Friday, October 14, 2011

Salute to Jeanne

This week the ten of us in Water Color Connection stretched our talents in a delightful three day portrait painting class with Pablo Villicana Lara. I still have a lot to learn about portrait painting but I hope you can see from my rendering of my friend Jeanne Squires that she always has a twinkle in her blue eyes and a smile engraved just above her forthright chin. It’s been that way as long as I have shared her friendship, which is certainly over fifty years.

Today she hardly looks 84 and her spirit of adventure is more like 17. To me she is a model of embracing change with grace.

Next week Jeanne and her partner Edith head to Phoenix for the winter, having bought a unit in a retirement complex there. It will be a long winter without her presence in the Bay Area.

Life hasn’t always been a cup of tea for Jeanne. After her mother died when she was eight, Jeanne and her two brothers mostly made out for themselves. In the small Wyoming town of Douglas where her dad ran the local motel and bar, Jeanne helped with the bed-making and other chores. From time to time a housekeeper would appear to cook for the kids, but this was hardly parenting. When Jeanne had decisions to make her father always said, “Well, dear, what would an intelligent woman do?” It must have been good advice for Jeanne grew up healthy, well educated and self-sufficient. She mourned for the older brother that she lost in the 2nd World War but it never deterred her from moving ahead. For many decades she taught P.E. and history at Castro Valley High. That was in the days when girls were given short shift in athletics and PE teachers were low on the totem pole. Later she became a union leader and a cracker jack at negotiating benefits.

As if kidney cancer weren’t enough, Jeanne has also survived two hip replacements and lots of little skin cancers, hence the hat to protect her vulnerable nose.

She’s travelled widely, photographed abundantly, motor homed avidly and partied vigorously. She’s generous and loyal to her friends. Always on the cutting edge of new inventions, she demonstrated her skill on a Mac long before it was the in thing to do. In retirement she taught investing, owned a sail boat, volunteered at the Monarch butterfly preserve, petted whales in Baja, and travelled extensively. Her friendship is precious to me and I take delight in trying to capture her spirit with my brushes.

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