About me

For My Sons About a Grandmother, They Never Really Knew.

Today marks one year to the day that I lost my mother, Veda Maxine Lowrey, June 20th 2019. It has been a turbulent year not just because I faced a future without her, but because of all the changes that have happened in the world.  I can’t remember a year in my life that has been so full of worries and changes. I have never cried more in my life.

 

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Veda M Lowrey, Jolynn Lowrey Powers, and Cody A Powers. Summer of 1991

 

 

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my mother, your Grandmother, and more about my childhood. My mother was born into a large farm family on the eastern side of the Colorado Rockies. In a small community on the edge of Boulder County, Co. called Hygiene in 1930. There were 6 living children and two that passed away before reaching adulthood. She was the youngest living child. They were not wealthy people but the family was close and loving. My mother attended school and graduated from Boulder High School in Boulder County Co. where she met my father. They first met at a school dance. He had moved to  Boulder with his older brother to find a better life from the small town of Dalhart, TX. They married in 1948 and had 4 children. I am the youngest of the four and the one that gave her the most gray in her hair. I am 15 years younger then my next sibling.

 

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Veda Lowrey and Jolynn Lowrey in front of Bill Lowrey’s  house in Broomfield Co

 

 

Your GrandMother was a stay at mother until the unexpected death of my father in 1973. I was 5 years old and nothing can prepare you for the death of your father as a child. But my mother stood true through the storm that rocked our family. My brothers and sister were older attending  High School and College when the even occurred and I am sure that they were more devastated then even I was at the time. The end result was that my mother, the heart and soul of my world, would have to leave her home to work to support me and my siblings. From somewhere down deep she was able to find the courage and support to move forward in her life. Your Grandmother did not drive when your Grandfather died. That all changed very quickly at the time. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Corky (Cordella her sister), supported her through the changes that would come. My uncle took my then 43- year old mother out on a dirt road, out past the Boulder Resivore, and taught her to drive. We had three cars at the time (one was an old Packard 4 door sedan, a Dodge van, and a Plymouth 4 door sedan) and she could not drive any of them; how frustrating that had to be. My Aunt helped her get her name on all the legal documents. Her name was not on our house or cars because she did not have an income… How times have changed. Today, it is expected that I’m on everything your father and I own, working of not!  She was able to get a job at the same plant my Dad and Uncle worked at on the outskirts of Boulder.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri with grandson Christopher Powers

 

Rocky Flats (later Dow Chemical) was a nuclear bomb parts plant creating plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads during the years of the Cold War. My father was a welder at the plant and my Uncle Bob was an inspector. My mother’s first adult job was a cook in the plant’s cafeteria. She would go on to work in the foodservice industry for the remainder of her life. At one point owning her own cafe in the chemical engineering building at the University of Colorado.

 

Veda Lowrey with children Vernon, Bill and Jolynn with grandson Christopher june2017

Veda M Lowrey with sons William Lowrey, Vernon Lowrey daughter JoLynn Lowrey Powers and Grand Son Christopher Powers 2017

 

 

I spent many summers with her at the cafe stocking and cleaning. Spending other time roaming the campus alone. I remember her cooking meals and desserts at home so she could be home with me after school. She only worked from 6 am to 3 pm and headed home by 3:30 pm. I never remember missing dinner with her because of work. She made it a priority to work early mornings. She would often fall asleep in her beloved recliner at 4:30 after a long night and early morning at work. We would make 6 or 8 trays of brownies at least once a week, to sell to the professors on campus.

Sometimes I would help cook the main dishes for the next day’s special. I vividly remember making chicken enchiladas with her rolling the chicken and chilies into the very hot fried corn tortillas then watching her pour the red sauce over them and covering them with foil. The trays were loaded with 50 enchiladas that she would transport to the cafe’ the next day and heat in the oven.

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JoLynn Lowrey Powers eating whipped cream in moms kitchen 

 

She loved to travel to see her sister in Oregon, where we spent 4 or 5 summers. She loved to spend time near the ocean and reading in a camp chair on the campgrounds we stayed in. We had many fun times in the woods whether it was camping with my Aunt and Uncle, taking a picnic near a creek, or in a park. She loved to be outdoors but was not an outdoorswoman. (I totally feel the same way) We often took car trips to mountain towns like Ward, Central City, and Black Hawk before they were gambling towns. She loved to shop at the stores in Estas Park and we rode the train at George Town. You both now have ridden the train.

My time with my mom as a kid was mostly peaceful and quiet. She loved to read and listen to music. She did not seem to mind cooking at home and would often host the whole family to our home for holiday dinners. I remember having 10 and 12 people at a table for birthdays for her and her sisters.

 

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A very happy Veda Lowrey 2017

 

Your Grandmother loved flowers and our yard always had something blooming. She had the most wonderful roses that bloomed all summer. Her favorite was a giant wild yellow rose bush that my father dug up along a road somewhere. The bush grew to well over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide and was covered in thousands of thorns. She had to a velvety red rose that smelled so sweet. Mom would battle them every year pruning them into shape and enjoying the flowers on our dining table.  She loved to take care of her yard and trees. It was something she got pride from, being alone in a house, in a good part of town, and taking care of it the best she could. I was proud of it too.

 

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Wild Yellow roses. 

 

She loved her Broncos and along with my brothers was a life long fan. I remember the noise that she would make even alone in the living room stopping her feet, whooping, and hollering during the games. She rarely would cuss, but when one of the Broncos receivers missed a pass, it was not past her to say “SHIT” or “DAM” if the ball was dropped.

 

My brother Bill, once told me that my mother was a shy person, reserved and quiet, I had no idea. Because at home she was chatty and loved to talk to her sisters either by phone or in person. She had a few friends that she would see regularly and attend events at school like all parents. She was so open at home I would have never told a friend that she was shy.

 

As I grew up, Mom and I loved and hated each other equally. I was a terrible teenager and she was tired of raising kids. I often felt alone even with her in my life. She could not fill the loss that my father left in me and those feelings were compounded as my brother and sister married and moved away. I was an angry and lonely young woman. We fought and she was harsh and I was a “runner” and spent many years running away from home, staying with friends, or getting kicked out. She could be critical and judgmental and I was hurt often. It took effort for me and her to be close but we tried to find a middle ground. As you age you try to make friends with your parents and I did.

 

We would never see the world the same way but we could share in reading books, loving flowers, listening to all kinds of music and food! We always had food!

Your Grandmother once told me why she never remarried. She said,”It was because she never wanted to be told what to do ever again. She had one boss and that was enough for her.” I often think about her life and see that she never really needed a man. She was content with herself and her family. She was not worried about what other people thought or did. She had what made her happy and that was family and a big dinner table.

 

I often wonder what she would think if she could see us now? Would she laugh that I work in construction surrounded by men, working in dirty clothes, and being my own boss? I think she would!!  I was always playing in the dirt with the boys and she called me bossy more than once. I don’t think she would understand my need for social life and my passion for community development. But, she would support me in taking on the problems in my community. She raised us kids to be strongly opinionated people just like her. To be true to what we thought was right and to work hard to succeed in finding peace in solitude and a loving family.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I miss her and often, wishing I could talk to her about the last book I read or how the kids are doing in school. I wish she could have been proud of you boys like I am and known that her love continues to grow in our family like that wild yellow rose bush that she loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Boulder Colorado, childhood memories, Family, family memories, grandmother, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

WV The Last Man Standing during Coronavirus Outbreak

Many of us West Virginia Mountaineers shared in a joke or two this last week about why our state was the last to have the Coronavirus reported in our state. But many of us wonder about the underlying truth about why we are just now seeing reported cases. I suspect that we are behind in testing and the lack of a state lab that could process the test is also a factor. I think this should be a wake-up call to many of our government officials. It may sound great to be the last one to identify cases of the Coronavirus but is that actually an indicator of how poorly prepared our state is for future crises.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that my state has advantages for fighting an epidemic. Being rural and with less population-dense communities makes transmission harder. Giving us a huge advantage over large cities like New York City or Washington D.C. Generally we do not live or work in large crowded buildings where people come into close contact with one another. A lot of our labor force works outside and will have fewer exposer situations. We have less gathering places like large theaters, event arenas, or huge shopping malls. We also have less public transportation, restaurants, and smaller schools. We also may spend more time at home than the average American. Overall we have a lot of advantages, so if we also keep cleaning and sanitizing our rate of exposure and contacting the virus could be lower.  But are we prepared for an event like this?

My overall concern is not with just Corona but with a system that was behind in all areas of testing. Last week even our Senator Joe Manchin complained about the lack of available tests. At one point there were only 500 tests in the state… for a population of 1.8 million residents.

The following text is quoted from https://www.wvpublic.org/post/coronavirus-testing-limited-wva-its-population-high-risk-thats-why-we-should-distance

It’s not just testing supplies that are the problem – it’s that the labs don’t have the technology necessary to test. West Virginia’s state lab wasn’t set up until Saturday, March 7th (tests were sent instead to the CDC in Atlanta) and commercial labs didn’t get going until this week. Some hospitals are also hoping to be able to run their own tests soon but for now are having to send them off to external agencies.

So if we are also a state of the elderly, the poor and the sick (ranking number 44 in Nation Health Rankings) what will a poorly reported and tested community experience in the near future?

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Our Communities are generally at high risk and our state is poorly prepared for the situation. Is it likely that we will be hit hard by the Coronavirus? I think it would be unwise to think we were ready for what is about to come to the Mountain State. We have just watched two hospitals close in the last 6 months, hospitals that could be preparing for the future pandemic that we are facing. We have a need for skilled nurses and our rural hospitals are small and under-equipped for a large outbreak. Let us hope that being last will be an advantage for preparation and treatments. Let us hope that our natural lifestyle choices will help to slow the wave just by our love of solitude.

In closing, West Virginia needs a better-prepared system moving forward. We have not even begun to see the darkest days of this outbreak and already we are failing our people. These mistakes are a very hard lesson to learn so late.

Ultimately, I have faith that God hears the Mountaineer on the ridgetop when he calls out to him. I have faith that our mountains and valleys protect us and that we will survive just like all the Mountaineers before us. I have faith that this too will pass.

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Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Categories: About me, Coronavirus, Faith, family health, health, old age, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Celebration of 7 Years of Blogging

As of Valentine’s day of 2020, I finished up my 7th year of blogging. It has been a wonderful journey, I had no idea I would still be here writing. I hope this post helps me refocus my need to write and share about West Virginia. This blog was created because of my personal disappointment and anger over comments that were made by national newscasters about my state and the people who call it home in 2013.

That was a long time ago and overall the image outside the state still seems to be about the same, but community members like myself are trying to change that. I am only one voice that is trying to give our state a #Newstory. There are organizations throughout the state that continually try to let the world know that we are working hard to make my State better. One of the organizations that share my passion is The West Virginia Community Development HUB. They continue to share wonderful stories about our progress and efforts to change for the better. I have written for them several times and will continue to share what I think is wonderful about our home.

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Window Mural inside the Golden Rule 

So let’s Celebrate what I have learned over the past seven years and share some of my favorite posts and the ones that readers have liked the best. My favorite may not be the same as my readers but they are good and they mean something to me.

I started my blog on a very cold and snowy afternoon in February 2013. As of today, I have had 242,790 visitors to my site and 91,000 of then stop into this website in 2016. I have written a lot over the 7 years, but only published 279 posts, this post makes 280. I found that my readers love ghost stories and Appalachian history. So I am not surprised that my post The Lost Soul of Loveberry Church is one of my top two posts being viewed 12,670 times. The other is about Marker’s Mark Bourbon and the distillery tour in Loretto Ky. Both seem to strike at the heart of what is wonderful about Appalachian culture. It seems that a story that has a little mystery or myth gets people reading.

St Bernard Church Weston West Virginia

St Bernard Church Weston West Virginia

My favorite stories about my life are read often also but might not reflect the mystic of the mountain state as well. All of the stories I wrote about my experience with the Barnwood Builders are fun but the last one the Completed DIY project and the last visit with the Barnwood Builders, is maybe my favorite. But, the story I am most proud of on the blog is Why a Life of Service is Not a Job but a Lifestyle. Because the post shows my intentional shift in thinking about my future. Now 4 years later I am still living a life of service. I still work for Non-profits and still work in the Community Development field. AmeriCorps changed the direction of my whole life and I am so glad to still be part of their program as a member of the Board of Directors of The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area and a liaison between the Americorps Service Members, the Staff, and Board of Directors. I hope to continue to part of the National Service for many more years to come.

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25 Americorps members visit me in Barbour County to do tours. 

The best part of my Blog Celebration is that writing often and from the heart has had major benefits for me. I have not only improved my writing and spelling skills, I learned to have my own writer’s voice and be more confident with that voice.  I have found a place where I can share my feelings, be curious, and learn from other bloggers. It has always been a surprise to me that there are others out there that are interested in my stories and take time to read them. WordPress is a place I call home with supportive readers and writers all around me.

The very most important lessons I have learned as a Blogger are

1.”We have Power”! As writers, we have the power to make or break our communities, our country, and our lives. Our stories are a reflection of our beliefs and by sharing those beliefs we influence others to believe the same way. So make sure you are shaping a world that you want to live in.

2. Being creative is a need not an option! For me being creative keeps me from feeling stuck in my life, in my relationships, and in my mind. So Blogging is one of my favorite pressure releases. Some people play sport to relieve stress, I create thoughts and put them on paper to save me from myself. When I can I draw and paint too!

3. I am a change-maker! Because of this blog, I have helped others from all over the world change their way of thinking about my country and state. That would have never happened any other way!

So here is to another seven years of writing and reading. Let the magic of words continue and I hope I still have positive stories to tell you!

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My friends celebrating life with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, blogging, celebration, Life Changes, looking back, nostalgic, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Golden Rule Under Construction #2

The first line of my recent press release about the Golden Rule said,” The Future of the Golden Rule is in Sight”. That was amazing to write and is exciting to watch. So if you have been following me long you know about the wonderful building the company I work for is the process of redeveloping. If you are new here, let me take a moment to explain just a bit about the Golden Rule.

I work for a housing and community developer called, Woodlands Development Group, who in the spring of 2018 bought a historic 3 story brick furniture store warehouse-type building in the small town of Belington, WV. The Golden Rule building was built in 1903 and was owned by the Shinn family until the late 1980s and was sold to a man who used it for storage. Left to decay the community of Belington wanted to save the building and its history. Woodlands Development Group got involved and bought the building with grant funds from the second owner and arranged the financing of over 3 million dollars to redevelop the Golden Rule into a mixed-use building. The plan includes 10 apartments on the top two floors and a cafe and retail space on the first floor. I have been working on the building in several different capacities for two years and am now working on business development and marketing for the building’s future. She is my greatest work joy and I hope to be part of her future for many years to come. This is my home away from home!

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Basement of the Golden Rule before image

JoLynn Powers working at the Golden Rule.

So my portion of the project finished just a few weeks ago. The building was finally empty after around 4, sixty-yard dumpsters and around 13,000 pounds of trash removal. We found storage for the truckloads of antiques that were not sold at several events so they can be used as decor for the first floor in the future. We (my AmeriCorps volunteers and I ) demolished hundreds of feet of shelves, flooring, ceiling tile and drywall. So construction contractors can turn the building around.

I finished my contract year with the knowledge that my work was not done but going to be different this year. So now I get to sit back and watch others build a brighter future for this building.

So far crews have cut huge wholes in the three floors for the elevator shaft and fire escape stairwell. They have excavated into the basement to remove dirt and rubble to get ready to pour new stairwell landing pads.

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 Crews get the dirt out of the basement of the Golden Rule.

They have begun the framing of the walls inside each apartment and have had time to remove the breezeway that lead to the storage shed. These are before and after photos. You couldn’t see the breezeway from the back due to all the brush and trees.

The Americorps crews that helped me clean out the upper stories are back working on clearing out the basement and rafters of the third floor this spring. They are working to get the building ready for roofing contractors, and the electrical contractors.

It is only a few weeks into construction but changes are visible and teams of more people are working together to get things done. I am excited and so hopeful for the people who get to live and work in this building. I know Tom and I have our own plans to be part of the retail space in the near future, so I hope my involvement continues even after the Golden Rule reopens. This year I am happy to be helping in the development of the businesses, the build-out of the retail space and who knows what else to make sure this project gets off the ground running. 

If you want to see more about the Golden Rule and the first steps in our process of redevelopment you can click here Golden Rule #1. There are many other posts about this and my AmeriCorps service that shares my love for this building and what I get to do for a living. 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment projects, rural life, West Virginia History, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Change of focus for 2020.

During New Year’s and the last several days, I have spent time reflecting on what I want the New Year to be about. I keep seeing posts and news stories that worry me. I toss and turn at night about the state of our county and our communities. I wonder about the increase in gun violence, hate speech, and intolerance in our country. I have to wonder if all these things are a reflection of the ongoing and frequent ideas of the “You” agenda.  We are bombarded with messages and the younger generation has been raised with the mantras “Take Care of You”, ….”Make Time for You”, … “Your Happiness Matters Most”,..”Heal Yourself”.  Not that I think overall that these are bad ideas. I just wonder if this is another expression of being focused on ourselves and not others. So much so that the larger picture of service, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness are lost.

When we stop as people looking at each other as neighbors and more like enemies, I become unsettled and wonder why it is happening. I often look back at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic and the years following 9/11 terrorist attacks and know that we can come together to combat the injustice that is experienced in the world. We have proven that we can work together for peace and healing, but somehow we are losing the battle to combat hate and intolerance in our own communities and those around the world. In this way, we are losing America’s Humanity.

So what does this all have to do with my New Year and 2020? I am going to move the focus of my life off of me and try to refocus it on others. I am going to make me a less important figure in my life and place others in the center of who I am. I going to make service, love, empathy, and forgiveness the mantras of my year. It is a shift that might need to be taken nationwide.

If for one moment we could have gotten just one of those gunmen to understand forgiveness or empathy in the moments before the shootings, they would have never happened. If for one moment they could have stopped filling their souls and brains with self-aggrandizing statements maybe they would have felt humility and reverence for the lives of others. Maybe if they were not focused on what the world had done to them and felt thankful for what they had, those lives would not have been so easily wasted.

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brothers fishing  Stone Wall Jackson Lake 2019

My goal is to become a better community member, a better neighbor, friend, wife, and mother. To learn to be less the center of my own universe and more about making others universes better. I want to have fewer things and give more. I want to do work that makes our struggling communities succeed and I want to share love, compassion, understanding as I move forward into 2020.

Let’s pray for a more compassionate year for the United States in 2020. img_20191121_155937893_hdr2020.

 

Categories: About me, Change, Life Changes, New Years Eve, New Years Resolution, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

2019 Learning to be Free.

I think 2019 was the year I finally grew up. I think maturity came even when it was unwanted. As I look back over the year I see where I really grew a lot and where I struggled. I can’t believe that in a matter of 12 months I have started my own business, changed offices twice, lost my mother to Alzheimer’s, took a major vacation, ended up in the hospital for migraines, made another epic Halloween costume and almost figured out the State of West Virginia’s tax system.

Jolynns Steam Punk Halloween costume

2019 Stockert Youth Center Haunted House. Homemade costumes are the best.

Of course, starting a business was stressful and at times frustrating. It took over ninety days for me to get my business license and when I did get it they sent it to the wrong address and I had to contact the state about the error. Then wait a few more days to get the corrected license. All while trying to pay my quarterly taxes. All I can say is congratulations to anyone who has survived the first year of becoming self-employed.  My first year was a never-ending mess. I think I will do better next year! The taxes paid and now if I can just find a good accountant to do our federal income taxes I will say whoo hoo another year done!

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watching my Philippi Gate Way project get installed in Aug 2019

While working for 3 different organizations I did have three different desks in three different offices in two different counties. This is not a good thing and I would not recommend it to anyone. Things get left at one office while you are working at another one, people have no idea where you are or when you plan to come back. I officially will only have one office and one desk next year and one phone number. That alone is reducing the stress I feel just thinking about it.

My work on the Golden Rule is finished until fall. I will miss this Grand Old Girl for a few months and then begin the work of designing the buildout of the retail space. I am helping with fixtures, layout, displays and the general look and feel of the space. This is actually pretty close to the work that I did just after college. It should be fun to put on my interior design hat again.

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Back view of the Golden Rule after cleaning up the brush.

 

I also lost my 87-year-old mother this summer while I was working at the Golden Rule. My brother called while I was loading Items for donation into a truck to tell me that she had aspirated. Its when you inhale something you shouldn’t and it causes damage to the lungs. When that happens instead of bruising and swelling alone the lungs fill with fluid and eventually if the damage is severe enough you end up with phenomena. In my mothers’ case, she was weak being taken over by Alzheimer’s and had so many other issues the lungs filled up within hours and she passed away in my brothers’ arms before any of us could get to her. It was shocking and expected all at once. My brother made arrangements for her burial with my father in Colorado when we all could gather together to say goodbye. She died on West Virginia Day, June 23rd, the same day that West Virginia gained its independence from the State of Virginia, that is a date I will never forget.

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My mothers’ memorial tattoo 2019 

In trying to allow myself time to morn and still work I did something totally crazy. I got a tattoo. A large one on my back that is a memorial for her. Then two days later I found myself having to say farewell to another friend who had been in town for a month and was heading home. I was just overwhelmed with all of the feelings of loss that I had. I just wanted everyone I love to stop leaving and ended up in tears in the front seat of my car. I should have just driven home that day but I just went to work and headed to a meeting. Within hours I was being driven to the hospital for a very painful headache that made my vision blur. I am not sure what they gave me that day but I was so drunk from the medication that I was not able to drive and my oldest son came to take me home. I slept for hours and hours and he was relieved to know I was going to be ok. I now know that I need to learn to vet my feelings better, I also need to rest sometimes. I need to take better care of ME!

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My Friend Dominic Piacentini summer blueberry picking 2019 

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JoLynn Powers working in the basement of the Golden Rule Building 2019

We then planned a huge trip to Colorado to inturn my mother’s ashes and take a few much needed days off. The trip was wonderful and the sightseeing we did brought me in contact with a large group of high school friends and family members I had not seen in several years. It was an eye-opening trip and I think the little angry girl that I had been most of my life finally was left totally behind in the mountains of Colorado. I finally had outgrown my home town, found out how much I am loved, found comfort in old friendships and felt free for the first time in my enter life. I was finally who I was intended to be.

 

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Visiting with my dear friend Natalie summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Colorado summer 2019

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View of Glenwood Springs Co. from the Valley below 2019.

This new feeling of freedom has continued for several months and has helped me grow. I spent time working with Christopher’s fundraiser Haunted House again just after we returned home. With Toms’s help, I put together a wonderful steampunk ringleader costume. A mixture of old and new items and lots of hot glue. I spent the weekend working at the door of the haunted house and helping to clean up the huge mess the next day. I won a costume contest at work dressed up for Christophers School party, and trick or treated with the kids. It was worth every minute I spent one making the costume.  Next year’s costume is already in the works and is planned to be much scarier and less human. I am thinking of a smoking dragon… if all goes well.

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Christopher Powers and Jolynn Powers 5th grade Halloween Party 2019

Then the year ended on a very positive note. I have been asked to become an employee of the Barbour County Development Authority in West Virginia. After two years of working with them on community development work, I am now going to be a member of the Staff and continue as a Contractor/ Consultant on a couple of projects for other companies.

Finally, I have found my place in the world and I feel free to pursue every dream that I ever had. It is exciting to be in charge of my future and surround myself with the work I love. I hope in 2020 I can accomplish even more and make the communities I work in prosper as well!

Welcome to Philippi sign in dark

Holiday Lights on the Gateway Project Murals and planter Christmas 2019. My new job for the County starts Jan 2020. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Death, dreams, Family, Friendship, friendships, grandma, hobbies, Memorial, Memories, photo review, traveling, year end review | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

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Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

Tom and I Colorado River

Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

Friends at Mikeoshea's

Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

Family together at hotel

The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

Nick and I

Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

Basement of the Golden Rule before image

 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

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Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Murals in the Mountain State

I was just recently asked some interesting questions  about a mural I recently finished painting at the Barbour County Development Authority’s office in Philippi, West Virginia. This new mural was unveiled on January 23 of 2018 and a guest at the reception asked,”When did you start painting murals, and how long did this one take to paint.” I had to really stop and think about my response. My response was,” I have been making them for over 35 years in public and privet, and this one took about 125 hours to paint.”  I never really went looking to paint murals, painting murals can looking for me!

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General Store Mural Painted at the Barbour County Development Authority office 2018.

I painted my first mural at age 11 or 12 at my hometown elementary school Majestic Heights Elementary  in Boulder Co. I was asked by a teacher if I would come into our class room a few days before the school  year started  and help her decorate a large empty wall in the class room. She asked if I could paint her a lion and some text underneath. I had no idea what she wanted and the only skill I had at the time was to use her over head projector to enlarge a image and trace the image on the wall. I was given a sheet of clear acetate and told to find something in the library to use.  I eventually found a wonderful lion image and proceeded to make a large lion mural on the wall of our class room. I do remember her saying that the reason she asked for me to help her was because I could draw well and she thought It would be fun for me. It was a nice experience and my mom enjoyed seeing the mural during parent teacher conferences.

It seems funny now, when I look back, that I have painted murals for churches, schools, barns, down towns and now businesses offices on and off my whole life. I have never pursued painting these large images, but I seem to get asked more and more to do them.

closeup of tree of life quilt block

Some are very simple and only take a day or two to prepare and paint,while others are large detailed images like the one at the Barbour County Development Authority. This is one of the larger murals that I have painted measuring 12 feet wide by 8 feet tall or ruffly 96 square feet of paint. I painted off and on, over about 4 months. Some days drawing and painting 5 hours and then some weeks not painting at all. The the value of the mural came to about 1800.00 dollars that was donated to the BCDA from Woodlands Development Group to cover the expense of my time.

The mural concept had three full color drawings as different options for the layout and figures in the mural. In the end the we actually had real people who worked in the actual store as models for in the mural. The Director of the BCDA was able to find photos for me to reference when adding the little girl and the meat cutter to the image. Then we were lucky enough to have the little girl behind the sales counter (Anna)  come to the unveiling with her two brothers. Their father, the owner of the building and Smith Grocery , is represented in the mural as the meat cutter in the mural.

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Children of Robert Smith ( man in Mural) and owner of Smith’s Grocery in Philippi WV. Anna Smith is photographed with her likeness as a child in the mural. Jan 2019.   

 As I have matured as an artist I have slowly become less and less realistic with my painting and drawing. I have a degree in fine art and have skills to draw very realistic images but with age and failing eye sight I have begun to make images that are more representative of a feeling or style then realistic. The style of this mural has been described as Folk Art, because its very flat and has little depth. The colors I chose also add to the “Old Timey” feel of the piece . 

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Golden Rule Window replacement mural “Hope” 2018.

The “General Store”mural is only one of four planned art and mural projects for downtown Philippi. I will be working on teaching others in the community how to make panel murals this spring. This time we hope to create three panels with images of quilt blocks and the city seal to be displayed on a downtown building as part of a Philippi  “Gateway Project”. The project includes instillation of a large welcome to Philippi sign, a flower planter, the murals, lights and flowers.  This project is the first time I have worked with some many organisations who want to contribute to making a downtown look better. It is amazing what small communities can do if they join together.  The “Gateway Project” is scheduled to be unveiled in Aug 2019 with about 25 volunteers doing the work.

My hope is that one day I will look back at all the beauty I have helped to create, and feel that I made a difference. I hope my art has made their towns and communities more colorful, friendly and welcoming. That I have begun to help wash away the stereotypes that portray our communities as empty, dead or forgotten. I plan to keep adding more life, color and happiness to every place I work  and adding more positive images to the story of West Virginia.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: About me, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Creative Place Making, murals, West Virginia, West Virginia artists | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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