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Monday, July 4, 2016

A sad goodbye

I'll miss Joseph Benham and Dick Fitch, two local newsmen who passed away this week.
Fitch was not only a newspaper man, but also a children's book author. I got to know him through those projects, which he let us print for him. He was always cheerful when he visited the shop, and I enjoyed talking with him about his classic cars. He had served several communities as a newspaper publisher, and he was always so pleasant to be around.
Benham has been a friend to me since his earliest days in Kerrville. He was a real journalist, and I often relied upon him for advice, which he cheerfully gave. He was active in our community, serving on the boards of dozens of non-profit organizations, often helping them publicize their events and purpose. It was only last week Benham and his wife Verna were recognized by this newspaper and the Dietert Center as "Life's Treasures 2016." Several years ago Benham was named Citizen of the Year here -- and it was well deserved.
I'll certainly miss both men.
* * *
The Museum of Western Art, on Bandera Highway, was kind enough to ask me to prepare an exhibit of some of my collection of historic Kerr County photographs, artifacts, and ephemera. I have been busy working on the show for about a month.
The show is called "Looking Back: Historic Photographs of Kerr County," and runs from July 2 through August 27. The folks at the museum have been so nice and I'm really excited to be showing items that tell the story of our community's history.
Gentle Reader, let me tell you something: I wish we had a history museum here. As I've gone through my collection selecting which items to include, it occurs to me that I'm just a temporary custodian of these rare items. In August, I'll turn 55 years old. I need to find the collection a permanent home.
I've enjoyed working on the show and have restored two old oak display cases from the Charles Schreiner Company to house some of the rare pieces.
A few of the items I'll be displaying have never been shown in public before, ranging from an pre-1850 portrait of James Kerr; an early James Avery Craftsman catalog; shingle making tools and a real cypress shingle. (Kerrville was founded by Joshua Brown, in the late 1840s, who came here to make cypress shingles.)
The Museum of Western Art is located at 1550 Bandera Highway, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 - 4. Admission.
* * *
A pair of local educators are "making lemonade from the lemons" they discovered. I'm proud of Bridget Putnam, who is the current Fine Arts Chair at Tivy High School, and John Ruth, who was a young librarian at the high school back when I was a student there. They've turned what could have been a very negative situation into a positive event.
Years ago -- back when I was in high school -- the art program at Tivy High School celebrated its students with a contest where the best piece of art was chosen to be displayed permanently in the "Tivy Artists Hall of Fame," on the walls of the school's library.
Permanence is relative, apparently, because someone in the school system's administration decided to take down all of the art. By quick thinking, it was quickly rounded up before it slipped away or was discarded.
Rather than bemoan the situation, Putnam and Ruth have found a neat way to give the art back to the former students who created it -- some was created over 30 years ago.
Partnering with Pint & Plow, the prize-winning pieces are on display at the new restaurant's historic building at 332 Clay Street. It's been fun to look at all of the art on the walls in the old Dietert house. I'm proud of the Walther family, owners of Pint & Plow, for being such good hosts.
On July 16, from 6 - 9 in the evening, as many of the former student artists as possible will gather for a social event at Pint & Plow, and, at the end of the evening, the art will be returned to those who created it.
It's a wonderful idea, and I hope it will be a fun and meaningful event for everyone. Thanks, Ms. Putnam and Mr. Ruth -- this is a brilliant solution.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes everyone a happy and safe Fourth.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 2, 2016.

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