Dina Dubois: Found By Phone (Part Two)
By John R. Greenwood
|Click here: The Dubois House on Huguenot Street|
|Port holes as described on the sign|
I mustered up the courage and dialed the phone. A male voice acknowledged I did indeed have the home of Dina Dubois. He was gracious and friendly. He said that Dina was out for a walk with friends and that if I could call back in about 45 minutes, he was sure Dina would like to speak to me. I had briefly explained the reason for my call and when I mentioned Huguenot Street and the Bevier-Elting house he assured me she would want me to call back. It was like a teaser on the nightly news, I was riveted to the phone. When I told my wife I had actually made contact she said the polite thing to do was give her at least an hour so as not to be a pest or intrusive. I complied but before the hour was up my phone rang and I recognized the number to be the one I had just dialed. I nervously fumbled with the handset.
“Hello”, I said, loud with anticipation and little boy excitement.
“Yes, is this John?”
“Yes, Dina Dubois?”
“Yes, I’m Dina Dubois and my grandfather Jesse did live on Huguenot Street.”
Bingo! The connection was complete.
After politely correcting my mispronunciations of the names Dubois, Bevier, and Elting we took off on an hour long conversation that I’m sure could have continued into the wee hours of the morning had we not both been so tired and drained from the excitement of relaying both of our stories to each other. She was a delight to speak with and her interest in history and the stories that help keep it alive only made our phone time more special.
Dina was surprised by how I found her. She couldn't believe she'd never heard of Jack’s book and that he'd written about her specifically. As we talked more about the time frame and the one paragraph in the book that spoke of a woman from New Paltz College arriving to instruct others on painting she became silent. You could sense that she was rewinding a fifty year movie in her head. I was reading the passage to her over the phone and when I got to the part where Jack describes the instructor from India wrapping Dina in, “yards and yards of the loveliest of colored cloths.”, she uttered an “Oh my.” She went on say that she was certain she had a picture from around that time period that shows her wrapped in an Indian sari--a colorful one. She said she was tempted to start looking for it right then and there because she was so taken by the passage. She also recalled attempting a couple of paintings using a palette knife at the time. She couldn’t recall if those paintings of hers still existed but she wasn’t counting out the possibility. After reading the text and hearing her describe her extroverted father being there, we came to the conclusion that maybe he mentioned his daughter's paintings and asked Jack if he might take a look at her work. It’s pure speculation but when you put all the pieces together that scenario seemed to make perfect sense. She admitted that she was consumed with many things at the time and probably didn’t pay much attention to the visiting watercolor artist.
Dina was quite curious about the book. She wondered how I discovered it and what connection I had to the Hudson River. She was surprised she had never heard of Jack Lewis. I explained that Jack Lewis was from Delaware and that he had done a similar book on the Delaware River. Eleanor Roosevelt was so impressed by his book of that river that she invited him to their home. It was there that she asked him to do a similar book on the Hudson. When a former First Lady asks you to compile a book of writing and painting about ‘her river’ you don’t ask questions, you simply say, “Why of course.” and so he did. I told her the story about me finding the book in the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, a used book store in Saratoga Springs. I told her how I walked in the door and it was the first book I pulled from a stuffed shelf full of musty gold. The book changed my life in some ways I told her. It has given me a path to follow.
I told her that I learned to swim and fish in the Hudson. My friends and I would camp along it’s banks in damp sleeping bags under the stars. We’d free float the waters above Luzerne with no boat or tubes, just a half dozen teenagers clad in cut-off Levis, heads bobbing in the water, free-spirits drifting down the Hudson. That’s why I fell in love with Jack’s book, his stories and his paintings.
When Dina and I were done reminiscing and comparing notes we exchanged contact information. She provided a couple artist’s names she thought might like to learn more about Jack’s book and his work. I can’t wait to meet her in person so I can thank her face to face for responding to my phone call.
Today, I found Dina Dubois, and we both found so much
Here is an added surprise for Dina. I did not notice this before but as I was finishing up this piece I opened Jack's book and looked at the Acknowledgements in the back. There I found one more thank you, one more piece to a fifty year old puzzle.