Chuck Tidey, Artist & Leader

Artist Chuck Tidey: A Natural Leader

Having been born in LaPort, Indiana, Chuck Tidey would never have thought of Yarnell, AZ as home. He probably wouldn’t have guessed he would be displaying his colorful artwork at the Yarnell Public Library as a Featured Artist. If you asked him, he would tell you he had no aspirations to be an invaluable leader in this community. But things happen for a reason. Throughout life’s pathways, Chuck’s intuitive ability to take initiative when needed has rewarded his life in sensational ways.

SunflowersIf you were to read about his accomplishments – awards for military service, flight school, etc…- you might be tempted to consider him to be unapproachable. But once you meet him, it takes no time to establish that he is a humble, jovial person who enjoys sharing memories. He is certainly not ostentatious. He’s just Chuck Tidey and that’s fine by him.

When he was 9 years old, Chuck moved with his family from Indiana to San Fernando Valley, CA. His father was a mechanic; his mom was a waitress. Chuck fondly remembers when his mother left waitressing and became a dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol. Remember the 1970’s T.V. series, CHiPs? As it turns out, some of the actual dispatch transmissions on the TV series were authentic recordings. Chuck’s mother’s voice was heard by many viewers of CHiPs. Chuck also remembers that his mom came upon a difficult situation while dispatching. In what is known as the Newhall Massacre, April 6, 1970, a shoot out between heavily armed criminals and the California Highway Patrol resulted in four CHP officers being killed within 5 minutes. Chuck recalls that his mother was on dispatch duty at the time, and the incident broke her heart for many reasons. Firstly, the officers were young married men with small children. Secondly, she was forced to endure several weeks of testifying as a dispatch witness. Regardless of hard times, Chuck’s mother is still a lady of strength and good health.

After graduating high school in 1965, Chuck decided not to pursue college. Instead, he enlisted in Flight School, a 2 year program with the US Army.Courtyard He became a Chief Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot. He spent his first 6 months after flight school stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. And then, it was off to Vietnam. The ride to Vietnam was quite the adventure. An old troop ship from World War II was his transportation on the 21-day voyage across the Pacific. It was a horrifying trek. Riding through a typhoon in a ship that felt like it was held together by rubber bands does not induce confidence in a successful journey. Yet, he arrived and lives to tell the tale. Upon his arrival, he took his R&R in Sydney, Australia. Chuck served one year in Vietnam, logging 1,064 combat hours. His service earned him service medals and an air medal. His roommate in flight school was sadly the only casualty in his unit. Chuck also survived a helicopter crash caused by engine failure. There were several students onboard, and thankfully, no one was injured.

Chuck and LeahAfter 20 years in a military career, Chuck retired, receiving his first retirement paycheck on his 39th birthday. His life adventures were many, and were just beginning. He then worked for Hughes Aircraft Company for over 11+ years. He had married and became the proud father of a son, James. The marriage lasted 13 years. Again, fate stepped in and brought him to Sambo’s Restaurant in Yuma, AZ. Chuck’s niece worked at Sambo’s, so he would eat there to visit her. But, guess who else waitressed at Sambo’s? The lovely Leah, who shortly thereafter became his wife. Chuck and Leah have been together for 31 years. They have traveled the world, living abroad at times (including Australia), and finally settled in Yarnell. Chuck’s position with Hughes Aircraft led to being transferred to Washington, D.C., where the couple lived and Leah became a secretary. (Somebody had to keep everyone straight! And she still does.) After retiring from Hughes Aircraft, Chuck & Leah moved to the Florida Keys. After awhile, they were ready for a change.

Chuck’s mother lived in Las Vegas, NV. His son lived in Yuma then (he now resides in Idaho). The Tidey’s desired to find a place between the two. Yarnell was the perfect spot. One day in 2003 while driving from Prescott, Chuck found the property. It was 54 acres, which was much more than he and Leah wanted; but delightedly, it was being subdivided, and they were able to purchase the eight acres they now call home. Chuck and Leah designed a dream home: Adobe-Hacienda design, complete with a unique circular sitting room, a wine room, a gorgeous outdoor courtyard, a ramada, and beautiful boulder-layden views. Not only did they design it, but they helped during construction. Leah hung all the insulation, while Chuck pulled the electrical wiring. The house took about 20 months to complete, during which time the Tidey’s rented an apartment in Wickenburg. However, change is calling them again. This home is on the market, waiting for its next owner. Chuck and Leah have decided to downsize and build another home in Yarnell.

Chuck became the Yarnell-Peeples Valley Chamber of Commerce President two years ago. At the time, the Chamber was going Leafy Dragonthrough transitions and a leader was needed to pull things together. He acted quickly to help form the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group immediately after the 2013 fire. The YHRG, as it is called, has not had an easy task, and while their efforts have been enormous, they have faced opposition on many levels. Chuck explained that all one can do is their very best, and it is expected that you can’t possibly please everyone. He believes the group will remain active for about 5 years to ensure that “Yarnell will rebuild better and stronger!”

Chuck began sketching while in flight school, at the age of 18. He actually found himself sketching during class! But art became a hobby that he immensely enjoys. When Chuck and Leah came to Yarnell, Leah found out about the local artist group who paints together on a weekly basis. Many talented artists in the area attend the group sessions. Barbara Schlegel, Jerry Florman, Bill Chaplin and Bob Brandon are among them. Chuck has painted with these artists for 5 years. He has never received formal training, but has a natural gift – especially with his use of bold, brilliant appealing colors. He doesn’t mind abstract art, and he doesn’t mind realism. He just paints from a picture he finds interesting, and makes it his own colorful creation. For Leah’s 40th birthday, Chuck took her on a vacation to Rome, Italy. They were eating dinner on the Piazza River when Leah spotted a painting that she absolutely loved. It was a rendition of brightly colored sunflowers on a red background. Chuck told her to take a picture of the painting, and he would paint her an original from the photo. He accomplished that! And it proudly hangs in the kitchen today. The warmth of the golden and italian red kitchen makes the sunflowers stand out perfectly. Chuck’s medium of choice is acrylic. He has also experimented with a palette using acrylic. He has a story to tell for each painting, which gives it a more artistic meaning. In their guest casita, there is a wall containing a grouping of painted fish. Chuck explained that at one time, he and Leah were going to move back to Florida. He asked each member of the artist group to paint a fish for him, so he would have them in Florida to fondly remember their times together. Thankfully, they stayed in Yarnell. But those brightly colored tropical fish paintings are hanging so beautifully, reminding Chuck and Leah of good friends, the beauty of art and their love for the tropics.

NemoThe Yarnell Public Library features artists each month. The Featured Artist for November 2014 is our very own Chuck Tidey. His art is being displayed there at the time of this writing. Visit the library to see some of Chuck’s favorites: “Nemo”, “Leafy Sea Dragon” and much more. Chuck has also provided a way for visitors to support the library. Each 8 X 10 painting is priced at $100. All of the proceeds will go to Friends of the Library. There will be a “Meet & Greet the Artist” on November 17th from 2pm-4pm. You will not want to miss this opportunity to talk to Chuck and listen to the interesting stories behind the paintings. The bright and inviting colors he chooses are a fabulous reflection of himself.

Thank you, Chuck and Leah for being an important part of Yarnell; not just for the leadership, event promotion, organizing, and all of the tasks you both accomplish, but for being true friends to so many of us, being true to yourselves and for being an example of hope in a community that thrives on it. You are loved….

Jerry Florman – Trial by Fire Made her Stronger

Just as I was beginning to become familiar with her, a fire ravaged Yarnell Hill. The news broadcast on the television kept us glued and somber during the 9-day evacuation period. Her demeanor was humble, sincere and extraordinarily calm. The voice on the news was Jerry Florman and Artthat of Jerry Florman being interviewed by the local Phoenix news anchor. I recognized her voice, her name and the burning scenery of which she spoke. Her words were carefully chosen – her outlook was an amazing tribute to her incredible inner strength. I, for one, felt instantly comforted by listening to her interviews. The question was posed to Jerry: “And what have you been told about your own home in Yarnell?”. That’s the moment my eyes became teary. Her response was so gracious: “It has been confirmed that our home is gone…”

Yes, there was sadness in her recounting of the tragedy. But she, at that moment, was granted the opportunity which she so aptly took: exuding HOPE.

Jerry S. Jones-Florman was born the second of 4 children in Des Moines, Iowa. She was Jerry & Kurt Flormanprivileged to have a mother who excelled at art. Painting was a family hobby. Jerry’s two sisters and brother also painted, though she is the one who continues. Her beautiful pieces adorn the home that she and her husband, Kurt, now rent in Yarnell. The plans are being made and adjusted for the rebuilding of the couples’ fire-destroyed home.

Jerry attended college in Iowa in 1969, seeking a career in Early Childhood Education. “A regret I have in life is not finishing my degree,” she explains. However, she continued by pointing out that all the decisions, triumphs and trials of life make us who we are, and often result in uncanny strength. Her passion for children would lead to opportunities later in her life.

In 1971, Jerry was a “Flower Child Hippie”, a peripheral participant in the Peace Makers movement. She had the desire to see the country, experience individual freedom, and travel extensively. So, while admittedly scaring her dear mother to tears, Jerry decided to hitchhike back and forth across the United States. She did see the country – by the means of her own thumb. Dangerous? At times, but the dangers were overshadowed by her sense of adventure. She tells me of one very terrifying experience:

“I remember ending up in a corn field for the night. The wind was whipping the corn around this way and that – I just KNEW someone was walking through the corn to come get me!” Yet, it always worked out for Jerry, and morning always came, dispelling the fears of darkness.

Growing up, Jerry traveled to Arizona every year with her family. It was a favorite state to visit. In fact, her parents bought a home in Cave Creek. At that time, Jerry was in Philadelphia, PA, and longed to be closer to her parents. And that’s how this lovely lady came to reside in Arizona. A good move indeed, especially since she met the love of her life, Kurt Florman. Jerry became Mrs. Florman in 1977, and there have been few regrets. The couple has an obvious respect and undying love for each other. Jerry had the privilege of marrying into an instant family as well. She has 2 step children and 4 grandchildren, who reside in the Valley.

One giveaway of a solid marriage? Kurt and Jerry opened a Pre-School/Daycare called “Desert Blossoms” in their home, in Cave Creek, AZ; they worked together to realize her dreams for Early Childhood Education. Eventually, the Florman’s were able to build a second home, and the Preschool became New Friends Montessori and moved to a separate building on their property. Many children received a great start through these two preschools. The whole experience was wonderfully rewarding for Jerry.

Naturally, we often wonder how anyone ends up in Yarnell, Arizona – small town, little known, hidden in the most awesome part of the Weaver Mountains….how does someone who lived in Des Moines, Iowa, the Valley, Cave Creek (and all over the country, including corn fields!) find Yarnell? Interestingly enough, Jerry’s sister invited her to come up for a Yarnell Daze Parade in 2002. It happened to be the annual “Yarnell Daze”. She fell in love with this community from the start, prompting her and Kurt to make Yarnell their home in 2003. Jerry poetically describes her take on this community: “The texture of life here is so rich.” Well-spoken, indeed.

Artist study groupShe quickly integrated into the Community Spirit of Yarnell, becoming active in many areas of interest. The Mountain Top Festival that first brought her to Yarnell is her “baby” this year. May 10th, 2014 will be a celebration of Community Spirit, the likes of which have never been seen. The post-fire recovery has unified the community. Jerry is looking forward to a fantastic “Yarnell Daze”. She has been planning, promoting and hosting meetings for the event for several months now. In addition to the busy-ness of Yarnell Daze, she is the writer responsible for The Wickenburg Sun’s weekly column entitled “Up Yarnell Way”. Jerry is quite a talented writer; her passion for Yarnell and all of its activities are evident when you read her articles.

Jerry’s paintings are impressively creative; they are “Realism” paintings, touting immense Jerry Florman painting 1detail and impeccable use of color. One of her paintings reminds me so much of my childhood hometown park, with the old light posts. The local scenes she chooses are peaceful and serene – soothing to view, much like the soothing effect of her speaking voice. Her paintings are on display at the T- Bird Café in Peeples Valley.
Jerry is also a weekly attendee of the local artist’s group that meets to paint every Thursday morning. Chuck Tidey, Bill Chaplin, Barbara Schlegal, Bob Brandon, Cynthia Reece, Anita Kristensen and Sandy Oldman are her Thursday morning companions. This group has become close-knit, and the time they spend together is a highlight in their week.

Jerry has many other hobbies as well. She loves to entertain guests at her home. She gave me a preview of the new house plans, pointing out that there will be plenty of room for Jerry Florman painting 2parties at the Florman house! Jerry also loves to sing. Sometimes she sings with Bill Chaplin and Vanessa Purdy. Her favorite genre of music is “Posi Music”, AKA “Positive Music”. Uplifting lyrics that reflect her hopeful attitude are her songs of choice. One of her very favorite songs is a composition is by Jana Stenfield: “Say Hello to Your Destiny”.

“That’s where we are right here in Yarnell: this is our New Destiny. In light of all that has happened since last June, this is WHERE we ARE,” she says, with that comforting look in her eyes. What a pleasure I had to meet with you, Jerry. I know I can speak for all who know you in Yarnell: we sincerely thank you for the encouragement you give us, the light you shine in your smile, the talents you share with us and the work you do to further unite Yarnell.

Barb Schlegel

Barb SchlegelShe has traveled the world, had life experiences which would spark envy in the heart of many; she is a talented artist, experienced teacher and best of all – she is a strong, independent and courageous woman.  And yet, she wears a graceful beauty – inside and out. Her humble and gentle spirit exudes a pleasant warmth, without a single hint of arrogance. She is Barbara Schlegel.

Glen Ilah is home to Barbara and her equally talented hubby of 10 years, Wayne, who is a retired Electrical Engineer. The couple met through a mutual friend, who engineered a dinner so they could get to know each other. The rest is history! Their home is cozy, and filled with history, as well as the added touches that make it uniquely their own.  Wayne purchased the house a decade prior to meeting Barbara. He performed several home improvement projects effortlessly, including electrical work, plumbing, and hand-crafted, stained glass light fixtures. The Schlegel’s have an ongoing project as well: a beautiful new bathroom, which will be complete with a jacuzzi bathtub in the near future. The Glen Ilah home is not their only residence, as they have a home in Surprise, AZ, which they visit almost weekly, enjoying a shopping trip while they stay there.

I was quickly introduced to Ginger and Ash-Lee, the family pets. Ginger, a German Shepherd mix sports a beautiful off-white, tan and grey coat. Barbara pointed out that of course, Ginger was sure I was there to visit HER.  Ash-Lee is a cat that was accidentally inherited after the Yarnell Hill Fire. She came to the Schlegel’s needing food, and was down to skin and bones. Barbara has fully nurtured kitty back to health, and she is now part of their family.

As is the case with many homes in Glen Ilah, the 2013 fire claimed some of their property.  Barb & Wayne SchlegelWayne and Barbara lost outbuildings, which included a garage Wayne built himself, a shed and, sadly, her art studio. She also lost her car, and Wayne lost a a tractor that he had restored. Many precious memories went up in smoke, such as 18 of Barb’s paintings, souvenirs and gifts from her former students – priceless items, for which no amount of money could bring restoration. But, the couple is grateful that the main dwelling structure was untouched, and grateful they were able to move themselves to safety.

Barbara was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, and resided their until 1967. She became intimately knowledgeable in the field of early childhood education since the very home she grew up in was a pre-school, operated by her mother. In 1958, Barbara became a certified teacher in Canada. She married, and due to her then husband’s career, they moved to the U.S. The standards in Canada required a teaching certificate, but the United States required a teaching degree. She was eventually able to attain not only a B.S. but a Masters of Education degree from Arizona State University. Her total teaching experience took place in 5 states and 3 countries (U.S., Canada and Saudi Arabia).

Teaching was very rewarding for her, and still provides a great sense of fulfillment in Barb’s life. She recounted a wonderful story during our interview, that took place while she still resided in Canada. A position became available at a Pre-School Co-op, for which she applied. The prospective employer wanted to know what she planned to do if hired. So, being the independent thinker that she is, Barb visited several different pre-schools, and wrote down all the positives and negatives of each school. Armed with that valuable information, she formulated her own plan for the Pre-School Co-Op. You guessed it, she was hired! In face, the school adopted and implemented Barbara’s innovative plan. The reward continues for her. That same pre-school recently celebrated 51 years strong. Barb attended the celebration, and her plan is still being followed.

Barb Schlegel paintingBarb had the privilege of living in Saudi Arabia with her children for a time, where she also was a teacher of Kindergarten and 1st grade at the American Consulate. Her first husband taught at the University there, and a perk of his position was paid travel. The University sent the family home every 2 years; they were also given an “around the world ticket” so they were able to visit several countries, including Iran, and Taiwan. They also visited the state of Hawaii. Travel was exciting for her and her 2 sons.

She speaks very highly and with motherly love about her sons. One of them resides in Mesa, the other resides in Seattle. She has 2 lovely daughters-in-law, and boasts 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, and one great-grandchild on the way – due December 12th. She fondly says her 3rd child was the Pre-School Co-op in Canada. As much as Barb loves teaching children, she took her career to a different level when she wrote college papers on the subject of Gerontology, and became certified on that subject. While teaching at a private school in Phoenix, she became involved in “Inter-Generational Programming”. This involved Barbara taking her 5 and 6 year-old students to a Geriatric center, and teaching them how to relate to the older generation. She explained that it was quite successful. The experience was heart warming, especially seeing her 5 year-olds coloring pictures and talking to the Geriatric patients so innocently. It was good for all involved parties.

Barb related a story from her early teaching days. She was concerned about discipline in Barb Schlegel paintingthe classroom. She wanted to be a nurturing teacher, not the teacher “police”. This prompted her to improve her skills further by taking a course in positive discipline. From that experience came the birth of “Huggy Bear”, the new classroom disciplinarian. Barb explains that since teachers were not permitted to hug a child, she used a stuffed hand puppet that would give the hugs for her at the end of each day. The children would write letters to Huggy Bear, and Huggy Bear would promptly respond. This was an exercise for the young children in reading and writing. It was also a homework assignment for the teacher, responding to all the inquiries. The children came to respect Huggy Bear, and did not want to upset him, so the positive discipline was in force and working!

This fabulous teacher, who always found a way to think outside the box, has even had the opportunity to teach John McCain’s grandson as well as Sandra Day O’Connor’s grandchild at a wonderful private school in Phoenix. And all the while she painted her lovely artwork, mostly as a hobby, generously giving her work to family members and dear friends as Christmas gifts. She was once scolded by a teacher for her art. The teacher told her it was no good, which of course caused her to stop her painting for a time. But she enjoyed it, and decided it was HER hobby, and no one would prevent her. Therefore, the talented acrylic and water-color painter just continued to perfect her craft.

Barb Schlegel paintingYarnell Hill Fire inspired her to paint a mini-series called “Glen Ilah Rising”, which so magnificently depicts the ashen boulders, with the amazing new growth around them – flowers, greenery, and post-fire natural beauty. Barbara paints mostly with acrylics, but has some spectacular water-color paintings, all of which are in glass frames. She explained to me that water-color painting is more difficult, because a mistake is permanent. When using acrylics, a mistake can be painted over once dry. Water color paintings are more fragile to exterior conditions and must be protected, which is why they are in glass frames.

Barb enjoys the Yarnell Artist Group that she and a friend started. She regards the time they spend together on Thursday mornings as the highlight of her week. They meet at a local resident’s home, who has room enough for a large table, and several local artists gather to paint and share their talented pieces with each other. (Bill Chaplin is one artist who attends this weekly solace.) Barb’s scenic paintings are extremely detailed, and her use of color is amazing. One piece in particular captivated me, reminding me of the local Zoo in the town I was raised: a beautiful depiction of an old farm building behind a large Water-Wheel – a truly gorgeous painting.

Barb’s work was recently displayed in the Yarnell Public Library, when she was the featured artist of the month. If you are interested in information regarding her work, purchasing a piece or a print of Barb’s paintings, you may send her an email.

A truly wonderful community is only as good as its members. I have had a fantastic year in Barb Schlegel paintingYarnell. The people I have met have inspired me; the strong community spirit, the social bonding that has taken place due to the recent tragic fire and the further cementing of relationships as we rebuild have amazed me. Meeting and becoming friends with Barbara Schlegel has also inspired me, but in an individual manner. Barb is a person that all young ladies should meet, to witness the character of an upstanding and strong willed “go-getter”, who lives life to the fullest and enjoys her dreams, and who marches to her own drummer. She profoundly shared this with me:  “I am a person who believes that if you put it out there, it will come back to you.” Thank you, Barb, for your positive energy, the legacy you have left your students, and the legacy you are creating for all of us in the community. Glen Ilah/Yarnell are lucky you are here!

Bill Chaplin

Artist – Bill Chaplin

Bill Chaplin: ArtistChange has been a good thing….At least it has for Bill Chaplin. His life mirrors one positive change after another. Some life changes came by chance, and others, he avidly fought for – but all in all, this is a changed man.

The first of many life changes came in 1962. Young Bill and his family resided in the great farmland of Central Illinois, where his mother was diagnosed with a serious lung condition. Doctors advised urgently that she move to a dry climate, otherwise his mother’s disease could claim her life. Without hesitation, the family moved to Scottsdale, AZ. Change was very good! The lung condition was completely healed within 6 months. Bill subsequently resided in the Phoenix area for 30 years.

In Yarnell, Bill is known for his warm smile, after which you may expect a tender and compassionate bear hug. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Bill was an RN for 18 years. He felt strongly that he could impact the lives of his patients through touch. His nursing career was mostly in ICU and Specialty departments. Sincere compassion is a gift that Bill has been blessed to receive, and he shares it effortlessly.

Another shift came, and seemingly at the time, it was not a positive turn in his life – except in hindsight, which is always 20/20. One thing after another seemed to go awry. Bill was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, making him incapable of performing his duties at work. He was then forced to leave his nursing career. In addition to that disappointment was the devastating end a 22-year relationship. By this time, he was also suffering with severe and debilitating back pain.
Bill Chaplin fell into a chasm of desperation.

Depression claimed his heart, and to cope, Bill turned to pain killers for his severe back bill-chaplin-painting1pain, as well as to speed to numb the heart break. His nicotine addiction was up to 4 packs a day – all circumstances that felt hopeless, but yet, a great victory was looming in his life. Bill put his mind over the matter, realizing that he needed to make big changes for his own well being. And 16 years ago, he did just that.

His first accomplishment was to discontinue the use of speed. He made the decision, acted upon it, and thus lies a victorious story. He gave up his cigarette habit as well, which was a 2-year battle, but again, a success! Then, Bill recounts that he had a very poignant experience in Yarnell, AZ, a life changing event that took place for him at the Shrine of St. Joseph. Bill had begun a regimen of running, walking and hiking. One day, he climbed to bill-chaplin-painting2the top of the Shrine to reflect on the Crucifixion at the very top. There was no mistaking what he heard. A voice clearly told him to stop taking the back pain medication. Bill does not care who spoke, he doesn’t even care if it was his very own mind. All he knows, is he heard it, and it was good advice, so he took it. Acupuncture was now the answer for back pain. Bill is an outspoken advocate for this alternative treatment. “Six sessions of acupuncture,” he says, “zero back pain to this day.”

Complications from health issues did afflict him for awhile. The drug Interferon, a treatment used for hepatitis, was very hard on his health. He explains that it nearly killed him. However, Bill is comfortable with change, and he pursued a lifestyle of hobbies and enjoyment to share with others, now that he is healthy in body and spirit. Meditation, exercise and giving back his talent to his community keep him focused and fulfilled.

Bill has been painting for 8 years, and his work was once displayed at the store formerly Bill Chapln: Artistknown as “Brand New Dead Things”, which is now “Patty & Sons”, on the South side of Yarnell. He began painting with water colors in the artist’s group that meets each Thursday in town. His art reflects his life – colorful, sometimes abstract, other times clearly defined, and sometimes peaceful beauty. He has recently been experimenting with acrylic painting and using a palette knife, which he is greatly enjoying. Bill’s work has given him success, as his paintings have been selling regularly. You can view some of his art adorning the walls at the Yarnell Family Diner.

bill-chaplin-painting3Not only is painting a passion for Bill, but he is also a Brown Belt Instructor of Tai Chi, an exercise that is referred to by some as “moving Yoga”. It is a series of controlled motions that are designed to relax the body, revive the mind and aid one’s chemical symmetry. He has the privilege of instructing youth Tai Chi in Wickenburg, AZ. And that’s not all – Bill enjoys singing, and takes vocal coaching classes with Vanessa Purdy, which he has savored for 6 years and counting.

Life changes have been good. They led Bill to his happiest period to date: “I have lived in bill-chaplin-painting4Yarnell for 21 years…the best 21 years of my life.”

Thank you, Bill – Yarnell is happier because of you, too.

Contact the Bill Chaplin regarding Art for Sale and for Tai Chi Information at 928-910-3928


Artist and Musician – Walt Eckes

“If it doesn’t touch me, it won’t happen.”

Walt Eckes is no stranger to hardship; nor is he a stranger to happiness. Walt, simply put, is a realist.

Walt & Delores EckesWe recently had the pleasure of a wonderful visit with Walt and his lovely wife of 44 years, Dolores, in their comfortable Glen Ilah home – a home that certainly mirrors the couples’ various interests, and their individual personalities. From exotic birds in a cozy sunlit atrium, to a park-like scenic fish pond, complete with a bench made for two, the house truly is their home. Walt and Dolores met in Manhattan, and it’s no secret that they are both New York natives. As soon as one of them speaks, an accent only found in NYC emerges in their speech. It’s a pleasant sound, not harsh, and this author finds it amusing (since I am a Jersey native).

Both Walt and Dolores have compelling stories to share, and both are forthright in recounting their memories. There is no pretense – who you see is exactly who you get – an admirable quality in today’s often fabricated world.

We began our visit by being introduced to “Sonny” and “Cher”, and none of us can be sure Walt & parrotwhich one should be called “Sonny”, and which one should be called “Cher”. A blood test is needed to precisely indicate the gender….Walt’s educated guess is the names fit accurately. Sonny and Cher are two of the most vividly colored tropical birds I have ever seen in person. They are housed along with a Cockatoo, called Tango, and another parrot-like pet, in the home’s glassy sunlit atrium. These birds are impressive! Cher likes to kiss Walt, and she savors spreading her wings in a proud moment. Cher is not caged, but as Walt and Dolores explained, she could easily pummel any one of the house cats if needed.

As we entered the upstairs living space, Walt made mention of some beautiful artwork in Wall of Artthe hallway, accomplished by talented artists he knows personally. When we entered the Eckes living room, he showed us some more paintings, some of which are so clearly defined I thought I was viewing photographs. These paintings were the result of Walt’s inspiration and his own paintbrush. There is no “abstract” in his creativity. His talent is indeed a reflection of his no-nonsense personality, what he sees is what he paints. But it’s deeper than that: when I asked Walt what artist inspired him the most, he shared a memory from an art class he attended years ago. He related that there he was, with a blank canvas, all the necessary tools, other art students and a teacher. In front of them was a poignantly captivating scenic view. The teacher said, “Okay, class, let’s get painting.” But Walt felt nothing at that moment; the view was great, but it didn’t grab his heart, and it certainly didn’t make him want to spit out what he saw onto a canvas. He informed his teacher by asking, “Paint what?”.

If Walt isn’t touched, he won’t paint it. But trust me, when he is touched, the paintings come ALIVE, leaving no doubt in your mind that Walt was inspired. His artistic ability is Sedona, AZquite stunning. During darker periods of his life, Dolores remembers that Walt’s paintings had a “dark” tone. And as life changed, so did Walt’s color scheme. My husband and I enjoyed seeing the Long Island’s North Shore, Walt’s rendition of a well-known New York harbor and boat. His works inspired by scenic Sedona, AZ are truly amazing. Dolores explained that she and Walt displayed his artwork in downtown Yarnell for awhile, where the Yarnell Emporium is located now. However, his art is a hobby – not to make money, but simply for enjoying what he does.

That very same philosophy applies to Walt’s music. This is a musician who loves the music, has a great time performing and recording, but it’s not his occupation, which is exactly WHY he enjoys it. The music studio is a separate building, and is affectionately called “Wally World”. Yarnell Hill Fire threatened its fury, approaching two feet from destroying this cozy one-room gallery/studio. In fact, the flames destroyed an outbuilding on the neighboring property, which is owned by Walt & Dolores’ son, who resides primarily in Peoria. The Eckes’, like many of us, were elated and grateful to find that though threatened, they were spared. That elation was short lived when like us, they learned of so many lives destroyed by the fire in Yarnell. Inspiration struck again, as Walt and Dolores decided to create and promote the “Hidden Faces Benefit” at the Muleshoe Animal Clinic on September 21st. The variety concert was a tremendous success.  Dolores was the “keep everything straight for her husband, administrative genius” (and apparently she fills that role often!).  Walt was the advertiser and scheduler, using his extensive contact list of well-known musicians around the state of Arizona, which all agreed to volunteer that day. The proceeds benefited Petey’s Playground, a non-profit organization that provides pet services.  Petey’s Playground was an enormous help during and after the fire evacuation period, by providing pet care for many pet owners who were not able to provide for their animals. To Walt and Dolores, this was a “Hidden Face”, and they shared that passion with others. The result was an event that raised awareness and better yet – funds!

As my husband and I sat on a very comfortable couch in “Wally World”, Walt talked music Walt Eckes Studiowith me. He is an avid BLUES man, inspired by the blues greats: Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters, also known as “the father of modern Chicago Blues”. We talked about Paris James, who is a personal friend of Walt’s, and performed his blues magic at the Hidden Faces Benefit. We talked about recording background tracks, and several music-related things we have in common. He plays guitar and sings for one reason: something inspires him about a tune, and he simply enjoys it. As a fellow musician, I can safely say, there is only one way to be passionate about music, and Walt has the concept perfectly: music and art come from heart felt inspiration and emotions of the soul.

Walt and Dolores share an innate sense of humor. One of their favorite movies is “Idiocracy”, a sci-fi satirical comedy, about which Dolores finds several societal truths. She Tangoexplains that the whole situation is hysterical. Walt’s quick witted jibs and jabs remind me of the character Hawkeye Pierce in the television sitcom “M.A.S.H.” Sometimes, if you’re not paying close attention, you might miss a good laugh!

The one thing he is most proud of to date: his son, who he describes as having “a good head on his shoulders, and turned out great.” The one thing that Walt would change to date: “Absolutely nothing. Everything in my life to this point has shaped who I am, and has enabled what I do…” – a commendable life statement, especially knowing that Walt, a retired US Marine, who served in Vietnam (1965-1966), was a POW for 39 days, leaving him severely mal-nourished, and forever scarred, both physically and spiritually. Yet, as he so aptly stated it: “There are no atheists in a prison camp.” He spoke regularly with the “Man Upstairs” while he was held by the NVA. And he credits the opportunity to escape as coming from the same. He has questions with no answers, but he counters them with the positives in his life:  his wife, children and grandchildren, his passions for music and art,  and all the opportunities he can embrace when something touches him.

Thank you, Walt Eckes. The things that touch you quickly become inspiration for others – because you live what you love! You’re a good man.
And thank you Dolores Eckes, you’re the great woman behind him.