Friday, March 23, 2012


        My father and Brazilian Air Force plane, 1950's

In the 1950's my father worked for the State Department. He travelled the world, had adventures, and brought home interesting things. Many years later, living in San Francisco, he retired for medical reasons. He continued to consult with the Environmental Protection Agency, his employer since 1970, and occasionally manned his friend's high-end antique store, while the friend, a CIA operative, went on missions. (True story.) He and my stepmother also had an antique business, and he was a master of high-low--mixing expensive items with those found at flea markets and garage sales. I have fond memories of accompanying him to the Alameda, Marin, and San Jose flea markets.

My father (sunglasses) and Secretary of State Dulles

In the early 80's they moved to a little house in Yountville California--it was packed with collections. He died in 2006, and after my stepmother died in 2010 (an event that led almost directly to me opening the store--see here) I had to choose what I wanted from their house. I took some special things for my children. For myself the things I wanted were mostly on the flea market end of things--including a large collection of wood-slice paintings he'd picked up here and there. I have about thirty landscapes--lakes, mountains, and so forth, in our Catskills house. I put a few for sale in the store.

Three wood slice paintings of the Cliff House in San Francisco, a place that was special to my father.

 This one, of Mission San Luis Obispo, California, I put in the Etsy store, thinking it might appeal to someone who lives there or collects items relating to missions.

Today, I got this message: "I live in San Luis Obispo and I have recently been put in charge of my elementary school's silent auction fundraiser and was hoping you might be interested in donating this piece. I just had to ask because I really love the idea of bringing this painting "home" and think it would be a huge hit in our auction. We are a terrific little elementary school..." 

I wrote back that I would be happy to donate it. My father would have enjoyed the travels of this little work of art created in San Luis Obispo in 1946 that wound up in Yountville California in the 1980's, Massachusetts in 2011 and is now going back to San Luis Obispo on a mission to raise money for an elementary school.



  1. Those are beautiful, and what a great way to honor your father's memory!

  2. What an exciting life your father led Jen!
    Thanks for sharing this--it's so interesting.

    I know that part of California well and we used to go over to Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga back in the 70's before it became "wine country" for weekend getaways. We also used to go to the Marin and San Jose flea markets. Did you ever get over to the Sebastopol flea market?
    The wood slice paintings are great! It is so gracious of you to donate the San Luis Obispo work. Someone will love it!

  3. what a nice story. I like the idea of this little painting travelling around the world.

    sounds like your dad was an interesting man :)

  4. How interesting. My son-in-law was born and raised in San Luis, my grandparents settled in Santa Rosa after traveling by train and then wagon many, many long years ago, and I sell in Alameda. It's a small world, isn't it?

  5. Isn't it the pits that a California elementary school has to raise money? Then a teacher, I assume, searches the Internet, finds your painting, and has the chutzpah to right out ask for it. That's desperation in our America. I'm reading your novel, Defending Violet, so I'm falling into a bit of tough talk like your protagonist, Ginger Rae. I liked seeing your dad - what a good-looking fellow. Tell us some more stories from the past.

  6. Oh, Jen , what a fantastic story...! And these slice paintings are amazing. The ocean remids me of the song," high above the blue and windy sea..." Your father must have exicitng and tough time,I imagine with admiration.

  7. That was a fabulous story and love the photos of your father.

    Now I must hurry back to your post and read about how the store came to be.

    Isn't it interesting when we start peeling away the layers of the onion?

    xo Jane

  8. Hello Jen:
    Gosh, so many more stories about your father that could be told, no doubt. This has been a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of his life and the photographs are such fun. Clearly he had a profound effect on you as a child and on your carer path as an adult.

    How very generous of you to donate the painting to the auction at the school. It is, however, rather sad that the school is in need of raising funds to carry out its work.

    Hoping that you are enjoying a happy weekend and that the store is doing well.

  9. Dear Jen: What a handsome man your father was and what an interesting life he must have led! I think it is unusual up to this day that men are interested in garage sales and flea markets. His interest led into great collections and you are carrying his interest (which of course became yours) on. It is very generous donating that lovely painting to the school. I am sure someone will happily hang it up and appreciate it a lot. Wishing you a beautiful weekend. Christa PS. Thanks a lot for your kind wishes for my recovery - my foot is already better!

  10. Hi Jen,

    So generous of you to donate the painting to the school! I enjoyed reading the memories of your father and seeing the old photographs. He looks like a handsome man to me!

    Wish you a happy Sunday and good start of the new week.

    Madelief x

  11. That's a wonderful story Jen! And an ungrudging decision. You are a sweetheart : )

  12. Your father is a amazing men. You should be really proud.