Monday, August 15, 2016

So Long E.F. Norwood...

I am going to side track for one episode, slightly into the personal. It relates to my painting insofar as it is part of the observe and comment part of daily life that good painting is all about.

Our friend and neighbor E.F. Norwood passed away last week, after a several year decline. Didn't quite get to 90. I got to know him maybe 10 years ago, and had kept up with him since. He was an interesting character, a real gentleman. Impeccable taste, low tolerance for idiocy and mean people, and had at least a couple rabid hobbies; film and Dahlias. He had an incredible Dahlia garden and was revered throughout our area. He had books on film, and could talk for hours on movies. He retired after many years teaching high school, and MANY of his old students became friends for life. He was an incredibly private and thoughtful person. And he loved martinis.

He was also a gay man who never spoke of it or felt it was anyone's business, which it was not. I got to go through his personal things when we moved him out of his home into a senior center place, and realized that he had lived his life in a world of incredible hostility to who he was and still managed to come into old age with a great spirit, and community sensibility. He was born and raised in Arkansas, went to a Christian college in Missouri, and did a tour in the Navy, all at a time when there were few things worse than being gay, a fact that could get you arrested, beaten, or killed at the first sign of any expression of it or knowledge. His scrap books were mixed photos and clippings of his friends, his Navy days, and newspaper clippings of some of the horrible things people did to gay men when they found out. So I get it. He was private, but maybe a bit terrified. The risk was always there. From losing friends, to even losing your life.

I am a white straight man. I have been given a pass on the privilege front. I do not know what it feels like to be in danger simply because of who I am. I am also fortunate to have been around artists all my life, and have never thought of gay people as any different than anyone else. But I am being forced to see it affecting the lives of those who live under the constant suppression of their human rights by both the LGBTQ and BLM communities pushing themselves into the discussion and larger cultural stage. And it is astonishing. I even see my own biases in subtle ways now that I did not fully own before. And that, I think, is where it has to start.

E.F. was embarrassed by his full name. Never told anyone. I know it, but will not tell. He was religious only in the way that how you behave everyday is your true religion. He did not believe in any god that taught hate. I miss the martinis, and the Dahlias, the Sunday get togethers, our steak and potatoes dinners, and his booming voice. He has joined Einstein and Churchill, Ghandi and Freddie Mercury, and all of his favorite movie stars wherever they all went, and his little dog. He was ready. As I write this I think that I was not.

This little watercolor was done by his friend David Oliver. It is not a portrait of E.F., it IS E.F.


  1. What a great story and lovely testament to your friend.

  2. Dear Marc- Just read this and was very moved by your testament to your dear friend. Thank you very much- you were very lucky to know him- I'm sure. And I love your work- I paint here on the palouse.. and your paintings of this area really resonate with the light and space. thank you. Ellen

  3. I used to do work around the house for E.F. in my undergraduate days, and really cherished many of the same things about which you have spoken here. Thank you for nudging those memories. And your portrait is a perfect capture! My one addition... He introduced me to a side of jazz I'd not encountered before -- always had it playing, no matter the time of day I was at his house. I'd never known Clapton until E.F. came into my life. I know this is an older post, but I do hope you see it and think again on the man.

  4. Sorry i hadnt seen this... thank you for your thoughts. I periodically re read this, and see the little things people leave against the fence here, and let it all flood back in.

  5. What a beautiful tribute How fortunate you are to have shared such a friendship . Would have enjoyed meeting someone like your friend. Years ago I started dahlias from bulbs. Think I will try again after seeing this post.