Uncategorized September 3, 2013

The final week of my residency closes next Sunday at the Jones Library.  It’s hard to believe an entire summer has flown by this quickly.  I guess the adage: “when you’re having fun, time flies” is true.  It was an amazing four months which as many of you recall, the original plan was for just the month of May.

Who knew what lay ahead for any of us -staff, the public, myself.?  As I wrote in a recent editorial to the Amherst Bulletin, my first day walking to the front door the mental alarm bells went off.  This is going to be a disaster I thought.   I know myself well enough that anything I project, the opposite will happen. That doesn’t mean a conscious deception is ever put into place.  I honestly felt that I was setting up an exhibit the town would care little about.   Oh how wrong I was.

I wrote several blogs about the many encounters but the truth is, on a daily basis, I have at least one memorable one. And they’re not always from adults connecting to the subject of the paintings.  Last week a loud “DANG!” caught my attention.  Spinning around, I was eye to eye with a young girl who was staring at my painting -which in this case was a commission of an 8 year old girl from 1928.  Who says “dang” anymore?  This was followed by one of my favorite five year olds, a precocious Chinese American girl who is always asking me questions.  “Why is that still there?” she quizzed me.  I was, in fact, having to please a very tough client.

My guru Phil -a retired minister who comes in with his weekly escort Sita, chatted on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  He told Sita and me about meeting  MLK.  “Oh he had quite a sense of ‘humah’,” Phil said in his still-lingering Maine accent.   “I once told him that it’s awfully ‘had’ being a minister not believing in God.  That,” Phil said,”got Martin laughing his big belly laugh.”   Phil later left the church and became an advocate for social justice working in prisons.  Now he’s trying to get me to charge more for my work.  I will miss you Phil.

The staff threw a going away party for me on Friday that emotionally caught me off guard.  It’s not easy hearing such heartfelt things and not be touched.  I know I’ve changed personally.  The tour as I noted on facebook has become a “journey”.  The art is the catalyst to many things.  I had remarked that same day  half jokingly to Kate   (the same woman who on day three cold-cocked me with the question: did I think I was on a spiritual journey?)  that I felt like the Pied Piper.   I later amended it to feeling I was the pipe itself.  “Who’s then playing the pipe?” she asked.  “The world,” I said.

Soon I head off to the nearby Soldiers Home.  Of course I’ll meet many new people and hear some, no doubt, amazing stories.  But the one aspect I will miss the most will be the kids who endlessly stream through, stopping to look, talk and leave me with a smile and laugh.  “Dang!”  I will miss the Jones Library a lot.




For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

Comment 1

  1. Floyd A Thompson (Tom) says on September 6, 2013

    What a fascinating journey you have fashioned for yourself. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide in its quiet presence. I miss our occasional visits. Wishing you much continued success in positive life experiences. Soldiers Home will be its own unique journey. Who knows some if those vets may have some grand kids visit! 🙂

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