Tom was a quiet man. Honorable, full of integrity and a good listener. He loved God, his family, friends, Church (LDS) and his Country (served in the Armed Forces during the Korean War). Dad served faithfully in all areas of his life.
At the age of sixteen, something happened that would set him on the path to the profession he chose in life as an Artist and Art Teacher. The “Daily Record”, a local daily newspaper announced that a prominent artist by the name of Max Bernd-Cohen, from Florida and recently returned as a guest lecturer in England, was coming to town to start an art school. He was going to give two scholarships to students, 16 years and younger. Dad gathered a large stack of his drawings. Some were copies he sketched from magazines and the rest were originals.
Max took a great interest in dad’s originals. He was awarded the scholarship. Max personally worked with Dad and then was very influential in Dad receiving a 4 year scholarship to Adams State in Colorado as an Art Major. Dad was asked to paint a mural, approximately eleven feet high and ten feet wide in a stairwell in the main building. “Potato Farming in the San Luis Valley.” It was completed in 1953 and is still in place today. I had the opportunity to take Dad back to Colorado sometime ago to visit his brother and we stopped at Adam State College. They gave him the tour and he was treated like the President of the United States. Got a picture of him standing in front of his mural.
The next chapter in his life was meeting mom, Patty Ann. Mom agreed to go on a blind date with my Dad only if they went roller skating. The rink was closed and so she didn’t want to go. When she found out he liked art, she changed her mind and they went on one blind date. That was the start of the history that lasted 68 years of marriage. They had a common love of art as both were extremely talented.
Dad and Mom started raising a family. They said that “their biggest joy was raising their three daughters, Rene, Diana and Debra. Watching them grow and become the women they are today.” We were blessed to have them as our parents. They said, “they loved the privilege of getting to see and know their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Father was an Art Teacher for Walnut Creek Intermediate Schools for 35 years. He influenced many students and some have made painting their profession, doing quite well and they have given Dad the credit for teaching them a good foundation. Dad put it “several years ago, out of curiosity, I decided to figure approximately how many youth had stepped across the threshold of my classroom to be taught an art class. I hesitated to share this with many people because they probably would not believe me.” Dad figured the estimated average number of students was 1,036,100 students. Many students thought taking an art class would be easy. Well they were in for a surprise. They did more than art projects as he had them running laps or doing pushups. All students learned to respect him as a teacher. He also spent 15 years teaching in the gifted program, Civic Arts Classes, Extension Classes for Cal State Hayward, University of California Berkeley and Sun City Lincoln Hills (retirement community).
Tom loved to paint, create bronze sculptures, stained glass and kaleidoscopes. You will find his artwork has been sold around the US. An example of Dad’s integrity; he was in the process of unloading several of his paintings into an Art Gallery in Monterey, CA where his paintings were sold for many years. Betty White and Alan Ludden approached him and asked the price of a painting they were interested in buying. He said the store owner had not had a chance to price it, even though it wasn’t in the store yet. He felt an obligation to the store owner and wanted to be honest. They returned later and unfortunately, the store had not priced it yet. Missed opportunity.
Dad would take us girls to the DeYoung Museum, sit us down and teach us things like focus point, negative and positive space of various paintings. All we could think about was going to the Japanese Tea Garden next door, eating candied coconut and climbing the bridge. Dad always promised us if we went to the art museum, we could go there afterwards.
Dad loved art books. Dad estimated that he had over 1000 books collected through the years. You could find him in the den, in his chair, thumbing through a book and marking pages. It was common to find him fallen asleep holding the book.
Dad and Mom loved to do Genealogy. They found it fascinating learning about relatives and the stories some had to tell.
Dad was not a respecter of persons. All people were equal in his eyes. He ate lunch with the janitor at the school all the time. Some teachers asked, “why do you eat with him and not in the teacher’s lounge with us?” My dad calmly answered, “I like him and I enjoy his company.”
Dad loved to laugh. Dad collected funny jokes, stories and always had a Reader’s Digest beside him. When we would all be at the house, Dad would say, “Hey everyone, come to the kitchen. I have something I want to share with you.” I have been collecting funny things my grandchildren, his great grandchildren, have said and done, thirteen pages worth. I printed this for my father and he had it on the kitchen table and read it all the time. Laughter is the best medicine.
Just a few funny items:
Quote from Dad’s legacy…
“As I grew older, many hours were spent on my knees playing with marbles with the neighborhood kids. Quite often mother had to put new patches on the knees of my pants. Much to mother’s dismay, we always played for keeps. When any marble was knocked out of the ring, it became yours and Billy McDaniels was always running home for more marbles. Mother considered it gambling and would speak her piece about it to no avail. One day when I had won what I considered a huge amount of marbles, more than what would fit into my pant pockets, I was so excited I yelled, “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” The front door opened and mother, in no uncertain terms told me to get into the house immediately and leave everyone of those marbles behind. During World War II, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” was a popular song. When said not respectfully, she considered it was using the Lord’s name in vain.”
Dad loved popcorn and ice cream. I introduced him to Zebra popcorn (popcorn drizzled with chocolate). He asked me to buy the store out. He loved snacks in the garage. Most of them were available to everyone. Yesterday, my son just found an art book which was sideways, which wasn’t normal. He moved the book and found Dad hid a stash of treats just for himself.
Dad loved garage sales. He had a giant map and colored pushpins. He would read the paper and select the appropriate colored push pin (blue for art books, red for art supplies, etc.). We were ready to go early Saturday mornings on a quest. The art book locations were always our first stop.
Our Dad was a good man and a gentleman and will be missed.
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