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The Puzzle Of A Painting

After graduating from UVA Medical School, my son John joined the army to honor his R.O.T.C. commitment. He was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. On his first visit home he handed me a large envelope.

“Someone thought you might like to have this,” he said.

Curious, I opened the envelope and stared at its contents. I knew immediately that the black-and-white picture was a photograph of a painting. And I knew where and when that painting was painted. The young girl, seated with her elbow resting on a table, was none other than me – thirty-five years earlier at Mary Baldwin College.

Like many college students, I was continually seeking ways to earn money. Besides my job as a student aide in the library, I often babysat the children of professors. When I learned that the art department paid the grand sum of fifty cents an hour for modeling, I immediately looked into it.

Approaching Professor Horace Day, I offered to serve as a model for his art students. I wasn’t anxious about a request for nudity – certainly not at Mary Baldwin – and I knew the closet in the art studio held many costumes. I wondered if he would assign me some sophisticated outfit or perhaps an exquisite evening gown.

Instead, he paused, pondering the matter as he studied my features, and said, “Get one of the peasant blouses and a full skirt – that should be just right.”

Was my farm background so obvious?

After donning this appropriate garb, I was introduced to the student who would paint my picture – Ann Schlosser, a senior. And that’s how I earned some spending money and saw my likeness appear on canvas. But now, thirty-five years later, how – where …??

“Where in the world did you get this?” I asked John. And from there the story unfolded . . .

He and his wife Amye moved into an apartment in a complex near the base. One evening as they were sitting with friends in the common area, a woman entered and asked in a loud voice, “Who owns the car with the VMI decal?”

Hoping he had not violated any rules, John admitted he owned the car. The woman came to their table and introduced herself.

“I am Ann Schlosser,” she said “I grew up in Lexington.”

As they chatted about VMI and places of interest in Lexington, she mentioned that she attended Mary Baldwin. Of course, John said his mother was a student there also. Upon her request, he told her my maiden name.

“I remember her!” she exclaimed. “She modeled for one of my paintings.”

John, Amye and Ann became friends, and when Ann learned they were going to Roanoke for a visit, she brought three photographs of her painting and gave them to John.

“Take these to your mother,” she said. “A memento of our college days.”

And so the puzzle was solved.

It’s a very, very, very small world.

By Mary Jo Shannon
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