Kerry Woods touched many, and will continue to through his art

Kerry Woods’ Paul Splittorff portrait

By Linda Emley

A couple of years ago, Sean Comer wrote a story for the Richmond News about Kerry Woods. Kerry was the local artist who created posters for the first several years of the Richmond Mushroom Festival.

I told Sean that Kerry was an old buddy of mine. He laughed and said that I say that about everyone, but I informed him that Kerry really was because he was the best man at my first wedding. He also played the guitar while John Rooney sang. I then told Sean that my middle son, Gabriel Woods Emley, was named after Kerry.

Kerry’s name is once again in the News because he left this world and moved on to the next stage in his life. Cancer took him at the age of 62.

Kerry was a person who, like me, usually lived outside the box of what we call normal. We were kindred spirits because we understood each other. Kerry was a wonderful artist and had a touch of the “temperamental artist” gene because he did things his way. I was an artist many years ago and always admired Kerry’s creativity. His funeral was very emotional, but it was good to see old friends. It’s sad that it takes a funeral to bring people together.

I’ve decided that I’m going to live everyday like it could be my last. I’m going to catch up with old friends and find a few new friends every chance I can along the way.

We have been hearing about the “Mayan calendar and Dec. 21, 2012,” and now that day has finally arrived. I don’t think the world is going to end this Friday, but if it were, what would I do? I would spend time with the people I love. I’m not really worried because I believe if the world ends on Friday the 21st, we will all meet on the other side.

After Kerry’s funeral, we all gathered for lunch and told stories about some of the memories we had of his life. I told about him painting a life-size picture of my boyfriend with another woman. It was homecoming in 1971.

My boyfriend at the time was Jason Emley, who escorted Leslyn Woods at the halftime program. Their picture was in the Richmond News and Kerry used that picture and painted it in one of his art classes at KU.

I was perfectly fine with him escorting Leslyn because she had a boyfriend, Scott Farmer, but I didn’t really want that picture hanging in my house.

After we got married, the picture ended up at our place and I hid it in the only place big enough, which was under our bed. A few years ago, I told Leslyn that another women had been under our bed the whole time Jason and I were married. She and Scott laughed when I told them the rest of the story.

Kerry and I weren’t as close after I got divorced, but I would call him every year on May 5 to wish him a happy birthday. We would see each other now and then and it was always fun catching up. The best friends are the ones that you can pick up where you left off, no matter how long it has been since you saw them last.

He didn’t have any children and after his funeral, his artwork was divided among family and friends. I received several pieces of his art that I’m going to put on display at the Ray County Museum. He was known for his sports paintings, so I got three K.C. Royals players portraits from the 1980s and one of Kerry’s favorites, Connie Mack. I also have a copy of a picture he painted for the Battle of Lexington and several Mineral Water Bowl posters from Excelsior Springs for our collection.

The Richmond News loaned us one of Kerry’s original Mushroom festival posters, which will make this exhibit complete. Woody, as many of his friends called him, will always be remembered thanks to his one-of-a-kind paintings soon to be displayed on the hill.

My weekend ended on a happier note than it started thanks to another friend I have known for many years. Bruce Thurman played the organ at my first wedding when Kerry was the best man. I was happy to see him at Kerry’s funeral because it reminded my that I would be seeing Bruce in a few days.

Bruce hosted a Sunday afternoon party at his home on the Plaza. My good friend Steve Hitchcock was my escort. We started the afternoon at O’Dowd’s Pub and then walked the Plaza as we enjoyed people-watching. Hitch is always a fun date because he has a history story to go with everything. We stood on the banks of Brush Creek and he explained to me how the Civil War Battle of Westport played out on the very ground where we were standing.

We walked up the hill to Bruce’s building and enjoyed the cool crisp air along the way. When the door man buzzed us in, we didn’t need to ask for directions because everyone knew where the party was. Bruce Thurman knows how to throw a party! He was the perfect host. He had a wonderful pianist playing the baby grand and talented people singing along. It’s always nice to hear Elise Pointer sing.

I love hearing Christmas songs, but I have to say my favorite was when they played “The House of the Rising Sun.” Bruce and I worked together to create a Facebook page about the Swinging Shed from Richmond of the 1960s. This song was the theme song used by the “Rising Suns” band that played most of the shed gigs. I’m working on a “Swinging Shed’ story that will be ready soon.

Bruce’s party was so much fun. I enjoyed seeing friends from Richmond, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, like Libby Abbott Metz and Bruce’s sister Lynne. Steve Waters and I did some networking on a couple of local projects. He’s always an interesting, fun person to talk to.

Hitch is a government affairs director for a couple of Kansas agriculture organizations in Topeka, so he enjoyed talking politics with David Miller. David’s wife Valery was on the board a few years ago when I worked at the Eagleton Center, so we talked about some of the fun things we did there in the 1980s. She’s going to help me with my story about the history of Eagleton.

Bruce has a variety of friends and it was fun meeting them all. I asked him who was his oldest friend at the party and his answer was easy because Bruce and Earney Jones have been friends since they were young. They shared some great family stories.

I really enjoyed catching up with Earney and Nancy, who are always the life of the party. I left with several new story ideas, so I’m always in Ray County, even if I am out of town.

Bruce’s balcony has a wonderful view of the Plaza. As Hitch and I stood enjoying the view, he pointed out a building that had another history story. The Community Christian Church is a white Plaza building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This building was dedicated on Jan. 4, 1942. It had been designed to have a “Spire of Light” shine from its rooftop, but it couldn’t be added in 1942 due to technical limitaions. In 1994, the “Spire of Light” was finally added. The lights can be seen for many miles, and with good condtions, it’s reported to shoot three miles into the sky.

I know some of you are thinking this sounds like you are reading Jo Ellen Dale’s column instread of my normal history story. I love her weekly recap of goings-on around town and I wish more people kept a daily record of events. If we don’t write it down, then some of the details of our lives will be lost forever.

I’ve had a very thought provoking weekend and sometimes we just have to stop and think about where we have been and start planning for the future. Time stands still for no man. We need to enjoy each day becuase who knows what tomorrow will bring.

The moral of this story is good friends are hard to find and we should cherish every friendship that we have in our lives. Friends come in many different forms and we need them all to make our lives complete.

I’ve also learned that history is all around us and that is what makes life worth living. Without the past, we wouldn’t have a future.

On Friday December, 21, 2012 at 5:12 am CST, the winter solstice will start and the Mayan Long count calendar will read for the first time in 5,125 years. No, I don’t think the world is going to end, but if it does, we’ll all miss the story coming in next Monday’s paper about what Christmas was like in Richmond in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty.

4 Responses to Kerry Woods touched many, and will continue to through his art

  1. Jim O'Malley

    December 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Linda, I just read your story about Kerry Woods and really got a new picture of him! I’m one of his cousins and was born in ’31, so when he was born I was already 19 and didn’t get to know him like you did. I was at the funeral and dinner for him last Friday in Lexington and heard you do your favorite story about him. I was born in Lexington and he spent most of his youth in Richmond, so that limited the times I could visit with him. I’m a retired professor from UCM in Warrensburg. Loved your article. Keep writing ….. you’re certainly a talented journalist! Did you know that Kerry’s cousin was Hal Boyle, the famous WWII war correspondent and AP syndicated columist? Hal was Kerry’s mother’s first cousin. Hal received the Pulitzer Prize in ’44 for his war correspondence. Best regards, Jim O’Malley, Warrensburg, MO

  2. Linda Emley

    December 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Hi Jim, Kerry really was one of a kind. I’m so glad I got to know him. It was good to see that he had some many cousins. I know he always enjoyed getting together with his family. We spent many days at Farris and Roberta’s house so I got to enjoy them too. Thanks for the kind words about my story. All my articles come from the heart, so it’s easy to share them. You will have to come visit our museum sometime. We have 50 rooms of different displays, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. Kerry’s art work will add to our treasures. Thanks again. Linda

  3. lynne murray

    December 21, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Wat a wonderful article, Linda. I was so pleased to finally meet you at
    Bruce’s. I love what you share on FB with those of us who no longer live in Richmond, your writings bring back so many memories! Keep writing and have a wonderful Christmas!, Fondly, Lynne ( Thurman) Murray

  4. Linda Emley

    December 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks Lynne, I’m so glad that I can help everyone remember the fond memories of Richmond’s past. Bruce’s party was lots of fun and I’m glad we got to meet. Please let me know if you have any stories you want me to oover in future stories. Happy New Year 🙂 …Linda

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