LOVING LILY, A COMMUNITY CELEBRATION OF THE HEART
February 14, 2003
The town of Newport threw a real Valentine’s Day party this year. It was a benefit to help the family of local artist and musician Rick Bartow. His wife, Karla Malcolm, gave birth last September 28 to a baby girl who weighed just three and a half pounds. Baby and Mama both needed considerable medical attention after the birth, which resulted in huge and unexpected medical bills. The family had no insurance.
So, some friends of the family decided to have a benefit party to help raise money to pay the medical costs. They decided to call it “Loving Lily,” named for the beautiful baby who now weighs a healthy 13 pounds or so. It was to be on Valentine’s Day, the day of love, and was to include a silent auction of art objects and activities for all ages. Also dinner was available, and a night of music and other festivities.
I’ve known Rick Bartow since we were in high school. He is a year or two younger than I. My family knew one of his aunts when I was growing up. Rick also worked with my Mom when she taught at Yaquina View School years ago and he was an aide to handicapped children at the school for about ten years. So when I read about the benefit in the paper, I knew I wanted to help out. I called the phone number in the paper and offered to help in any capacity where help was needed. Robert Rubin said to just show up at the Performing Arts Center about 2:00 P.M., to help with setup before the doors opened to the public at 4:00 P.M.
I was given a wonderful job to do. Another lady and I were asked to unpack hundreds of art items that artists donated to be auctioned in the silent auction. We happily set to work, carefully unwrapping each item from a huge array of boxes piled in the lobby of the PAC. We made a bid sheet for each item, giving each a description of our choosing if there was no official name attached, and listing the value of the item if shown. Then we helped a team of several more people place the objects on the many tables spread throughout the lobby areas of the PAC.
There were whole boxes of glass items, paper weights and the lovely art glass balls that have become so popular in the last few years. There were paintings and prints of every description. Jewelry and a lamp and at least one mask. Samples of a great many different artistic media were represented in the impressive collection. The organizers said that about three times as many donated items came in as what they had hoped for. Many local artists donated items to help out, and other donations came from Portland, Seattle and all over the Northwest, and some were donated by artists from as far away as Pennsylvania. Rick is well-known and respected in the world of art, and his friends certainly sent their support. Other types of local businesses donated a variety of merchandise and gift certificates as well.
For me, it was a wonderful experience to get to handle these lovely objects. When seen in a gallery or any other kind of display setting, one is never allowed to touch them. This time, touching was not only legal, but necessary. What a privilege! Many of the items were valued at hundreds of dollars each, and at least one item was valued at several thousands of dollars.
Finally we got to the end of all the boxes of donations. Someone decided to place the least expensive items in the outside lobby of the PAC, and this part of the silent auction would close at 7:30 P.M. Other items were gathered and designated for a 9:00 P.M. closing, with the most precious items to close at 10:30 P.M.
Meanwhile, the bands were setting up their equipment. Many local bands and musicians were involved, including Rick’s own band.
Many of those helping with the benefit were connected with the art community, while others were Rick’s friends or other interested persons. One could easily feel all the love that filled the PAC that afternoon and evening. This community really cares about its own.
I got to meet Rick’s wife, Karla, and baby Lily who is just beautiful. She is about five months old now.
My Mom is nearly 90 years old and was not physically able to attend, but she and Rick have been fond of each other since they worked together at the school years ago. So she specifically instructed me to deliver greetings and well wishes to Rick.
When I finished my work setting up the auction items, I did get a chance to speak with Rick for a few minutes. We had a nice chat, and I told him that I’ve been one of his fans behind the scenes for several decades now. He was concerned about my Mom, who just moved into an assisted living home a few weeks ago. He said he would try to give her a call and talk with her.
Last summer I was in Canyon Way and saw a display of a new book called Rick Bartow: My Eye. I bought a copy, and enjoyed reading the details of Rick’s life and looking at the many plates of his art work done over the years. I had brought it along with me that day, so I asked Rick to autograph it for me. He did so, making a quick sketch of one of his coyotes, and adding a note that said, “Patty, here’s to years and years of home folk!” It feels good to still be a part of our hometown.
The public began arriving before the official opening time of 4:00 P.M. There was no admission fee but donations were accepted. Rick donated a special painting he did in honor of his daughter, to be raffled off during the evening. Two people were supposed to come and take care of the money chores, but they didn’t arrive on time so I sat down and began selling raffle tickets as fast as I could swap them for money. Again, the love in the building was something that could just be felt. It was thick in the air.
Children’s activities were already going on in the smaller Studio Theater, while the bands were preparing to take the main stage. The caterers were busy setting up small tables for dining. The lobby of the PAC really wasn’t big enough to hold it all.
Someone made a lot of paper disks, ornaments that were handed out at the door as souvenirs of this event. Each had a hand embossed on it, with a heart in the palm of the hand. Very appropriate for the occasion.
When the designated money handlers finally arrived, I showed them how I had organized that part of the operation and let them take over.
I left in the early evening, as I was tired and by then the press of people filling the PAC were becoming a bit too much for me. So I left the party early, with a feeling of being buoyed up by the great feeling of love that filled all the corners of that big building. It was wonderful to be a part of this extraordinary community event.
The next day I ran into someone who was close to those who organized the event, and she said the Loving Lily celebration brought in about half the amount of the family’s medical bills, so I would say it was a major success.
May sweet Lily have good health and a long and blessed life in this, her community that loves her.
About ten years after this event for Lily, I ran into Rick at the Newport Recreation Center. He had suffered a stroke before then, and had begun walking for his health, as I also do. We walked together that day, and on numerous other occasions since. We enjoyed talking about old Newport, and all sorts of other things. I invited him to join us at one of our Class of ’63 breakfasts, but he declined, saying that being in groups of people was not an easy thing for him.
I knew that Rick was not well, and his walks at the Rec Center became fewer as time went by. I hadn’t seen him for a few months, and was greatly saddened to hear of his death.
The Rick that I got to know during these recent years was a gentle, kind man, and certainly one of the humblest people I’ve ever known. One would never guess that he was a famous artist, known far beyond Newport.
He and Lily’s Mom were no longer together by that time, but he told me that Lily was a strong and healthy little girl in spite of her difficult start in life. She and Mom live in Corvallis.
Patricia Plunkett Holler