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They Don’t Make ‘em Like Guyanna

Jim Amidon — My friend and colleague Guyanna Spurway retired on Friday. On Thursday afternoon, about 100 of us gathered in Caleb Mills House to give her a hug, wish her (and husband Jack) well in the coming years, and pay tribute to what she’s meant to Wabash College.

The reception was really quite nice and Guyanna joked about having written a half-dozen different speeches for the event, most she said were written between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Guyanna Spurway

Most people laughed when she said that. I smiled, but the longer I thought on it, the more I realized that Guyanna really did stay up in the middle of the night to make sure her last formal words at Wabash would be spot-on for the occasion.

Interesting, too, because Guyanna had few opportunities to speak in front of large groups of people during her 39 years as one of the most impressive administrative assistants the College has ever had.

Guyanna spent her entire career behind the scenes, and literally behind a large desk with a shelf on top of it so you could barely see her when you walked into the Advancement Office in Kane House. But she was always there and always doing the zillion little things it takes to make a big machine like Wabash hum right along.

For those who don’t know, the Advancement Office is in some ways the “machine’s” engine. The name of the office suggests that we who serve in it help advance the institution forward. More simply, we engage the alumni and foundations that make generous philanthropic gifts to sustain all that happens at Wabash.

None of us were quite sure how many deans of advancement or directors of development Guyanna assisted in her 39 years at the College. I think we settled on 10, but the late Dick Ristine ’41 served in a leadership role in the office on three different occasions, which probably puts the number at 12 or 13.

Guyanna has been the steadying force through at least three major capital campaigns that raised more than $200 million. She’s been the human file cabinet of institutional memory, donor relations, and alumni engagement. She’s been here longer than any of us.

She told us Thursday that when she left her own college, she simply walked into Don Dake’s office in Center Hall and said she wanted to work for Wabash. She started soon after, first with the deans and registrar and later moving to development, which later became advancement.

While the names of offices changed and titles of her supervisors morphed over time, Guyanna remained constant.

I admire her for her quintessential professionalism. They don’t make them like Guyanna anymore. Her attention to detail is unlike any person with whom I’ve worked. Her organizational skills — crafted and honed decades before excel spreadsheets and databases — are second to none.

I wish I knew how many times I walked into her office to ask for information on an alumnus, a trustee, an event, or even the President’s Christmas card from 25 years ago, and she would quickly snag a file and put it in my hands.

Again, her professionalism was an inspiration to me when I first started working with her in the spring of 1987.

But her love and compassion for her co-workers — people like Mr. Ristine, Bill Stout, and Susan Cantrell — is what set her apart. When any of us in the office were going through tough times, Guyanna would always be there with a card, a hug, or a few helpful words. When my daughter was born, it was as though Guyanna had a new grandchild. (And just ask her about her own grandchildren!)

Guyanna’s supervisor Joe Emmick saluted her on Thursday and thanked her for her service. He also thanked her and acknowledged her for her discretion. People like Guyanna are among the first to hear the really good news or the really bad news, and she was always discreet and professional, Joe said.

But then, at the close of his remarks, Dean Emmick talked about how it was his personal friendship with her that stood out most in his mind; how much Guyanna has enjoyed watching Joe and Sara’s son grow up, just as Joe and Sara have delighted in Guy’s grandchildren.

I really mean it when I say they don’t make ‘em like Guy Spurway anymore. Her humane goodness and love and compassion for others made her a friendly face and joyful colleague. Her ability to hold together a large, unwieldy organization over four decades while serving a dozen bosses with discretion and the utmost professionalism is awe-inspiring.

We at Wabash have said farewell to a goodly number of long-serving colleagues in the last year or two, with still more early retirements on the near horizon. In Guyanna Spurway’s case, she will be gone from Kane House, but remembered by all of us who had the privilege of calling her friend and colleague.

Cardenas Collection Puts Faces on Immigration Issue

Steve Charles—Halfway through his talk to the Wabash students, faculty, and guests who filled the College’s Eric Dean Gallery Friday afternoon, University of Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies Director Gilberto Cardenas asked his audience to “imagine you are coming here [from Mexico] to work in the underground mode—through an underground system dependent on illegal behavior and violence, through a system you don’t want but is your only way to work.”

The photographs, paintings, and other art from Cardenas’ collection that comprise “Across the Border: Perception and Reality”—this year’s first Wabash art exhibit—fire that imagination. They put human faces on complex issues, offering viewers a window into lives at the margins of survival. Sometimes startling images that first disturb, then invite empathy—rare glimpse of understanding into what has become one of the most polarizing political issues of our time.

Writing in the gallery guide for this selection from the Cardenas Latino Art Collection, Wabash Assistant Professor of Political Science Paul Vasquez says, “As you encounter this exhibit, you will doubtlessly think about the various ways in which Latino immigration and the United States affect each other. Hopefully, you will gain some insights from this exhibit that you did not have when you first arrived.”

Walking through the gallery with Cardenas himself, who has studied issues in immigration for over 30 years, you couldn’t help but gain some insight.

Cardenas pointed out one of the most disturbing pieces : a painting by Malaquias Montoya depicting a body wrapped in an American flag, strangled by barbed wire, and tagged “Undocumented.” The work is titled “The Immigrant’s Dream: The American Response.”

“Some people will be offended by this painting,” Cardenas said. “Yet to others, it means a great deal.” He told the story of a Mexican immigrant who fought in Iraq and was killed in action. When his body was returned to the U.S. it was “deported” to Mexico.

“We often ask how illegal immigration affects society, but we rarely ask how society affects illegal immigrants,” Cardenas said.

A photographer and writer whose books include the 1970s book Los Mojados: The Wetback Story and who founded Galeria Sin Fronteras III [Gallery Without Borders] in Austin, Texas, Cardenas added that he is “as interested in the artists as I am in their artwork.” He pointed out a work by Ruben Trejo, who was born in a boxcar in the Burlington Railroad Yard in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His father worked for the railroad and his mother and siblings worked the fields as migrant laborers.

Cardenas has also been one of a smaller number of scholars to study Latino immigrants in the Midwest, and his collection reflects that interest. One series of photographs by photojournalist Alan Pogue, whose work he has championed, first depicts a migrant family camp in San Diego County. The second photograph titled “Day One: Kokomo, Indiana” was taken in 1988 and shows a young mother admiring her newborn baby in a migrant worker’s shack.

Cardenas pointed out that immigration policy has established a constant supply of temporary workers for many of the most difficult jobs.

“Even in the days of slavery, slaves had to be taken care of to some extent. If their health was bad, the work they did suffered. But with temporary workers you just use them up, send them back, and get more.”

Standing in front of an early 20th century photograph of border guards, Cardenas recalled a confrontation he had with a border patrolman during his own studies immigration issues years ago. While the incident angered him, he said he is sympathetic to today’s border patrol agents.

“Patrolling the border is a hard, hard job,” he said.

“And how else are they supposed to do this work?” he asked, noting that the U.S. has developed a vested economic interest in enforcement—from jobs in the border patrol and numerous detention centers to the service industries that support them along the southern border.

“We need to move from a policy of exclusion to inclusion,” Cardenas said, recalling the immigration policies that allowed in so many nationalities into the country during the 19th and early 20th century. “We had an attitude toward citizenship that was inclusive—to include more people, and we became a stronger and better nation for it. Over the years to the present we’ve leaned toward more exclusionary principle—who can’t come in, who can’t have rights. We’re moving toward the negative instead of a positive direction toward human needs and values.”

Cardenas recalled a gathering he led at Notre Dame on the “Theology of Immigration.”

“When you think about it, Christ was an illegal immigrant,” he said. “And this is a global issue. More than 180 million people change their residency each year.”

Cardenas praised the work of the College’s Gallery Director Michael Atwell, who curated and selected the pieces from hundreds in the Cardenas Collection.

“Take a look at these,” Cardenas said. “Hopefully they’ll make you think—maybe they’ll make you mad.”

But you’ll never look at immigration the same way again.

Across the Border: Perception and Reality is on exhibit in the Eric Dean Gallery in the College’s Fine Arts Building through October 13.

Wabash Scientist Earns Field’s Highest Honor

International Mycological Association President Pedro Crus congratulates Emory Simmons ’41 on being awarded the highest honor the IMA bestows.

Steve Charles—Emory Simmons may be the most accomplished and esteemed scientist you’ve never heard of.

That’s partly my fault for not drawing the Wabash community’s attention to the fact that in the 10 years since we last wrote about him—between his 80th and 90th birthdays—he’s been honored numerous times (including being named “President for Life” of his professional organization) and published (at the age of 87) his signature work.

But it’s an almost inherent liability of his field of research: mycology. The study of fungi and molds.  And Simmons’ own specialty—the characterization of microscopic fungi—is even more lost on the public.

Which seems strange when you realize that it was the study of molds that gave us antibiotics such as penicillin, cyclosporin and other pharmaceuticals, not to mention the production of beer, wine, and, cheese. Dr. Simmons’ particular specialty, the genus Alternaria, includes species that are plant pathogens and others that cause hay fever and asthma. Throw in the most recent fuss about molds contaminating homes and businesses, and you’d think we’d start paying attention.

“I used to be irritated, but now am amused, at the common reaction to my explanation of “mycology” as the study of fungi,” Emory told us back in 2001. “The range of response usually runs to finding spring morels and distinguishing between edible and poisonous mushrooms.

“In the real world, the estimate of fungus biomass is about two tons per human being in the overall biosphere. The unseen underground feeding mechanisms of fungi are the great recyclers: autumn leaves, cornstalk debris, mountains of trash, all returned to usable form mainly by fungi. No soil fungi, no trees and forests as we know them. No waving fields of grain. No escape from unforeseen pneumonia. No athlete’s foot. No bread, no booze. And on and on. Give us non-mushroom mycologists a break!”

Emory hasn’t taken many breaks. Even after his official retirement, he continues as a research associate of the College. For many years we never knew where he’d be next—leading workshops, assisting colleagues in various countries or working with collections around the world. We first covered his career after he received an honorary doctorate from the King of Thailand!

For his 90 birthday last spring he received a call from the president of the International Mycological Association (IMA) promising a surprise at the group’s quadrennial congress in Edinburgh, Scotland this year.

That surprise was the Ainsworth Medal for extraordinary service to international mycology, the highest honor a mycologist can receive and particularly rewarding as Emory was instrumental in founding the IMA. The photo here gives you some idea of the gravity of the event. The ovation began before the president could even finish reading the citation. You can read the nomination letter citing many of Dr. Simmons’ accomplishments here.

Two years ago he received the first-ever Johanna Westerdijk Award from the CBS Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands for his outstanding contribution to the centre’s collection and distinguished career in mycology.

That award was in part in appreciation for the definitive volume on alternalia published in 2007— Alternaria: An Identification Manual—which took four years of 8-10 hour days for Simmons to complete and compiles much of his life’s work.

He claims to be slowing down a bit, although Emory has a strange way of showing it—a companion lab book for his alternalia volume may be in the works, and then there’s a “by invitation only” workshop he may be co-leading at Washington State…

When I asked him if he planned to continue his work, Emory said, “90 is just a number. Why not?”

For decades, a Wabash man has been one of the most esteemed and accomplished mycologists in the world. Also one of the most humble. Emory Simmons is averse to self-promotion of any sort, and the only way we found out about his work  10 years ago was because his friend Professor Emeritus Paul Mielke ’42 thought we ought to know.

It was his friend Professor Emeritus Dick Strawn who let us know about this latest award.

And now, finally, you do, too.

Carolyn Goff: “Generosity of Spirit”

Steve Charles—From the line that stretched all the way out the door of the Caleb Mills House and the variety of professors, staff, and administrators that packed the place, you might have thought it was the president, not his administrative assistant, who was being honored at Wednesday’s retirement reception.

But no one knows better than the people who work here just who the women are who keep the place running—as the The Princeton Review said with high praise of Wabash—“like butter.”

And no one has done that with more disarming grace—working for two presidents with such different personas and styles—than Carolyn Goff.

(Click here for a photo album from the reception.)

Andy Ford traveled from Wheaton, IL with former First Lady Anne Ford to honor this daughter of a Russellville, Indiana farmer whom he hired when he began serving as the College’s 14th president in 1994.

“From day one we noted the professionalism that you brought to the job and to the College,” Andy said. “What we didn’t realize was that it was wrapped in such incredible patience.” He smiled, adding: “Which we, on rare occasion, put to the test.

“You were always there, being a friend to everybody. Discrete. Always making impeccable judgments. We had a great time here at Wabash, and you were at the very heart of it.”

First Lady Chris White may have gotten the biggest laugh in an afternoon not short on humor when she presented Carolyn with an art pin with the likeness of Kokopelli, a deity which, she acknowledged, is venerated by some Native American cultures as a fertility god. That statement prompted Carolyn’s husband, Gary, to snatch the box holding the pin in a mock attempt to keep it away from his wife.

As the laughter subsided, Chris referenced Carolyn’s love of Southwestern art and explained: “You have given life to so many of our events here, and certainly been the heart and soul of our work with so many different constituencies. You’ve been a wonderful leader in the president’s office.”

Carolyn’s current boss, President Pat White, called her “my assistant, my advisor, my memory, my sounding board, and my pal.

“Within her kindness and generosity resides a cool sense of reason, a tough commitment to do things well and to do things right, a political savvy, and an indefatigable energy all wrapped up in an enormous love of the College.

A Tale of Two Bosses: Carolyn poses with the presidents she worked with—15th President Pat White, and 14th President Andy Ford.

“As much as she’s loved this College, she’s loved the students even more,” Pat said as he turned to Carolyn. “You’ve helped so many on this campus. We’ve relied on your sense of organization, and your commitment to the students as the center of the College. You made the president’s office a warm and welcoming place, you’ve made this president a better president than I could have been without you, and Wabash College and all who work here owe you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised when Carolyn spoke the most moving words of the afternoon with a poise few people could muster while at the center of such an emotional occasion.

“I’ll never forget any of you, and I’ll never forget Wabash,” she said. “There’s something about each one of you that makes you special—that’s why you work here.”

The sincerity with which Carolyn spoke those words and has lived them out during her time at Wabash may be her greatest gift.  “A generosity of spirit,” Andy Ford called it. The ability to see something special in each one of us while graciously overlooking or forgiving the “not-so-special.”

The office of the president of a country, corporation, or college—like any place of power—can be intimidating. Carolyn’s hospitality reminded anyone walking in that door that it was also a human place, and that good things can happen, especially at Wabash, when people sit down for a conversation face-to-face.

Perhaps it is Carolyn’s disarming way of seeing and bringing out the best in others that brought all those friends and colleagues to the Caleb Mills house yesterday. Or just the sudden realization of how much we’re going to miss her voice and warm greeting when we walk into that door.

The Truth Window

Steve Charles—Joe Trumpey ’88 says that most straw bale houses have a truth window—a hole in the adobe on the inside where you can see what the walls are made of.

In the house that Joe and his wife, Shelly, have built, the truth window is a small lattice-work door in an ornate frame that looks like it came from a Buddhist shrine. They found it in Nepal, and it honors their daughter, Autumn, who is from that high country, and who I photographed opening that window.

(See photo albums from the home here and here.)

The minute I took out the camera I could tell Autumn wasn’t comfortable having her picture taken. Unlike her little sister, Evelyn, who is from Ethiopia and beams for the camera.

Autumn’s light is different. When she opened the door of that shrine, she fixed her eyes on the straw inside, the guts of the house she’s had a hand in building, and even though she’s probably just staring at it so intently so to ignore the fact she’s having her picture taken, in that photo she appears to be looking at something surprising and wonderful.

In a sense, the Trumpey’s house is a truth window—a manifestation of lives lived faithfully to the values Joe and Shelly try to hold themselves to.

Realtors promise buyers a “dream house.” Contractors tell customers what’s what they can build for them.

But Joe and Shelly’s home is no dream house. It’s a house of vision built with their own hands. A house from the land that fits the land, facing south for maximum passive solar effect, is outrageously energy efficient, and doesn’t contribute to global warming. It’s off-the-grid, powered by a solar-array that looms over the pasture and their Scottish Highland cattle, Jacobs’ sheep, and goats. (And some of those are fainting goats—Evelyn says Autumn can make them faint, too!)

The more than 500 linear feet of stone Shelly has set in place (including the 35-foot high fireplace and chimney at its heart) came from the ground that surrounds the house, as did most of the lumber. The rest is from ash trees a nearby town took down and was going to chip into the landfill to control the emerald ash borer.

Joe milled all the boards, had at least a hand in setting every one in place.

From my notes from my visit last week I see these quotes from Joe:

“We thought that if we could do it, it would be cool to try.”

“Everything took longer, and was more difficult, than we expected. But sometimes you have to take risks. And after awhile, it gets in the water.”

And these from Shelly: “I didn’t realize how much work, how long it would take (not to mention that she would become a stone mason!) I think Joe had a better idea what it was going to take, but sometimes Joe has an idea and you go along for the adventure.”

“I loved doing the stone work. It’s kind of a zen thing—when you’ve got the mortar mixed just right, putting the stone together is like a puzzle. Peaceful.”

Off the grid. Outrageously energy efficient. A small carbon footprint. Even the first generation Toyota Prius in the front yard. All these things I expected.

What surprised me were the details that seem to have evolved throughout the project—the changes from the original plan that turned into some of the most livable, lovable spaces in the house. The “sweet spots,” Joe calls them.

This is the stuff of artistic process, not home building.

There’s that second floor balcony on the north side, the railing designed by Shelly to reflect the leaves on the trees of the forest it frames.

The summer kitchen was in the original blueprint, I think, but its shape has changed, keeps getting better.

There are the doorways of the girls’ rooms—Autumn’s is shaped like Mt. Everest, Eveyln’s to fit an Ethiopian angel.

The details in the stonework under every first floor window.

These are things that take more work and more time—hard decisions to make after two years of work and an end only now in sight.

Shelly tells the story of a friend who recently went on vacation and spending so much looking down at the ground she hardly looked up to see what she had come to see in the first place.

“I didn’t want to do that while buiding the house,” Shelly said. “To get so fixed on the end result we didn’t pay attention to right now.”

So there have been moments of celebration. A bonfire last fall. Thanksgiving just after the roof was on. And Christmas around that glorious central fireplace and chimney.

This year they took the girls to Disneyland—Joe and Shelly’s first real vacation in three years.

And their first new piece of furniture in years—a couch—arrived last week, not long after the girls moved into their new rooms. It’s the first piece in the house the five dogs aren’t allowed jump up on. The dogs haven’t yet caught on to that rule, and one—a pugle—probably never will.

They’ve still got a ways to go—the detail work that always takes longer than anyone planned. There’s a wheelbarrow in the entryway, waiting to carry more adobe for the final coat. The brass handle and knob on the front door are still coated with adobe mud bearding the shapes of the fingers which have turned them so many times.

Joe and Shelly will probably clean off that knob and handle when the house is finally finished. But I’d be tempted to keep them that way as a reminder of the land their house has come from, and of the hands and fingers that shaped it. That sometimes you have to get messy to get things done, of what you can do when you’re not afraid to take risks, and of the window you open for others to see when you stay true to your own way of living in the world.

Phil Dewey ’89: “Substantial Power”

Dewey's portrait of Hilton Smith: "An outstanding contribution to American art that significantly betters our visual understanding of Negro League history."

Steve Charles—The judges who named Phil Dewey ’89 the 2010 winner of the Jerry Malloy Competition for Outstanding Negro League Art call his portrait of Kansas City Monarchs pitcher and National Baseball Hall of Famer Hilton Smith “a small piece with substantial power.”

They say it’s a “haunting piece” that “brings to life” a tremendous talent who was “as overshadowed by his teammate Satchel Paige as Negro League Baseball was overshadowed by Major League baseball.

“Just as the Negro Leagues were part of the silent history of the United States, so Hilton himself was a secret,” the judges wrote. “Bringing him to life in the way that Dewey does is a tremendous accomplishment. This is an outstanding contribution to American art and significantly betters our visual understanding of Negro League history.”

Such art may seem an imaginative stretch for a white art teacher raised in rural Pennsylvania. But sit down with Phil Dewey at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan—as I did last Wednesday afternoon—and you’ll learn that the deep respect and empathy his work reveals for these men he never knew and the “silent history” they embody is both hard-won and genuine. We’ll have the details in the next issue of Wabash Magazine, but here are a few interesting quotes and favorite moments of mine from our conversation.

• Phil was raised by his dad, Tom Dewey ’58, who became a cabinetmaker, in part “to be able to stay home and keep an eye on me,” Phil said. “I was pretty much the only kid on the street who had a single parent family, much less their dad at home.

“In a lot of ways I think this work was what he wanted to do.” A table that Tom made in the eighth grade now serves as Phil’s coffee table. And Phil proudly showed me an  intricately crafted chess board with drawers and chess pieces that was Tom’s 10th grade project.

• Phil’s grandfather was a shop teacher. With his father and grandfather both craftsmen, “I spent a lot of time in wood shop,” Phil says. “I was always encouraged to do what I wanted to do.”

His Negro League pieces are as notable for their use of found objects and craftsmanship as well as Phil’s skill as a painter.  “I’ve gone from strictly painting to combination of woodworking and painting on found objects. Sometimes painting gets boring and I need to get dirty, get some sawdust in the air, do some work that makes you have to take a shower, not just clean paint off your hands. The physicality of my father and grandfather’s work carries over in me.”

And this quote: “In a way, shop class scares you straight: If you mess up, you cut off your finger!”

• That led to an interesting conversation about working with your hands versus working with your mind. “We all work with our hands and our heads, no matter what we do,” Phil said. “Some of the smartest guys I know are the guys who go to work everyday and get their hands dirty.

• After earning his MFA in painting at Brooklyn College (where his mentor was of friend of Wabash Professor Bert Stern), he taught art (and, on occasion, music appreciation) in New York City and New Jersey from 1992 to 2001. He immersed himself in the culture of his students.

“When I first got to New York I was blown away by the architecture, the speed, and angles, the trains, the highways,” he said. “A complete antithesis of the woods in Pennyslvania, where I’d grown up.  The speed and the hustle, the movement and the attitude—being confronted by someone trying to hustle you. Watching three card monte down the street. The subway hucksters.

“I was jazzed by it, I’d take my camera into the neighborhood at all hours. What I ended up doing was getting into teaching, not just to know the area, but to know the people in the area.”

• “I was teaching and hooking this up, the culture of the city, particularly black culture, that was an incredibly new experience. At first, I was just trying to keep my head above water, Phil said of his early days as a teacher. “During this early period teaching full time, I didn’t do a lot of art. But I had picked up the guitar and blues in grad school—players like Robert Johnson, Skip James, Son House. My students weren’t even listening to jazz, so when I taught music, I’d introduce them to jazz and the blues. for jaz and blues. In a way, reintroducing them to their own culture and heritage. I was so into it that one day one of the students yelled out, “If I have to listen to any more blues music, I’m gonna go crazy!”

“I think I gave them something many of them hadn’t heard before,” Phil said (as I transcribed the interview, I recognized Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” on Phil’s CD player.)

• He doesn’t remember exactly where he found the postcards of some of the famous Negro League players, but the first he painted was James “Cool Papa” Bell, one of the fastest men to ever play the game.

“The more I got into it, I realized there was this interesting part of American history I’d completely missed growing up,” Phil said. Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball was airing on PBS about this time, and Phil was captivated by the episodes about the Negro League players, both the content and Burns’ approach.

Dewey at work on his most recent project, which features Jackie Robinson (center).

“He was doing exactly what I was thinking about doing, but in a different medium,” Phil said. “He said he had met his new hero doing the project—Jackie Robinson—and that making the documentary revealed to him this man’s character. Robinson became his new standard of what it means to be a man, a human being.”

Phil said he felt much the same way.

• Phil was seeing “a lot of the same things in the kids I was teaching,” he said. “Kids facing a lot of adversity. Poverty. Kids taking the train, or the ferry, for an hour just to get to a school that was safe. And this was the 1990s.

“What I was painting was history—I was looking at this history through the lens of these students lives.”

One day a student told Phil that the custodian at his middle school had been in the Negro Leagues. He showed up for class with an autographed postcard of the man and wanted to give it to Phil.

“I don’t want to take it, that’s a piece of your history,” Phil recalled telling the student. But the young man wanted him to have it.

“He said he respected what I was doing,” Phil recalled. “That meant a lot to me. That added even more steam to what I was doing.”

• Phil said that the way he frames the pieces harkens back not only to his dad and granddad, but also to his mentor, Wabash Professor Doug Calisch, and his work with “found objects.”

He also wants the frames to be “representative of these people who made something out of nothing, had to scrap for everything they could get in an era that didn’t want them to succeed. And these were the men who brought so many innovations to the game: the first night game, base stealing barnstorming, not to mention Satchel Paige’s pitching.”

• One of the most innovative and coolest elements of Phil’s pieces, the “billboards” in the background of many of his paintings are actually vintage matchbook covers cut to fit around the figures he paints. And the frames around many of the pieces are old glass negative holders from antique box cameras.

• Phil regrets not having taken the time to meet one of the players he most admires, Buck O’Neill. O’Neill was on a short list of Negro League players considered for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and deservedly so: He was league’s MVP in 1945, the first African American coach in the major leagues, and an invaluable scout who brought Ernie Banks, among others, into the majors. But O’Neill was inexplicably not inducted, a slight that figures into Phil’s ceramic/wood piece honoring him. O’Neill died within a year of the voting.

“One of the greatest regrets my life is that I didn’t fly to Kansas City to meet him,” Phil said. “I really blew it; I really would have enjoyed that.”

See a photo album from my visit here. More in the upcoming “Milestones” issue of Wabash Magazine. See even more of Phil Dewey’s artwork here.