It has been some time since we have done one of those “interesting people” type columns. I like those because I get to have pleasant conversations with people who are leaving their mark on those around them and tell their stories or, at least, part of their story to the readers of this space.
I met with Judy Helton the other day at her recently acquired Bonita Mesa home that she and her husband Dave are modestly remodeling to suit their needs. This is one of those one-story ranch-style homes built on the Bonita mandatory half-acre plot in the mid ’50s.
As with many homes of that era it has an ample number of fruit trees that the Heltons say are going to keep them and a few relatives and friends in fresh fruit practically the year round.
Judy is an ordained minister. I, however, knew her first as an artist and a teacher. She is one of the Sweetwater school district’s teachers of the fine arts who concentrate on the development of the talents of other artists, those persons who are retired from other tasks and who have a leaning, and a love, for this particular genre. Some years back I was one of those part-time students who tried his hand at water color under her tutelage.
Though I was utterly lacking in talent I learned that in the acquiring of certain techniques the entire art picture becomes clearer. And, as a result, the finished product, though not hanging in a museum, will have some redeeming features.
Judy and I spoke of those times the other day. I learned that a person can have not only a love for two vocations in a lifetime but can have those vocations work in tandem: that is, complement one another. Judy liberally borrows from one entity to strengthen and emphasize the other. She has a deep love for the fine arts. She, like many others who have been in the teaching business, realizes that without the arts there is something lacking in the education of people, particularly the young.
Although Judy has major degrees she confesses that she has never taken an art course. What she accomplishes in the venue is something that is derived from an innate ability for the medium and the trial and error of practice. It is this result that is passed on to her students. One learns by doing and, by doing it repeatedly, acquires an appreciation for the venue. The teacher, Judy believes, is the person who can awaken this talent in the individual. She believes — and rightly so — that she has that ability.
One of Helton’s occupations as an ordained minister has been in missionary work. She has traveled extensively in this endeavor. She has had assignments that have taken her to Haiti, Bolivia and Korea and has seen the abject conditions suffered by some populations.
She was particularly touched by the children of Haiti. In teaching those in foreign lands, however, she remained true to her strengths, liberally inserting art into her missionary tasks. Her assignment in Haiti was prior to the recent earthquake and imagines conditions are now much harsher than during her stay.
Judy and her husband are preparing another trip. This will be a cross country motor trip. They have one of those large, comfortable fifth wheelers that will be their home for nine weeks. Their intentions are to explore some of the areas also explored by early European settlers. They plan to spend some time in Pennsylvania and other eastern points of interest. They will, of course, take numerous photographs, images that will be used in art classes that she will teach in the fall.
Much of the Helton’s spare time on their journey, we would imagine, will be spent writing and mailing postcards. With an extended family consisting of children who have produced 12 grandchildren and a couple of great-grands, we imagine the pen will be busy.