The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
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    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Burl Chalmers: A portrait of the artist

Written by David Green.


Who was Burl Chalmers? He created a poignant piece of local art. Aside from that, local scholars have been left scratching their heads.

On the north wall of the Charles Fay Reading Room in Morenci’s Stair Public Library hangs a 1942 painting depicting 13 Morenci residents crowded around a poker table, among them former Michigan Secretary of Agriculture Charles Figy, Marvin Clark, owner of the defunct Clark Gas Company, and Clare Fauver, who commissioned the painting.

card-game Biographical information is known about all 13 men in the painting. The real trouble lies in identifying the man behind the easel.

Past inquiries to the Toledo Museum of Art and the the University of Michigan  art department turned up nothing. Lifelong residents could only vaguely remember Chalmers. In fact, there wasn’t even a death certificate for the artist in Lenawee County, assuming he was dead.

However, as of 2003, Burl Chalmers was not dead, and revived efforts to locate him have shed a new light on this important piece of Morenci history.

A Google search for “Burl Chalmers” turned up a 1983 obituary for Mary Alice Dolby, of Huntington, Ind., who was survived by a brother, Mr. Burl E. Chalmers. The obituary also listed two  of her sons, one of them Rex Dolby of Van Wert, Ohio.

A picture of Chalmers’ signature emailed to Dolby confirmed that Burl Chalmers was indeed the artist in question. Dolby provided a contact point for his nephew, and Burl’s son, Mark Chalmers. Mark was able to paint a picture of the man whose life, until recently, revolved around painting pictures.

According to Mark, Burl Edward Chalmers was “born an artist” on March 25, 1910 in Huntington.

He enjoyed painting and drawing throughout his childhood, and he eventually studied at an art school in Fort Wayne, Ind.

In the early part of the century, it wasn’t customary for studios to send posters and cardboard cut-outs to theaters to advertise upcoming movies. Rather, theaters hired local artists to design and create ad materials. During the 1930s, Burl was one such artist employed by the Huntington Theater.

When World War II broke out, Burl relocated his family–wife Martha, five-year-old daughter Carol, and newborn son Mark–to a farm near Morenci. Instead of serving overseas, he worked in the converted Willow Run Ford plant painting stars on B-24 bombers.

It was during this period that Burl “got mixed up with Clare Fauver,” as Mark put it.

Fauver owned the Morenci Art Display Company, which produced nativity scenes for people to display on their lawns during the yuletide. Fauver hired Burl to paint the scenes in his spare time.

At some point in 1942, Fauver commissioned Burl to paint the picture which now hangs in Stair Public Library. The painting was based on an existing photograph, but Burl had each man model separately. Mark doesn’t know much else about the production of the picture—he was only two years old when it was painted.

The painting was intended to go in the front window of the E.B. Butler & Sons store. Phyllis Gillen remembered it hanging in Fauver’s house long before it was donated to the library by his niece, Janet Schultz.

Fauver was quite a fan of Burl’s art. In fact, he was so impressed the nativity scenes that when Burl moved back to Huntington after the war, Fauver had them trucked to Burl’s house so he could continue painting them. When Burl displayed one of the nativity scenes for a Christmas decoration contest in the early 1950s, he won first prize, for which he appeared on the cover of the Huntington Herald, said Mark. 

Burl headed up the art department at a lawn furniture company in Huntington, Hetrick’s Manufacturing, until 1959, when Mark graduated from high school. Due to his wife’s allergies, Burl relocated the family to San Diego permanently.

 In San Diego, he took a job with Foster & Kleiser, a billboard advertising firm where he worked until retirement. It was at Foster & Kleiser that Burl achieved a level of acclaim for the artwork he did for the San Diego Zoo. Zoo officials were so impressed with his renderings of animals and wildlife that they wouldn’t let anybody else work on the project, said Mark. They even convinced him to come out of retirement to paint more.

Just as Burl’s professional life centered around art, so did his leisure time. He liked to use photos from numerous family road trips as inspiration for the paintings he did in his spare time. Mark said he enjoyed painting seascapes and desertscapes most, but he also branched out. He did a lot of paintings for the Navajo tribe, for example.

“His entire life was devoted to art,” said Mark. “My dad was a pretty famous guy.”

People came from all over the world to buy his artwork. One of his compositions, for which he won a major award, was on the cover of a national art magazine, said Mark.

How does the poker painting measure up to the others?

“That’s a pretty special painting you have there,” said Mark. “I’d like to get my hands on it,” he joked.

Mark remembers Burl mentioning the painting several times over the years. It must have been a special painting for him, because he rarely worked with humans, said Mark.

Burl Chalmers died in San Diego on July 16, 2003, at the age of 93 after a long life with the easel.

“He painted until he was too weak to get up out of his chair,” said Mark.

   - Aug. 24, 2005

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