A Valentine Kiss For Mary

As we approach Valentine’s Day, the store shelves are loaded with an assortment of candies from the plain to the exotic.  Packaging of the day seems to be welded to hearts and roses.

Hearts and roses are two typical symbols of the day.  Red-wrapped dark chocolate kisses are tossed around like leaves in autumn.

There will be jewelry given to one’s beloved.  These tokens speak of the magic of love, the romantic trysts of human hearts.

It was a cool Fall day in November 1934 that Norman Rockwell was busy in his New Rochelle studio.  To his great delight and surprise his wife Mary and their dear friend Bud Cunningham dropped by to chat.

As they engaged in lively conversation, Mr. Rockwell had another visitor, his former brother-in-law Howard O’Connor.  He announced that his sister Irene, Norman’s first wife, had died suddenly.

Being the compassionate woman that she was, Mary suggested to her husband that he paint a tribute to Irene with Bud.  The painting below shows Bud painting a lovely woman, Irene.  At the bottom of the painting is the word KISS which was for Mary.

February 9, 1935
February 9, 1935

Norman and Irene, a school teacher, had married in New York July 1, 1916.  They divorced on January 13, 1930.  Norman moved to California. Irene died November 4, 1934 from drowning in her bathtub.

Later in 1930 Norman met Mary Rhodes Barstow, a school teacher, in Southern California. It was a low time in his life and Mary was the right medicine for his melancholy. They married on April 17, 1930 in the garden of her parents.  There was nothing like a garden wedding in Southern California on a beautiful April day.

Norman and Mary had three sons.  Mary became his all in all. Mary died from cardiac arrest on August 25, 1959.

Norman would remarry and once again she would be a schoolteacher, Mary Leete Punderson on October 25, 1961.  She was affectionately called Molly.

She would be a source of comfort and inspiration in his last years.  Norman died on November 8, 1978 at his home.  Molly would live until July 20, 1985.

Norman Rockwell was not perfect.  He was a very talented but flawed human being.

Like us he had dreams and hopes, fears and uncertainties. He loved and suffered loss.  He had joys and sorrows; triumphs and defeats.  His work in many ways was his life.  Everything else was subordinate to the work.

He once said,

“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.”

May you find the adventure of living on this planet traversing the cosmos. Thrive in your milieu.  Allow your passion to embrace who you are.  Each day may be a new painting and what transpired in the yesterdays may remain on the canvass as it ages because there are too many new canvasses to paint with your tomorrows.

Enjoy the seasons of your soul.  Inspire those around you with vision and hope. May you have valentine kisses beyond measure.

G. D. Williams       © 2013

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For the above Rockwell’s print and others: