Tag Archives: Richard Minck

The down-to-earthiness of an extraordinary woman — Helen James Minck

Some individuals walk into our lives quietly and unobtrusively, yet leave such an indelible impression that we feel their presence long after they are gone. Helen James Minck was one of those individuals. When Helen died on Christmas Eve, I felt saddened that I’d never get to hear more of her stories, to hear her laugh. Yet her face and voice are so clear, so present.

I met Helen about five or six years ago when she and her husband, Richard Minck, invited us to join them for dinner at the Shawnee Country Club in Lima. My husband and I had known Dick, a  Bluffton native, for many years. In fact, he’d been my landlord when I’d lived in a tiny garage apartment at the back of his property.

On that first meeting, we met at their condo that bordered the golf course. Having never met Helen, I was nervous. In the first few minutes, she put me at ease. My first impression of Helen was that she was a lovely, sweet woman who dearly loved to listen to her husband’s stories of their extensive art collection. It wasn’t until later when we were sitting in the club dining room, which overlooks the golf course, that I began to understand just how accomplished this woman was.

Dick and Helen Minck

We happened to be seated at a window from which we could see some young high school golfers teeing off. I knew little about golf, but it was clear that Helen was an old pro. Until back problems prevented her from participating in one of her favorite sports, she’d been a champion golfer at Lakewood Golf Course in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she’d lived when not summering in Lima. Without a hint of snobbery, she began telling stories about golfing with so and so. But it was her mention of “Chi Chi” that caught my attention.

Chi Chi? Rodriguez? Yep, that’s the one. She grinned and recounted a story he’d told. I’ve forgotten it, probably because my brain stuck on the name. She really did know her golf.

The old feature writer in me surfaced and I began asking questions. Pretty soon she’d told me about growing up first in Toledo, then Lima, before heading to Wellesley College, a women-only school in Massachusetts. Then she really surprised me — she had majored in physics — one of only two physics majors in the class of 1941. I remember her saying she loved the sciences and math.

By that point, I was pretty much awestruck, although not by any fault of Helen’s. Her stories were just that. Stories of a life lived fully.

On the wall in my office/sewing room, is a mounted photo that Dick Minck took while he and Helen were traveling. It’s a scene of a fishing village in Alaska, I think. Dick will probably tell me I’m wrong. No matter. If I look at the photo just right, I can imagine Helen standing on the old pier, ready to tackle yet another of her favorite sports — fishing.

What is art?

Ask 10 individuals to define “art” and you’ll get 10 different answers. In fact, Merriam-Webster.com lists six definitions of “art” as a noun. Technically, it’s impossible to define art because it really is very personal. One person’s definition may produce a look of disgust from another.

Having grown up one house over from Darvin and Evelyn Luginbuhl, much of my own perspective of art was formed by frequent exposure to Darv’s home studio. Our race to the Luginbuhl’s tv room to watch Saturday morning cartoons with Bill, usually took a circuitous route through the studio, where we were met by the heady smell of clay and Darv’s wheel — an awe-inspiring piece of equipment.

Darvin Luginbuhl, c. 1994

Christmas and birthday presents often arrived in the form of a hand-thrown ceramic pot filled with candy, the bottom of which was always signed with Darv’s swirling “Luginbuhl” signature. Later when my husband and I married, we received a wedding gift of a large teapot with matching mugs, of which there are no duplicates.

In a way, I’m an art snob, but mostly in terms of the fact that mass-produced items don’t fall into my own definition. More importantly, though, my definition is formed — in part — by Darv’s belief that personal, creative expression is essential when “making art.” If I learned nothing else from him, it is that one can almost always find beauty in a piece of art.

When my daughters were young, we kept a constant supply of plain white paper for them to draw, paint, and color on. This practice was encouraged by Darv’s admonition that a children’s Christmas art contest should not involve coloring in some preprinted Christmas design. Instead, they should be encouraged to draw their own picture of “Christmas”.

So last night, while my husband and I perused the items to be auctioned off during the Bluffton Center for Entrepreneur’s annual art auction, we agreed we needed no additional paintings or photo productions.

Our own collection of art includes names like

Paul Soldner, "Of Ships and Sea," c. 1950s

Paul Soldner, Darv and Gregg Luginbuhl, Bob Minto, John Klassen, Steve Smith, Richard Minck, and some pretty amazing stuff by Lindsay and Anne Steiner.

That didn’t stop my husband from bidding on a few pieces. What I didn’t realize was that he fully intended to win the bidding on the only item of wearable art,

Barbara C. Fields' fingerless wool gloves

a pair of wool fingerless gloves knitted and designed by Barbara C. Fields, and inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s painting, “A rainy Day out on sea.”

Suffice to say that we came home with these beautifully crafted gloves. They meet my current need for art to be useable, practical, and unique.

My only regret is that I didn’t need to wear them today with temps in the mid 50s and no chill in immediate sight. But there will be plenty of time for that. I’m just wondering if the hubs was attempting a subtle hint that I resurrect my wish to become a better knitter. Now where did I put that red yarn?