June 21, 2014

My Hudson River Odyssey Continues

My Hudson River Odyssey Continues
By John R. Greenwood

"The Hudson River" By Jack Lewis -1964
My journey retracing the people and places in Jack Lewis’s book, “The Hudson River” continued this evening when I got home from work and called Betsy Andersson. Betsy is Tom Foster’s sister. Tom and his wife Carole are the owner’s of The Yarn Shop at Foster Sheep Farm. That is where I first discovered that the Foster family farmhouse was one of the homes Jack painted back on July 10, 1961. It's also where this story received a jolt of electricity and new found energy. The feeling I got when I found people who not only met him but were the subject of some of his work was something money can’t buy. This type of buzz can’t be recreated with whiskey or drugs, it can only come from an unexpected connection with genuine people with generous hearts. Hearts that find joy in simple pleasures like reminiscing about an all but forgotten watercolor artist that befriended their entire family over fifty years ago. 

Tom and Carole had given me Betsy’s phone number knowing she too would remember Jack and his 1961 visit. They were confident she would enjoy sharing any recollections she might have. I was taking a bit of a risk. These days it's hard to trust anyone. I know if I get a call from a stranger asking questions I might be apt to just hang up. Tom and Carole seemed assured Betsy would share my enthusiasm about Jack’s story or they never would have handed me her phone number. I mustered up the courage to make the call. I gathered a pad, pen, and the book. I open it up to the painting of Betsy’s mother Margaret holding Betsy’s younger sister Mary Anne. I dialed with a twinge of anxiousness. On the third ring a soft friendly voice answered, “Hello, The Andersson’s.” 

It only required a brief explanation of who I was and why I was calling for me to understand why Jack Lewis was so taken by this family some 50+ years ago. Betsy instantly put me at ease asking questions about her and her family. I think her and her brother both sensed my genuine interest in Jack and my excitement in finding a real live connection to his work.
Betsy cleared up a couple of my questions about the misspelling of the name Foster in Jack’s book. Jack had used the name Forster in multiple places. It did throw me off the trail a bit. She was quite sure that the possibility that it was a Boston accent mistake was slim. She kind of chuckled because she said her mother was quite a stickler for clear diction. She said although her mother had lived in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire at one time, she was actually born in England. When I explained my theory of Jack possibly trying to protect their privacy by changing their name slightly she had had a counterpoint for that too. She said in a copy of the book she had in front of her, Jack wrote a note. The salutation was directed to Betsy Forster. She said his writing was a bit scratchy but there was clearly an extra letter. She was quite confident that he simply made a mistake. She even pointed out that in one paragraph Jack referred to her brother Timmy as Jimmy. Tom also mentioned that he thought it was just a mistake. As an amateur sleuth and blogger I try to be careful with my facts but I find errors in my pieces quite often. I have a distinct advantage with Google and the internet just a click away. Jack did not have that luxury. He had to rely on jotted notes and memory. We seem to forget what a huge asset it is to have access to a world full of information at our fingertips. 

I had another question for Betsy. In the book there is a beautiful little poem. Under the poem it indicates that it was written by Betsy. It’s a wonderful piece that will share in a future post. When I asked Betsy about it she said she had to tell me something. She admitted she wrote the first few lines but her mother Margaret wrote the rest. I asked her if she continued writing poetry and if she happened to have any she might share. I could see her smile over the phone when she said she might have some stashed away. I told her I wasn’t sure where I was going with Jack’s story but I would still love to see what she might have.

I also asked both Tom and Betsy if they knew of any photographs that may have been taken of Jack and the Foster family during his stay? Neither were sure but both said they would ask their siblings and would share them if there were any. 

One of my last and most exciting requests was finding out if any family members had any of Jack’s original paintings. Betsy and Tom both assured me that their sister Ellen was the keeper of the original painting of the farm. She wasn’t certain if there were others. 

Spending time on the phone with such a gracious lady was a pleasant way to end a long work week. 

The summer is just beginning, I can’t wait to see what Ellen Foster has to say. 

Now where did I put that phone number?  

No comments:

Post a Comment