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Eulogy for Tatie, July 20th, 2017

Dad was given his name, Saunders Schultz, by his parents Rose and Abe Schultz -- a simple naming process, as usual. But nothing was ordinary about Dad, not even the manner in which he received his name. You see, my grandmother Rose loved the names “Alexander” and “Saunders,” and she was determined that Dad should be graced with both names. So, she began to fill out his birth certificate with the name “Alexander Saunders Schultz.” But the Doctor immediately pointed out that his initials would spell “ASS,” and certainly, he said, she didn’t want to make an Ass of him. Rose reconsidered and responded, okay, she would name him “Saunders Alexander Schultz.” Again, the Doctor intervened, now, with a new objection: his initials would spell “SAS,” and, he said, she wouldn’t want to make him “Sassy” for the rest of his life. Thus Dad was named, simply, “Saunders Schultz.” And he was born, from day one, with both a gift for humor, and a destiny for the unusual. Combine the two, and you have a fantastic life ahead.

From his mother, Dad learned to love art. He was physically ill as a small boy. And to take his mind off his sickness, Grandma put pens and paper into his hands.  She told him to draw whatever he wanted. From his father, Dad learned about resilience, focus and persistence. Abe had been a tailor before the Depression. He took up selling Electrolux Vacuum Cleaners “door to door” to survive the economic devastation. Of course, great Electrolux Salesmen are skilled at getting their foot in the door, before it’s slammed in their face. They are also persistent beyond belief.  They don’t mind knocking on 100 doors for one sale. And Grandpa became an excellent vacuum cleaner salesman.

When Dad was about 8 or 9, Grandpa decided to start teaching Dad his trade. They would work a street, one to each side of the road, selling vacuum cleaners. Dad seemed to be doing fine. Then, all of a sudden, he ran across the street, back to Grandpa, saying: “Tatie, Tatie, Dad, Dad, a naked woman answered the door. What do I do?” Without missing a beat, Grandpa answered: “sell her a vacuum cleaner.” Dad learned to “cold call” a potential client and talk his way into a sale. This skill would come in handy as an artist, sculptor and visionary.

Before Dad was fifteen, he would take his art supplies, hitch hike or catch a bus, walk into a restaurant or business and talk his way into being hired to paint a mural. By the time he was fifteen, it occurred to him to go to Bank Building & Equipment Company, to their national headquarters, here in St. Louis. They built bank buildings all over the country, and he reasoned, correctly, if he worked with them, then he could work all over the country.

So, he borrowed his uncle Jake’s car, took a large sample of his work and set off to the Company’s Headquarters. He went in and explained that he was an artist and could create artwork for Bank Building. The secretary told him he would need to make an appointment. But Abe’s training was solid. On his way out, Dad noticed a sign on another door that said: “J. B. Gander President.” So, he knocked on the door, and was asked to come in. He presented himself to Mr. Gander, who also explained to Dad that he would need to make an appointment. But Dad persisted, responding that he couldn’t come back, because he had borrowed his Uncle’s car, and that he wasn’t supposed to have it, as he was not yet 16 years old. Before Mr. Gander knew what was happening, Dad had laid out his paintings and sketches all over the President’s office.

This was the beginning of an enduring friendship. Mr. Ganders required Dad to finish high school. Then, he made a deal with Dad. He would introduce him around the Country, on each of the Bank Building jobs. But securing the job was up to Dad. He would have to design and sell each piece to each client. And so, Dad’s very successful travels around the Country began.

Mr. Ganders genuinely came to love Dad, considering him to be somewhat of a son. He liked that Dad always dressed with a suit and tie, and that he never “slept around,” or got into trouble. Upon his death, he called only two people to his bedside. Dad was one of them.

This career with Bank Building didn’t stop Dad from going to college. He attended Washington University where he learned from some of the best artists of that generation – Fred Conway, Max Beckman, Fred Becker, Bill Fett, to name a few. Many of these artists became life long friends with Dad.

The best thing that ever happened to Dad occurred during these college years. He was on the Art Department’s Student Committee, along with Kathy Clobber, Mom’s best friend, and Kathy told Dad that she wanted to arrange a date for him with Joan, because she knew they would be perfect for each other. He demurred, explaining that he really didn’t do “blind dates.” But his friends in the “Sammys” fraternity thought he should try out the blind date. They persisted, and finally convinced him by saying: “look, it’s just a date. You don’t have to marry her.”

So, he met Mom on the prearranged blind date. And the moment he met Mom, he realized his friends had lied to him – he did have to marry her. Both Mom and Dad said that as soon as they met, their hearts went: “batta boom, batta bang.” Dad returned back home and immediately sketched the sweetest piece for her that I have ever seen created. It’s a mommy and baby fish, swimming side by side. It’s slightly abstract, and completely 1950s. It’s fantastic.

Needless to say, the rest is history. He and mom got married and were inseparable for the next 66 years, until her death this last January. He was entirely devoted to her throughout his life. I remember that Valentine’s days were always very exiting. Once, in the 1960s, Dad made mom a necklace out of pieces of thick pink and orange plastic that he cut into shapes of hearts and peace signs. The tradition always continued. Dad asked us, one Valentine’s Day, if we could keep mom busy all day. When mom came home, Dad had painted a gorgeous wall mural for her. There, in their bedroom, was an abstraction of a field of tall grasses waiving gently in the breeze. Beautiful.

Even in her decline, Dad found special ways to spoil mom. Towards the end, she really didn’t want to eat much, but still loved fresh fruit. So, each day, Dad would Google exotic flowers, until he discovered a new one on the web. Then he would cut up her favorite fruit, and mosaic it into that flower, to present her not only with sustenance, but beauty as well. They were, after all, the same thing in the eyes of both Mom and Dad – sustenance and beauty.  They shared this sensibility, as they did with so much else.

Every Saturday, for decades, they would go to a drawing class and sketch the models, then expand out around town to paint and photograph whatever fancied their interest. Perhaps it was the iron spires on a span bridge, or the underside details of some machinery, or an “up close” shot of lichen. They explored the world together. Momma taught Dad about music, and he taught her about art. She began to paint marvelous pictures, and he utilized music in certain sculpture(s). For example, his breathtaking sculpture in Plano, Texas, plays whatever music the winds dictate. Each tubular piece within the thicket of metaphoric trees will play a different chord when struck by the wind in just the right manner. If you have never heard the music of the wind, you should visit Plano.  It is a magical sound, haunting and beautiful, all at once.

Dad’s charmed life continued. He applied for the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Champaign Urbana, Ill., and won one of only five national scholarships to the program, which happened to include a studio for each winner.  Later, Dad was offered the position as the assistant to Lee Chesney, the great printmaker, who was one of Dad’s professor’s. Dad humbly declined this offer. He knew his future lay, not in being an employee, but in owning his own studio.

Dad founded a studio with another Sculptor, Bill Severson, who had a strong background in the engineering aspect of large sculptures. They named their Studio “Scopia,” which is a Greek word meaning “to take visual aim.”

Dad went on to become one of the founders of Architectural Sculpture, i.e. Sculpture within the context of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and the Community within which they reside. He created and installed 298 pieces, ranging from one to twenty-seven stories tall. They can be found in 37 states, and around the world, in Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Moscow. He won too many national and international awards to list here, including the Carnegie Institute Achievement Award. His smaller pieces are in many collections, including the Pulitzer Collection, and images of his work have been reproduced in many national publications, including ART News, Architectural Record, US. News & World Report, The Washington Post, and The Washington Times, among others.

Dad also practiced a collaborative approach to creation. He said, “Truly great [public]art arises from collaboration with our community.”

In fact, Dad spoke about creativity and the collaborative approach as inseparable:

“What is creativity? It is fundamentally the reorganization of the known. There is more to be discovered about what we don’t know . . . . A person can see a garden through only one pair of eyes; hear a symphony through only one pair of ears, one never has all of the truth. Let us search for another perspective . . . . Let us search for unfamiliar, unusual situations and unknown paths. Then relationships that we missed before . . will reveal themselves. How? The answer lies in working together through an interdisciplinary process. This direction demands the sublimation of the individual and our preconditioned way of perceiving.”

Dad was recognized for this approach to creativity in public spaces. He was repeatedly invited to speak at the annual, national convention of American Architects (AIA), giving, I think 12 keynote addresses. Some of his closest friends were in this profession. For example, the astoundingly brilliant architect Ted Wofford, has been a dear friend of Dad’s for many decades. Together, they recently completed the Celares job (formerly Brown Shoe) in Clayton. Ted did the architecture, opening up the building with curved windows, extraordinary lighting and a plaza to unify and display both Fred Conway’s historic lobby mural, and Dad’s sculpture/fountain “Continum,” as if they were created for each other. Like listening to the wind’s music in Plano, Tx., if you haven’t seen Celares at night, you are in for an extraordinary treat.

Dad always believed that when you saw a piece of sculpture or art, it should inspire the viewer to experience, and work for, a better world. Dad said: “Above all, the artist must assess the point in history during which he finds himself; he must distill into a symbol that statement which needs to be said. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, he cannot preach ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Today, the artist, along with the theologian, must strive to stir and awaken people to the ethics of life.”

These deeply held beliefs led Dad to focus, often, on alternative energy sources, beginning many decades ago. He created the first moving sculpture, utilizing solar energy, the first sculpture to use wind energy, and the first sculpture to use cosmic rays (Saudi Arabia). This focus on alternative energy was not surprising. Dad was intimately connected to the natural world, and felt that the possibility for healing mankind, and, indeed, our very salvation, lay on the path inescapably intertwined with the healing of nature.

Of course, Dad deeply believed that the most important role of his life was not as an artist but as a husband and father. He asked that on his gravestone, we write, about he and mom: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” from the Song of Songs.

Neil and my father have a special connection in nature. Once, when Neil was probably 10, or so, we were all out tramping in the woods. Suddenly, Neil pointed to some wild mallards in a lake, and said to Dad: “if I can catch a duck, can I bring him home?” Poor Dad, in all the innocence of young fatherhood, he answered: “Sure,” never dreaming that Neil would actually go catch a wild bird with his bare hands. But Daddy should have known better. Neil is his son. Sure enough, Neil approached the lake, got down on the ground, and crawled, fully clothed, into the lake. He swam unobtrusively, murmuring what, if anything, I don’t know. Suddenly, he had a mallard in his arms, and he brought it back, out of the lake, triumphantly up to Dad. Okay, Neil said: “now, we can go home.”

Of course, Dad tried to reason with Neil. He explained that we should leave the Duck with his family, that an apartment was no place for a wild bird, and on and on. Neil was calm, and listened to everything. Finally, Neil replied with the killer words: “Daddy, you promised me if I caught the mallard, I could bring him home. You promised.”  Well, Dad was all about integrity. If you made a promise, you followed through with it. So, that was that. The bird came back to the apartment with us, riding in Neil’s arms the whole way. But Dad was persistent too, he was the ultimate in persuasive. Finally, a couple of weeks later, Dad convinced Neil that the mallard really would be happier in the woods, flying free with his own kind.

As for me, Dad gave me many gifts too. Even later in life, he was still teaching me. In 2008, I had a horrific surgery on my left foot region. When I woke up in agony after the surgery, Dad immediately began to tell me that art could transform my experience and transport me to a better place. After repeatedly telling him “no,” and some version of “please leave me alone,” I finally relented. And as soon as I agreed to his plan, he immediately taught me about each medium of art – water color, oil, collage, pen and ink, and so on. As I began to use each medium, he would teach me a life lesson. When he taught me about watercolors, e.g., he said: “Lisa, with a water color, you must have a vision of what you want before you even begin. Then, put all of yourself into it, everything. Finally, let it go, because you will never completely control it.”

So much more to say about my father, but words, and time, fail me. It seems only fitting then, to conclude with a poem in honor of them both.


On My Parents’ 63rd Anniversary

My parents
photograph lichen
as colors curving
and light bending
through the universe.

Of course, many souls before
have focused their lens’
on lichen,
though no scene have I seen
like theirs,
revealing the paradoxical patterns
of splendor.

And how could there be
a more mundane subject,
even pedestrian –
growing as it does,
here, there, and everywhere?

It is a common thing
strewn among the stones.
Seen by herds of humans,
casually clicking
the camera
to capture the unexpected splatter.

We are, and should be,
as common as lichen –
dazzling, unique, surprising.

But here is the gift:
not that we are common,
or uncommon,
but that we have the capacity
to experience the extraordinary
to love each other
and our world.

And here is the joy:
my parents
walking along the path
together delight
in the delicate
abstraction of beauty –
in the waves of music,
in the colors of lichen,
in the smiles of each other.

Again and again
they enjoy the wonder.

Now, in my 50s, not unlike my 20s,
I find myself, inextricably drawn
to photograph the lichen.
It is
with a genuine happiness of heart.
It is
in New Mexico.
It is
in my genes.
Not the blue denim
in the laundry.
But the nature and nurture
of my childhood.

I cannot help myself.
So I give in
to the pleasure
of blue boulders and basins
splashed with orange, yellow & red.

Each photograph, of course,
is for my parents.
Each photograph, of course,
is a small thank you
from the aquifer of gratitude
that is my heart.

Thank you, I say,
as the shutter
blinks again.

Lisa Schultz