Columns

Painting over art-shaming scars

My reaction might have been a little over the top.

“I would rather have my eyelashes plucked out one by one while listening to alpine yodeling and drinking beet juice mixed with cod liver oil,” I said.

My friend raised her hands in surrender.

“Wow! OK then. We’ll skip paint night and just go to happy hour someplace.”

Some people might think a suggestion to have a glass of wine and create art with a good friend sounds delightful.

I’m not those people, and I have Mrs. Pendergast to thank for that.

Mrs. Pendergast was my second-grade teacher. While my reading skills soared under her tutelage, my art skills plummeted.

I dreaded art time more than I dreaded dodge ball during PE, and that’s saying something. My undiagnosed nearsightedness meant I never saw that pink rubber ball coming till it smacked me silly.

When Mrs. P. directed us to don our paint shirts, I groaned. Wearing my dad’s old button-down dress shirt was mortifying. It was dirty for heaven’s sake! It was crusty and stained, and it didn’t match my carefully coordinated outfit!

Of course, the reason it was stained was because I could never seem to gauge the right amount of paint. I would think I had just the right quantity of yellow for my sun, only to watch in dismay as golden globs streaked down the paper and smeared into my already-crusty sleeves.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mrs. P. scolded. “Your sun is bleeding all over your paper!”

With that she snatched my art attempt off the easel, crumpling it in disgust, commanding me to start over.

Her bleeding-sun comment inspired me.

I dipped my brush into what I hoped was just the right amount of scarlet, and painted a red sun, dripping droplets of blood from the sky.

“Good grief!” shouted Mrs. P. “That is disgraceful! What is the matter with you!?”

My classmates tittered as once again she ripped my paper from the easel.

When the class went out to recess, I stayed behind, waiting for the paint to dry so I could place my painting at the bottom of the stack, safe from mocking eyes.

So, you can see why my reaction to a friend’s suggestion of paint night was a tad vehement.

But a couple of years passed, and recently my husband came home and announced that we’d been invited to go to Pinot’s Palette with some friends.

Much to his surprise, I agreed.

It was time to silence the shaming voice of Mrs. Pendergast once and for all. My painting might stink, but at least I’d have a glass of wine to ease the sting.

On Jan. 26, I donned a paint-spattered apron, sat at an easel and picked up a brush.

To my joy I discovered we were going to replicate a painting of the northern lights. No sun in sight. And a perfect choice since we’d invited Derek’s sister and her Norwegian husband to join us. They’ve actually seen the northern lights.

I listened carefully to the instructor.

“The first lesson is you must learn the difference between your wine glass and your water glass,” she said.

That was easy. My wine glass was the one without any paintbrushes in it. Yet.

The next lesson covered what to do if we accidentally got paint on our clothes. It seemed like the instructions were tailored just for me.

In the event of a paint emergency, our teacher told us to, “Run to the sink, scream, flail, and use Murphy’s Oil Soap.”

She paused. “But if it’s been more than 15 minutes you have a new outfit.”

With that we were ready to begin.

I panicked a bit. But my husband’s friend said, “Just dip your brush into your wine and drink your water.”

I did the opposite, and soon I was well on my way.

My brother-in-law wandered over to check out my progress.

“Cindy, you are a born artist!” he exclaimed.

He is a bit of a hogwash artist, but his encouragement was appreciated nonetheless.

“By now your canvas is covered with paint,” the instructor said.

And mine was. I’d followed instructions. I’d mixed blue and green and made teal. And I hadn’t dipped my sleeve in my palette. Yet.

Shades of doubt seeped in when I had trouble blending the first swooshes of white into the night sky, but soon we were on to stippling stars and my true talents emerged.

“I am the BEST at stars,” I proclaimed.

Of course, one glass of wine had turned into two at this point, but isn’t that why they call it liquid courage?

At the end of the evening my evergreens were a bit wonky, and I hadn’t mastered blending, but by golly, my stars sparkled.

I sat at the easel and lifted my glass in silent salute.

Good night Mrs. Pendergast, wherever you are.

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Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at http://www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/ Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

War Bonds

Death Diminishes War Bonds Roster

Sometimes I run out of words. A dire problem for a writer, but gut-wrenching loss will do that to you.

Within the span of a few weeks, two precious people featured  in War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation have passed away.

First my beloved Marine, Myrt Powers, died. The story of her marriage to sailor, Walt Powers, is featured in chapter 30– and is unusual because both she and her husband served in World War ll. This couple were also featured on the television show Northwest Profiles and shared their story at a local veterans support group, following the book’s publication.

I last saw Myrt in March 2016 when my husband and I ran into her waiting in line for coffee in Hawaii! She and her husband wintered on Oahu for many years.

Feisty, upbeat and absolutely adorable, Myrt is everything I want to be when I grow up. My heart aches for Walt and for all of us who knew and loved her. Though she was tiny, her absence leaves a huge hole.

14090_890795544292407_8952799764996575077_n[1]Cindy Hval with Myrt and Walt Powers, 2015.

And then last week, Jack Rogers died. A lifelong, prolific artist, Rogers taught all four of my sons during his tenure as art teacher at Northwest Christian School.

The story of his courtship and enduring marriage to his wife, Fran, is featured in chapter 20 of War Bonds.

He was still painting up until the last week of his life as he decorated wooden tailgates for Personal Energy Transporters for the PET Project.

In November, I was privileged to cover one of his last art shows.

“I was given a gift and I want to share it,” he said.

And here’s where words fail.

How can I possibly convey the depth of my admiration and love for these people? How do I sum up the gratitude I feel for having been a small part of their lives and for being entrusted to share their stories with the world?

I can’t.

But I can say I will miss them and treasure the memories of the hours spent with Myrt Powers and Jack Rogers.

I hope that I’ve given readers of War Bonds a snapshot of how they made the post World War ll world, a place of hope.

Rest in peace, beloveds, for you have surely earned it.

 

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Jack and Fran Rogers, with Cindy Hval, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

War Bonds

Taking home a memory: Jack Rogers’ last exhibition

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In 1943, at 19, Jack Rogers joined the Army. He was assigned to the amphibious engineers unit and spent 3 years on active duty, most of it in the Philippines.

“Our whole company was made up of kids– dressed up as soldiers,” he said. “At 19 I was in charge of 55 men.” He shrugged. “You grew into the job.”

After the war he became a commercial artist and a founding member of the Spokane Watercolor Society. He started the art department at Spokane Falls Community College in 1963 and taught there for 26 years.

On Saturday, Rogers, 93, had what will likely be his final art show/sale.

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People had lined up before the doors even opened. Anxious to take home a signed painting. Anxious to thank Rogers for his service to our country. Anxious to thank him for his devotion to teaching and to art.

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He and Fran, his wife of 70 years, greeted the crowd. When asked the reason for the show Rogers said. “I was given a gift and I want to share it,” he said. “Why put it all back in the drawers? I’m hoping people will take home a memory.”

My memories of Jack Rogers exist in more than just watercolors. They exist in hours spent interviewing him. They exist in War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation. Time spent with he and Fran is precious to me, now and I was glad to see the community turn out to shake his hand and to tell him thank you.

War Bonds

WWII veteran uses art talent to help disabled people around world

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Jack Rogers, 93, is featured in War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation with his wife Fran. The couple celebrated 70 years of marriage in April.

In this article for the Spokesman Review, I share how Rogers hasn’t let a series of strokes slow his desire or ability to help those indeed.

Greatest Generation indeed!

Rolling his wheelchair to his desk beneath a window, Jack Rogers picked up his pen and added deft strokes to a picture of a lone cross-country skier traversing a snowy landscape.

Rogers, 93, has always said he won’t retire. And despite suffering a series of strokes in October, he’s kept his word, though these days his desk is in a North Side care and rehabilitation facility.

Looking up from his work he smiled and said, “Old age creeps up on you.”

He has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities following the strokes, but he still participated via wheelchair in his 40th Bloomsday race. He hasn’t missed one since the race began in 1977.

A founding member of the Spokane Watercolor Society, Rogers started the art department at Spokane Falls Community College in 1963 and taught there for 26 years.

Though he retired from the college, his schedule was still packed. In October, he was teaching a private student in his home when he suffered a stroke.

The past few months have been difficult, as the always-active man chafed at the limitations forced on him by his health.

“I need to make a contribution in this world by helping others,” he said.

Thankfully, his longtime friend Joe Kramarz found a way for Rogers to do just that.

Kramarz volunteers with Inland Northwest PET Project. Since 2005, the organization has been creating and distributing Personal Energy Transporters from a hillside shop in Colbert.

A PET is a hand-pedaled vehicle made of lumber and steel. The sturdy parts and solid-core rubber wheels provide transportation in terrain that would prove difficult for traditional wheelchairs to navigate.

The PETs are sent throughout the world to those who have lost use of their legs due to injury, birth defects, land mines, polio and other causes.

The organization has grown from a half-dozen volunteers to 100, scattered across the region from British Columbia to Alaska. Now Jack Rogers is one of them.

Kramarz came up with the idea to have Rogers paint customized tailgates for the PETs.

“We used to have Northwest-themed stencils on the tailgates,” he said. “Now we have Jack’s art.”

Kramarz knows how important it is for his friend to be useful. He takes the tailgates to Rogers and picks them up when he’s done.

“Jack’s told me many times, ‘If you’re not producing and helping other people, you’re not living,’ ” he said.

From a fly fisherman casting his line in a river, to snow-capped mountains, each scene Rogers creates has the unique flavor of the Inland Northwest.

“We just shipped 140 to Guatemala,” Kramarz said. “Jack’s done about 18, now.”

Dick Carpenter, founder of Inland Northwest PET Project, is happy to count Rogers as one of the many volunteers who make up the nonprofit.

“Absolutely incredible men and women come together as a team to make this happen,” he said. “It’s astonishing to me how committed these people are.”

The motto of the organization is, “Lifting people out of the dirt into a life of dignity and hope.”

Carpenter said the PETs have the ability to instantly change lives.

“In shame-based countries people with disabilities are hidden away,” he said. “Mobility makes all the difference – it erases the shame.”

As Rogers worked on a tailgate he said, “It takes me about two to three hours to finish one. My part is small; all the other volunteers make this happen.”

In addition to working with the PET Project, Rogers is still teaching private students and is illustrating a book for an author in Los Angeles.

The book is set in the Philippines – a place Rogers knows something about. During World War II his Army unit was the first one back into Manila, after Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous landing.

“I’m very fortunate God gave me a talent,” he said. “I have a duty to share it.”

Rogers still has no plans to retire.

“My point is not what I’ve done,” he said, “but what I’ve done for someone else.”

To help

Inland Northwest PET Project accepts donations.

Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to WCPC PET Project, 15123 Little Spokane Drive, Spokane, WA 99208. Donation form and more information available online at petspokane.org.

In addition to funding, current needs include donation of hard board, 11 feet by 5 feet or 10 feet by 4 feet, 1/4-inch thickness preferred.

For more information call, (509) 466-3425.

War Bonds

Stroke slows but doesn’t stop Jack Rogers

While out on assignment a few weeks ago, I found out the folks I was interviewing were good friends of Jack and Fran Rogers, whose story is told in a chapter titled “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” in War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.

I knew Jack, 93, had a stroke in October and his recovery process has been slow.

Imagine my delight when I heard that Jack, an art instructor for many years, was still painting! He paints Personal Energy Transporters (PETs). PETs are shipped to countries all over the world to provide personal mobility to amputees who are often victims of land mines and IEDs.  I wrote  about this great program here :http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/sep/27/pet-project-spreads-mobility/

Sadly, his health has had another setback, but I’m hoping to catch up with him soon.

Even a stroke can’t stop this WWll vet from wanting to do work that makes the world a better place.

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An example of Jack’s work on a PET
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Jack Rogers sits on a PET