19 Jun 2020, 6:38am

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Cornucopia: My Mon, The Artist

My Mon, The Artist
One in a series of vignettes about my mom
By Kate Chamberlin

My Mom, Grace Ritch Deyo was the first born child of Grace Udell Ritch and Elting Forsyth Deyo on November 13, 1917.
In high school Mom went steady with a handsome, blonde boy named Foster Whitworth and was voted most popular girl in her class. Apparently, one of her high school art assignments was to draw a self-portrait. The 18”x30” rendering in colored chalk showed her with a slender face, dark brown curly hair, bright dark eyes and extra rosy cheeks. Mom had many spider veins on each cheek, which she highlighted in her self-portrait. Perhaps, as a teenager, her rosy cheeks were embarrassing.
After she was graduated from high school, she enrolled in secretarial school. She stayed for six months and left to accept a secretarial position for DuPont, where her father was employed. While she was in the secretarial pool, she met a handsome young salesman named Paul Hugo Holmberg, and married him on January 13, 1940.
Early in 1967, they moved to Grand Avenue, Balmville, Newburgh, NY when Dupont sold the Newburgh plant to Stauffer Chemical Company. Dad was part of the Management Package that had to move over to the new company. While Dad spent long days at work, my brother was a sales representative for Remington Arms living in C T, and I was teaching Third Grade at Gidney Avenue Memorial School, my at-home Mom, a feisty, fun-loving woman with dark naturally curly hair, filled her days with friends, Gardening, garden Clubs, St. Luke’s Hospital Auxiliary, and painting in oils.
Our family room of the Balmville home became Mom’s art studio. The big and tall, adjustable wooden easel came from her aunt, Laura Ritch Rouelle, whose paintings are in the Metropolitan Museum. Apparently, the items are somewhere in the bowels of the museum’s storage vault. Mom took painting lessons from John Fleming Gould (b.1906 – d.1996) in his Bethlehem Art Studio for several years, discretely signing her pieces with a lower case ‘grh’ in the bottom right-hand corner. She was always surprised at how well her paintings turned out and delighted in each one. She never had the heart to sell any of her paintings, but she would give them to friends. When my husband and I added a “West Wing” to our Walworth NY home, the long hallway became our gallery. We installed fish-eye ceiling lighting, so we could properly display Mom’s paintings.
The stress of Dad’s work situation and commuting to NYC took its toll on him physically and emotionally. He died during his third heart attack on March 1, 1974. Mom continued to paint until her battle with cancer began in the Fall of 1975. She died peacefully in her Balmville home on May 6, 1976 at the age of 59.
On June 13 2009 my husband, our grandsons Tyler and John, and I drove over the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge to Neil Caplan’s art gallery to donate three of Mom’s oil paintings to the Bannerman Castle Trust Fund. www.BannermanCaastleTrust.org.
The paintings depict scenes of the Hudson River from various Newburgh vantage points. Proceeds from the sale of these paintings will go toward the NY Matching Grant to stabilize, renovate, and reconstruct the unique Bannerman Castle and grounds on the historic, 6.5-acre Pollepel Island, located in the middle of the Hudson River , Mid-Hudson River Valley.
The donated paintings were:
(1) Newburgh’s brick Tenement houses with Bannerman’s Island, 1971. Canvas: 23” tall x 31” wide; framed: 29” tall x 37” wide. Est: $750/Paul Gould.
(2) loosestrife, Bannerman’s Island, Storm King Highway, 1968. canvas: 18” tall x 24” wide; framed: 22” tall x 28” wide. Est: $500/Paul Gould.
(3) Storm King Highway with fall colors, 1968. Canvas: 18” tall x 24” wide; framed: 24” tall x 29” wide. Est: $500/Paul Gould.
During a recent spring cleaning spree, I found a cardboard tube. I thought it was empty, but, when I swirled my finger around the inside, I found the self-portrait Mom had drawn so many years ago. I often wonder if she realized what a rich, wonderful heritage she created for me as she went about doing what she loved to do.

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