JEA Mug: My Stuff & Stories May 19

fullsizeoutput_1fb3Smoker Marchand, who created the caricature of my late husband, is renowned for his magnificent, life-size metal sculptures portraying native life. They’re all over the place, from Sasquatch leaping across the highway near Desautel Pass to women digging roots not far from Grand Coulee Dam. I’m in awe of Smoker’s artistic skill and humbled that he took the time to sketch this amusing likeness. But that’s not the only reason I cherish my remaining six mugs from the many dozen that were created twenty-five years ago.

The occasion was JEA (as John E. Andrist was fondly known) Appreciation Day. It was an official welcome home for John after he’d survived a brain stem stroke, endured months in Seattle rehab facilities, and returned to Omak with an uncertain future, totally paralyzed and unable to speak. Too often we wait until people are gone to say thank you and honor them. Our community was not going to let that happen. They pulled out all the stops with a parade (led by an Omak city councilwoman riding a horse as Lady Godiva), a program in the high school gym with music and speeches, and these commemorative mugs.

Dave Harper, our business neighbor and friend, came up with the mug idea and induced Smoker to draw John’s likeness. Smoker captured John more quintessentially than any photographer could. The smile’s the best part, the receding hairline, his pride and content as he surveys the newspaper fresh off the press.

The thing that’s always amused me about the caricature is the Adlai-Stevenson-type hole in the bottom of John’s shoe. John didn’t like to spend much money on clothing, except when it came to shoes. He wanted his feet to be comfortable. It seemed only Nordstrom’s very best, most expensive shoes of finest leather could meet his needs. At the end of the day, he religiously inserted cedar shoe trees into each treasured shoe. He polished his shoes with more precision and care than I use to apply lipstick.

Still, the hole is appropriate. It suggests the wearer of the shoe is too busy with the big picture to sweat the small stuff. That would be John.

(To celebrate my 75th birthday this month, I’m posting daily stories about the stuff I’ve acquired over a lifetime and can’t let go of. I invite you to consider the stories attached to the stuff you treasure—maybe even share them.)

Smoker Marchand’s dueling horses at the Omak Stampede Historical Museum

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