My father grew up on a farm near the small town, De Soto, in rural St. Louis, Missouri. His parents were farmers in the earliest part of the 20th Century, during and after the “Great Depression.” While they farmed, my grandfather Steve also worked in the railroad industry. In fact, the railroad work brought income to the family while the farming helped to feed them. The actual feeding, though, was done by Steve’s wife, Martina. By all accounts she was a marvel in the kitchen. Even many years after she stopped feeding them, my dad and his siblings fondly recalled her country-style, home-cooking. A story about her was rarely told that didn’t, at some point, also mention her able kitchen prowess (such as, “let me tell you, my mother was the most wonderful cook, she’d make a seven course feast each Sunday afternoon” or else overheard between siblings, “do you remember that amazing dish mom made, the buttered garlic chicken with…”). While from an early age she was recognized by family members for her exceptional cooking skills, she branched out and expanded her artistic repertoire in her later years.
Holding a painters’ brush, she unleashed her true inner-artist. She painted feverishly. And she used a variety of subjects: landscapes, floral arrangements, religious figures, family homes, wildlife, physcial landmarks, and more. In the end, she wound up putting together quite the collection of artwork, especially considering how late she bloomed (she didn’t start painting until well into her sixties). In the end, she contributed a number of pieces to each of her seven children’s homes. As a lover of the urban landscape, one of my favorites is her Gateway Arch. But she also painted the mighty Mississippi River as well as other, less well-known St. Louis fixtures. And she painted landscapes and building scenery in other parts of the country, too. For example, while visiting her son in Arizona she painted the Tumacácori Mission. She even gained a sizable local audience for her work. Part of her collection was put on display at now-defunct Marillac College in St. Louis and later exhibited at local De Soto banks.
In 1990, Martina passed away during her eighty-sixth year of life, shortly after her ninety-eight year old husband died, but not before making a wonderful and loving contribution to the family’s collection of artwork. Her life nicely demonstrates that it’s never too late to add a little art into one’s life. You’ll benefit and so will the lives surrounding you–sometimes long after you’re gone.
Take a look below at the newspaper article about her and below that see some additional photos of her art.