www.certosadibologna.it/museo_virtuale/sacrario_nettuno.html)

From another source, here is another image of the shrine today.

I am currently speaking with the head curator of the Smithsonian because I feel my father’s painting should be on permanent display somewhere in the museum system.  My father has a couple of other works at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art that were donated by the Ford Motor Company and while they are excellent watercolors, I don’t believe they have either the artistic or historical significance to merit permanent display.  The Shrine, however, does, and I hope something can be worked out.

If anyone wishes to lend their voice to this endeavor, I contacted the director Elizabeth Broun at BrounE@si.edu and she was very interested in hearing more about the history of the painting and the historical significance of the shrine.  I don’t believe she needs “cheerleading” kinds of contact, but more of historically directed opinions or artistic statements if anyone has information I don’t.  For example, what Scott D. Haddow had to say is very interesting because this was difficult to google.

Above, my husband and I look at my father’s watercolors in the Smithsonian archives.

Watercolor donated to the Smithsonian by Ford Motor Company.

All in all, it was rather amazing to have been one day at the Army Art Archives examining my father’s art and the next doing the same at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  This trip was beginning to feel a little bit surreal, but no one was complaining!

To come: more amazing connections and coincidences with the Berlin Wall.

 

 

Amazing adventures in Washington DC Part One: We visit the Army Art Archives and see my father’s WWII art


2012
02.10

Anzio Beach by Edward Reep

Above:  bombs fall in the harbor at Anzio Beach in World War II as Edward Reep paints on the spot.

To start at the very beginning we’d have to go all the way back to WWII.  My dad enlisted in the army as so many people did in what is now called the Greatest Generation.  My father, however, was an artist, and while he was trained as a soldier and an officer at Camp Roberts and Fort Ord in California, he was asked to be a war artist.  This meant that he fought the war with paintbrushes as well as guns.

In a previous post, where Ben Clarke recalls how my dad saved his father’s life by rushing onto the battlefield and rescuing him, you can read what it meant to be a war artist.  That’s not what this is about.

This is about the amazing chance my husband and I had to see all the paintings and drawings my dad did in Italy, which are now property of the Department of the Army.  The story gets a little convoluted here and I’ll spare everyone the details. Suffice it to say that through a series of coincidences, odd circumstances and luck, we made contact with the Army art archivist in Washington D.C. and were able to see her during our visit.

We rented a car and drove to Fort Belvoir and again realized how grateful we are to live in Bakersfield, California where the air is bad, the literacy rate is low, but the traffic is light and it’s easy to get around.  But it was nostalgic to visit Fort Belvoir because my parents were married there in Chapel #6 in 1941, and in the ’70s we drove to Fort Belvoir and took our picture outside of Chapel #6.  Today, the fort has been restructured and that little chapel is no more.

So.  The art.  It was a thrill to be in a state-of-the-art building full of art that was not just art but primary source historical material.  It is truly priceless.  The army cares for its art meticulously and with reverence and respect which was comforting and reassuring. The real thrill was seeing my dad’s work.

This work has been reproduced in books and lent to various galleries across the country for shows but for the first time we saw it all and it is spectacular.  In the same way that a black and white photo is oddly more realistic than a color photo, even though the world is in color, a painting of the war can seem more realistic and emotional than a photograph.  Seeing the body of work all together was emotional, and knowing it was my father’s work elicits feelings I can hardly articulate.

My pictures are distorted because the paintings were flat, but I’ll show some anyway and explain.

The Bath

This painting is very well known and popular.  This particular soldier wanted a hot bath and had gasoline dripping over an open flame to heat water.  My dad was afraid it would blow up any instant!  The painting was shipped home during the war, shown in New York, and Eleanor Roosevelt came to the exhibit. She paused in front of this painting, which was captured by the Movietone News.  When my dad’s parents went to the movies in Los Angeles, they were surprised and so proud to see Mrs. Roosevelt, whom they greatly admired, looking at their son Edward Reep’s painting!

These are all from the Italian front.  The soldier bathing is in Anzio.  These soldiers are on a normal patrol, if anything can be called normal in war, and the army archivist mentioned how interesting she found it that artists could capture the natural beauty that existed among the horror of war.

The Italian winters were harsh.  Tents and guns were painted white to blend in with snow.  Supplies had been stashed and buried with cans put on sticks so they could be located, but the cans were painted red.  My father feels this is one of his finest war paintings.

This painting is of the front line.  Dad said that since seeing the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, he had wondered what the front line was like. He described the final scene where the character Paul is back on the front lines and sees a butterfly, a thing of beauty.  He stands to see it better but is too exposed and is shot and killed.  And here it was.  The Front – a line with white tape stretched across it, mines on the other side. Allies on one side, Germans on the other.

This very powerful drawing is of a mule train in the Apennines in Northern Italy.  It was cold and wet; the mud was 14 inches deep and very sticky.  Dad fell face down and almost could not free himself.  He thought he was going to die there.  Finally, he managed to free one nostril enough to breathe and then was able to calm down and work himself out.  He had to draw and not paint because the watercolors would freeze overnight and melt in the mornings.

The leading art critic of the time called Dad one of the six best pen and ink artists of his day.

These are only a few of a large and remarkable body of work.  My husband and I consider this visit a highlight of our adult life and a privilege.  How lucky we are – how lucky I am – to have this history as part of our lives.

You can learn more about the war art program and combat artists, or about my dad Edward Reep’s art and experiences in the war  here- A Combat Artist in WWII

or here – They Drew Fire

 

 

Saving a life in World War II: an unexpected tale over 50 years later.


2011
12.13

I have not written a post for over four months.  Why? I had nothing to say.  But now I do because I received an amazing email yesterday from someone named Ben Clark.  If I didn’t have a blog, he would not have found me on the internet, and I would not have received his account of this amazing story from World War II involving both of our fathers.

I have permission to share his email.  The video he refers to is this:

The man he refers to is my father, Edward Reep.

And my father tells the story also in a book that he wrote:

Here it goes.

Susan I must start by telling you about my father. His name was Martin Clark.  My father was a boxer as well as a soldier.  He was a world class fighter and was actually promoted to fight Joe Louis the Brown Bomber…

He (Martin Clark) would laugh when telling his stories He told us many stories over and over again, and my friends would come to our house and listen again and again to his telling of his days in the war.  I remember these stories as if they happened to me.

One of his stories was the account of how he was injured at Anzio Beach.  He told us all hell broke loose and every one was scrambling for fox holes.  He was hit in the leg and later discovered that he (his leg) was almost amputated by shrapnel.  His account was as he was laying there a jeep drove up and someone carried him to the back of the jeep.  During that moment he was also shot in the leg.  As the jeep drove down the beach they hit a bump  in the road and one of the men stated that he thought my father was dead.  My dad stated, “The hell I am.  I am not dead.”

56 years later I was nursing a neck injury.  It was Sunday and I could not find my remote; then on PBS came a video about an artist who sketched the war (They Drew Fire).  As I watched I learned of your father who in the beginning tells of the story about a group of men who were in a theater tent that was hit by a mortar.  He stated that he hid  through the night and the next morning felt ashamed and that he was a coward.  He also stated that from that point on he would seek to redeem himself by going to the frontlines.

Now the tape moves to Anzio Beach and as I listened I thought that it would be interesting to hear another perspective about the place where my father almost died.   Your dad said the same things, that all of a sudden all hell broke loose. Then your dad stated, “Then I saw this poor son of a gun with his leg nearly blown off.”   So against his captain’s orders, he left his fox hole and went to the aid of this soldier, not caring for his own safety.  He assisted a medic in getting the soldier to the jeep, and as they drove down the road your dad said they hit a bump in the road and he said that he told the driver he thought the soldier was dead. At that moment the soldier stuck his head up and said, “The hell I am. I am not dead..”

At that moment I was coming out of my recliner, I could not believe what I was hearing… I wrote down the number and ordered the video tape.  I later watched it and discovered your dads phone number via the internet. I finally summoned the courage and called him.  When he answered the phone I told him my name and that I watched his video on PBS. His first words to me were, “I was such a damn coward”…

OH NO, I told him respectfully that I believed that the man he risked his life to save by leaving the fox hole was my father.  I described how he would have looked at the time and your dad agreed it sounded exactly like him. I explained that there was no way he was a coward in my book, and that he was a brave man.  I could tell your dad was choking up a bit so I promised to write him a letter.

 I went on to write you father a letter explaining that because of his bravery my father made it home to his wife for 47 more years of adoring marriage, and that he had four more sons after that injury, of whom I am the youngest of the five.  My oldest brother was a cadet at West Point, my next brother served in the Green Berets, My third brother was in the U.S. Navy, and my other brother and I are family men.  All of us have college degrees and two have masters.  My father up until 2003 lived in Merritt Island, and he lived to see his great grand children.

I attribute the single fact of my existence to one lion-hearted, selfless man:  your father.  I reported this coincidental sighting of the video to a friend/reporter who followed up with a story.  But your dad, like most men of that period, did not say much.

All I can tell you is Captain Ed Reep is my hero. He not only saved my dad’s life but his actions set in motion the life of a family tree.  Surely God was directing your father’s steps that cold January day in Italy.

As for you mom, my heart goes out to you; my father suffered dementia also, and I was vigilant by his bedside the evening he entered into the Kingdom of heaven.

Susan if your father is still alive, please tell him that I think about him every day and that I thank the Lord for him. I just wanted to reach out to you as your dad has been on my heart for many years.  As I searched for him I came across your website.  It gives me great pleasure to share this story with you.

I hope you have a very peaceful and joyous Christmas season.

Peace,

Ben Clark

What a gift Ben gave me with this email.  He gave a gift to my dad also, who is 93 and sill living independently (more or less).  I printed the email and took it to him.  When he got to the part about Martin Clark enjoying 47 more years of marriage and having five sons, Dad was overcome.    He said that maybe he had done something worthwhile in his life.

And Ben found me because of my web page.  That in itself is reason to continue my blog.  Being “found” can lead to unexpected treasures.  I’ll try to write another post before four more months have passed.  Maybe I’ll find my voice again.

#CED2010: Home is Where the Art Is


2010
02.07

Thinking about home.  Thinking about art.  Realizing that for so many of us, home is where the art is.  Yesterday I wrote about chasing the cobwebs out of my mind by getting the space around me in order.  I spent lots of time ordering the studio and I posted pix of that yesterday.  Whollyjeanne made an interesting observation about that post – she says she has a notion that physical space is often a reflection of inner space.  I’ve never thought in those terms exactly, but it makes sense of course  – because if we are lucky, we arrange our physical space to be that in which we are comfortable observing and existing.  It goes even farther than that however, because I think our physical space can be a reflection of what we would like our inner space to be – or perhaps how we would like our outer life to reflect our inner space.

Our house has always been full of art – my dad’s art (he’s actually a famous artist), my mom’s art (quilting), and then whatever we could afford.  Which wasn’t a whole heck of a lot.  But honestly, our walls have no blank space – art is everywhere.  Yet there was none of my art because I wasn’t making any.  I was generating an income however I could for years, then teaching seventh-grade, and when I was 60, I retired. (Thank goodness my husband is still working because becoming an artist is expensive.).

That’s when my inner space synced with my physical space.  The art was always in me I guess.  Photography always, for sure.  But all of a sudden my inner space started erupting with creativity and I started creating collages from my photos.  The whole art thing is so exciting that I ran off in all directions at once, but recently realized I have to pull in and create using my photos, which is where I am strongest and where my “artistic” roots are.

So, yes, home is where the art is.  Here are two of the latest things I’ve done.  When I was snowed in at the cabin I finished these, but with the sadness of the last week I haven’t had time to post them yet.  At least I’m pretty sure I haven’t since I came home to all that turmoil during which photoshop decided to quit, etc.  In fact, these are not the best scans of these canvases because I have been having scanner problems, photoshop problems, computer problems, phone problems (not that that has anything to do with art), missing tripod-part problems – in other words, it’s been a messy week.

I posted a small study I did in my art journal but I knew it wouldn’t be the final form, and indeed it wasn’t – this is.  Most people don’t like this.  I do.  I forgot to put a second coat on the background (acrylic) so I rubbed pastel all over it and then put omni-gel over it all.  I took the photo of the cans in a little country store, the Twin Oaks General Store, in Twin Oaks – a very small community on Caliente Creek Road in Kern County.  Had never seen Popeye spinach and it just captured my fancy.  The orange circle, the bowl of peas, and Plenti Grand are from vintage fruit and vegetable crate labels.

The background photo for this collage is a stop along Interstate I70 – and the giraffe I actually took eons ago at the Santa Barbara Zoo.  I found this photo during the infernal and still unfinished photo-organizing project.  So I thought I’d move the giraffe to an unfamiliar location – his inner space and physical space are no doubt suffering a  disconnect.  Perhaps he’s longing for the familiar.  Then I added some art paper embellishments but I don’t like the way the pink meets, or maybe I do, so I’ll either fix it or I won’t.  How’s that for decisiveness?

So that’s it for Home is Where the Art Is – and I made a completely ungrammatical decision to capitalize the last I!  This construct of Creative Every Day and monthly themes is proving most productive – nice to give a direction for thoughts to roam.