A Brief Autobiography of Raymond Abraham Yoder

For 25 or 30 years I have realized what a great impact God has had on the direction my life has taken. I thank Him for this wonderful opportunity to live on this great Earth and in this great United States, where people have an opportunity to develop ideas, and fulfill dreams. I feel very strongly now about God's part in my life, and I want to tell you about my experiences in fulfilling my own dreams.

Early Years and Family

I was born in Nappanee, Indiana, on March 9, 1909, son of Moses H. Yoder and Amanda H. Yoder. Dad was born on June 19, 1880, in Orrville, Wayne County, Ohio; and Mother was born on October 25, 1881, in Elkhart County, Indiana. They were married on March 10, 1906, by Rev. J.S. Hartzler in Goshen, Indiana. My folks christened me "Raymond," "Abraham" even; but all I was ever known by, and all they ever called me, was "Ray."

Mother Amanda
Mother Amanda
Mother Amanda

Soon after I was born, we moved to Wakarusa, Indiana (first on the West side and later the North side of town), where I attended elementary and High School. Dad was a "Day Laborer" and I remember one time when I was fifteen, he was working with a dredging contractor; I went with him, and we carried dynamite to blast for dredging. He also maintained a garden, and I remember that I held the LANTERN one night while dad was shocking corn in our "PATCH" behind the house. Later Dad also made and sold potato chips from our home in Wakarusa ("Yoder's Golden Potato Chips"), beginning during the Great Depression and continuing until at least 1937--after which he became disabled in his later years and gave up that business. Dad died January 1, 1951, at age 70, and Mother died on March 24, 1973, at age 92.

I was the second oldest of six children, including my older sister Bertha Naomi (born June 1, 1907), and my four brothers, Elmer H. (born January 4, 1912), who died on April 12, 1915, at age 3, Lloyd Kenneth (born January 20, 1914), Melvin Jay (born February 26, 1916), and Victor Olen (born July 2, 1918. At Christmas time we each got an ORANGE FOR CHRISTMAS. Despite .our rather modest resources, we did have one of the first autos in Wakarusa. In later years Bertha worked for the Wakarusa Tribune, Lloyd became Financial Vice President of the Selmer Band Instrument Company, and Melvin became an engineer for Penn Central.

Mother Amanda and Family
Amanda, Bertha, Victor, Lloyd, Melvin, Ray and Moses

We attended Church at the HOLDEMAN MENNONITE CHURCH. As a child I remember sometimes keeping the penny given me for S.S. to buy a piece of CANDY. I stayed in the Mennonite Church until the Mennonite Church was not available. Lloyd and Bertha have remained in the Mennonite Church, and it has had a profound impact on me and my attitudes throughout my life and to this day. During most of my life since leaving Wakarusa, I have been associated with the Methodist Church, and I was an active member in the Main Street United Methodist Church in Waynesboro, Va., as a Sunday School teacher until my later years when the health of my wife and me has not allowed my active participation. Until 1986 I taught two Sunday School classes once a month, the men's Baraca Class and the women's Berean Class. In 1980 I painted a watercolor of the Church which is still used on the cover of its bulletin each Sunday.

Main Street United Methodist Church

I graduated from High School in 1927 with High Honors, second in my class, Norman Fish, being first. My History teacher, Malinda Werntz, gave us a chance to make posters, charts, and drawings relative to the subject matter. So there was born my interest in ART. I excelled in those efforts. In later years in High School I became Art Editor of the High School Annual; but I felt that my work was very inadequate--in fact it wasn't completely original. At that time I was still doing some copying, which I felt intuitively to be wrong, but I did not yet have enough experience to understand that I should develop all of my art as original expression, rather than copy others' work.

None of my brothers or sisters went to college, but I decided that this was what I needed to do; so in the fall of 1927 I started at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana. I stayed in the dorm at Goshen College (Kissam Hall) and supported myself with part-time jobs until my graduation in 1931, with a major in Science, a minor in Mathematics and a second major in Art. I worked at Klien's, a clothing store in Goshen, on Saturdays and evenings; and one summer I worked on the assembly line at the Studebaker factory in South Bend. All I did was line up holes at the base of the steering gear with the frame and insert two bolts in it. I also borrowed some money from friends and relatives (especially Aunt Lynn Yoder) to help finance my education.

Once while I was in college I went walking down the railroad tracks and got poison ivy all over my body. Thereafter I thought I had developed an immunity, until years later when I got it again in Waynesboro, Virginia, after trying to pull it out by the roots around my house there.

When I went to college of course I didn't realize that I would be able to do anything with my Art experience and background; and because of my insecurity in Art-related activities, I took a full major in science, and a minor in mathematics. I took extra hours every year in order to get my second full major--30 hours--in Art.

During my early years in College I tried to do a painting of a tree and met with dismal results; but that stimulated me to find out what had blocked my efforts. My instructor, Art Sprunger, was a great inspiration to me. He started me off in Watercolor Landscape painting, and we went out on location together occasionally. On one of these trips, I asked him what he thought I could do with my art ability, and he told me: "Ray, it all depends on you." His statement made a profound impact on me and helped me to realize that you can do anything you want to do if you set your mind on it and devote your time and energy to its accomplishment. Talent has a role, but determination and persistence are the hallmarks of success in any effort, including Art.

Nevertheless, my first majors in College were Science and Math, which was fortunate as I discovered after graduation in 1931, when I received a certificate to teach these subjects in high school. This was the time of the GREAT DEPRESSION, AND I HITCHHIKED HUNDREDS OF MILES, all over Indiana trying to find a job. None was available, -- I must have experience first.

Painting Experiences 1931-1976

Since that time I have studied with some of the greatest painters of the United States. During my younger days, I studied with William Forsythe in Indiana, John Pike in New York, Edgar Whitney in Maine (who was 92 years old at that time) and the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I learned the fine art of single-stroke brush lettering, which led to many later jobs I did lettering trucks, windows, walls and doors. I also studied with Theodore Turner at the University of Virginia, Bill Gerhold of West Virginia, and Edmond J. Fitzgerald in Massachusetts in 1976. My best instructor was TONY van HASSLET in New Mexico, Georgia, and North Carolina, who later did a watercolor workshop at my request at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center in Waynesboro, Virginia, after I moved there and helped to start the Center.

I went to Maine to study with J. Edgar Whitney. One day I had a close call with nature, when a friend and I went up the mountain to paint. When I was nearly finished painting a heavy fog descended on the mountain. So I started back to the car in the direction I felt correct. My friend had already gone back to the car. After losing my sense of direction in the fog, I feared I would stumble over one of the CLIFFS. "HONK THE HORN", I yelled. I then followed the sound and prevented a possible disaster.

While studying with John Pike in New York, we were not-greatly impressed with his methods. He did not go with us on location. We went out and hunted our own subjects in the woods. Then he held the critique in the evening. However, one of the best large ones I did there is Veryl's favorite.

In CHARLES SMITH'S class in Charlottesville I learned his famous technique of BLOCK PAINTING. I used symbols derived from nature in this work and still employ this method with love.

Family and Teaching

Veryl and Tennessee

In my senior year in high school I met Veryl Hostetler but did not date her. She also liked my brother Lloyd at that time, and he once asked her if she thought I was the jealous type; but neither of us gave Lloyd a chance to pursue his interest in her. Veryl had to drop out of high school, because she had a number of operations when she was 18 months (left leg), 9 years and 15 years old, and because she had to take care of her younger siblings. During my years at Goshen College Veryl and I sang in the College A Cappella Choir, directed by Professor Hartzler. Cousin Mary Yoder asked Veryl to sing in the choir, and Mary, Lloyd, and Veryl went to choir in Lloyd's car. Veryl and I dated steadily and were married by her Uncle Alf (Rev. Alfred G. Simmons) at the First Methodist Church in Wabash, Indiana, on February 26, 1933. I later learned that we were sixth cousins, descended from John Hostetler, son of Jacob Hochstetler who came to this country from Switzerland in 1735. (See Edwin Weaver, Holdeman Descendants (Shilling Printing Co., South Bend, Ind. 1937), vol. 1, pp. 148-49; Eli J. Hostetler, Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler (1977).)

Veryl as a Child
Veryl as a child
Veryl and Ray Wedding

At first we lived in Uncle Levi Weldy's apartment in Wakarusa, and I worked in Brooks Clothing Store in Decatur. I had applied to the Methodist Board of Home Missions for a teaching position; and in the summer of 1934 I was called to an appointment at the Methodist Missionary School of PITTMAN CENTER, near Sevierville, Tennessee, at a salary of $1020 per year. In July we drove there in an old Pontiac, loaded with all our earthly possessions, including our first son Eddie Leon who had been born in Decatur, Indiana, on April 28, 1934. My main part in that was hanging up diapers. HA!

We lived in an old mountain cabin near the school and had our meals at the school dining room. Tomatoes were in season and every meal included some. We both broke out in a rash because of that. We had a small garden on a steep hill behind the house. Our water supply came from a hill high up the mountain. Laundry was done in a hand-type washer. I built a bridge across a small stream down the hill from our cabin as the water rose greatly after big rains. Once I assisted the federal "revenuers" in their efforts to enforce prohibition by driving them up the mountain while they laid down in my car to avoid detection.

Tennessee Pittman Center Home
Tennessee Pittman Center Home

Even though I was hired to teach Math and Science, and they had no Art program and had never had Art classes taught there, it was here that I first started teaching Art. After 2 years at Pittman Center, my work in art brought me a new job at Park Junior High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Here I taught Art, Mechanical Drawing, and Business; and our second son Ronnie A. was born on July 10, 1937, weighing nearly ten pounds.

The Hostetler Family with Eddie and Ronnie
The Hostetler Family with Eddie and Ronnie

I only stayed in Knoxville one year; in September 1937 we moved to Norris, Tennessee, and I taught there in the Tennessee Valley Authority School from 1937 to 1939. While here Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit and shook hands with us. I taught Art in High School at Norris and started night school classes in art and metal forming in wood molds which I made in the shop. Although I was hired to work in the Norris High School, I started helping Elementary School teachers because they wanted and needed help, and I felt that it was important for them to recognize Art as a possible mode for children to do creative activities in connection with their curriculum, and to develop and express their character, personality and individuality. My background in dealing with children was not great, but I had access to the background and experience of my wife Veryl, who always challenged our children to be themselves and to do their own thing, dealing with them as important individuals, with ideas, skills, and abilities in their own right and giving them an opportunity to express themselves creatively.

Her background of experience was very important to me, because it helped me to realize that children of all ages had skills, and that every child possesses instinctive creativity. This is an instinct that needs to be developed and needs opportunity for expression. Indeed children are often able to express themselves more effectively through these creative instincts than through writing, speaking, or other means of expression. ART IS SOMETHING IN WHICH YOU CAN ALWAYS BE RIGHT. It does not have to be a set plan or organized system or have predictable results.

In order to stimulate growth and development within the curriculum and in the child's future, we gave children at Norris an opportunity to do creative work of all kinds--drama, writing, music, art, etc.---in order to develop in them a feeling of self- worth, a feeling of the ability to accomplish something, to do something worthwhile, to establish a sense of personal value, which we realized is one of the most important factors in developing a wholesome individual--one who can cope well with all the problems that life presents. We also stressed, and I still maintain, that activities need to be creative and original, not copied, as against the great trend for many years of coloring in color books, of coloring dittoed materials, of putting together kits, of doing assemblages of various kinds which have been planned and organized by adults. The child needs an opportunity to do his own creative work, his own original work, not to make use of copying other people's ideas, of putting together things that adults have planned. They need an opportunity to work at their own level, with their own ideas, so they realize that it's theirs, they have created it, they have accomplished it, and, through it, have developed personal self-worth. Too often children's creative instincts are throttled by parents, teachers, or friends who fail to see and appreciate their creative efforts. I believe all children are born artists. Their creative efforts need to be recognized and encouraged. The expression may be music, art, drama, etc. Failure to have an opportunity in creative expression may have drastic and devastating effects for the child's entire life as an adult.

Southern Study

During my years at Norris my work in Art became widely known because of my work with Elementary School teachers, and I was recruited by Frank Jenkins, the Director of the Southern Study, an experimental school improvement program sponsored by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges and financed by the ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION, to serve as ARTS CONSULTANT TO 33 SCHOOLS IN 11 SOUTHERN STATES--Virginia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia. Upon visiting Norris he was impressed with what we were doing and hired me to work part-time on the Southern Study staff. I served in this capacity for 5 years, 1939-44. For six months of each year for those five years I traveled with the Southern Study staff and visited these schools as a consultant. I also taught Art programs in SUMMER WORKSHOPS at colleges and universities where participating schools sent their teachers for training. These experiences were of tremendous value to me and served as a great broadening experience as well, because when any problem came up with which I was unfamiliar I made it my business to learn about it and become familiar with it.

During the summers of 1937-39 I taught workshops at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then in September 1939 I bought a new Ford and moved to Wetumpka, Alabama. While there I taught at the HOLTVILLE School, Deatsville, Alabama, from 1939 to 1940 on a half- time basis. It was a progressive school interested in experimental education under James Chrietzberg, Principal. During the summers I taught Workshops at Kentucky State Teachers College, Richmond, Ky.; A. & M., State College, Miss.; Georgia State College for Women, Milledgeville, Ga.; and Alabama State College for Women at Montevallo, Ala.

On September 4, 1940, our third son Donnie was born in Wetumpka, Alabama. Donnie weighed 13 pounds and lived only 13 hours. He died the day after his birth because of respiratory problems, which in those days were not dealt with nearly so effectively as now, and we had the wrong doctor. While living in Wetumpka, we also became the object of some totally unwarranted inquiries about whether I might be a Nazi, because I had a German-sounding name, was not in the service, and was always traveling. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Deatsville paper in 1941 or 1942 to clear up the matter, but to avoid any further problems during the war we told the children the name was Dutch, and they grew up with that understanding until years later. Actually the name Yoder is the second-most common Mennonite name (Miller being first) and originates from the German-speaking area of Switzerland around Berne (Steffisberg) and has been traced back to the 13th century.

The Hostetler Family with Eddie and Ronnie

In July 1942 we moved to Atlanta, Georgia (782 Dixie Avenue, N.E.), where I taught Math and Art at North Fulton High School during the years 1942-44. I taught summer Workshops at Emory University in Atlanta; Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, Alabama; Shorter College at Rome, Georgia; and Catoosa County, Ringgold, Georgia.

Our fourth son Lanny Walter was born on June 16, 1943, in Atlanta. I can still see Veryl pushing him in the baby buggy,-we had no car then.

Navy and Newport

I was drafted into the NAVY in 1943 where I served as Sp. X3c, first at Bainbridge, Maryland, and then at Newport, Rhode Island. In the NAVY I drilled troops (which I found most distasteful) and served as an Audio Visual Specialist, producing Visual Aids and showing films. Ronnie still remembers my bringing him to the base to see a showing of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." During all these years I was traveling so much, however, that Ronnie tells me he asked his Mother who I was when I came home to Atlanta on leave in my Navy uniform to move the family from Atlanta to Newport, R.I., in February 1944. [I had gained a lot of weight eating that great Navy cooking and tipped the scales at nearly 200 pounds; but I soon recovered and got down to my normal almost-trim 150.]

In Newport we lived in a five-story pre-Civil War home with secret passages to hide runaway slaves, and a safe where the boys kept their comic books. The house was nick-named "Cesspool Manor" because of their tendency to back up in the basement. Apart from dealing with that phenomenon, I also drew the assignment of cleaning the gutters on the fifth-story roof. Later we moved to temporary row housing at the bottom of a hill where the local gang of young toughs fought those from the other side of the hill topped by a castle, and where I had to rescue Ronnie when he became stranded on a ledge while exploring with his older brother. While in Newport I sometimes took the boys with their wagon to collect scrap metal for the war effort.


I was given a dependency discharge from the Navy in 1945, and we moved to Waynesboro, Virginia. I had visited Waynesboro and Waynesboro High School once earlier when I was traveling with the Southern Study, and I liked the area and the location. Since we had no car, we traveled to Waynesboro by train in July 1945. No home was available, so we lived temporarily in a tourist cabin at the Esso Cabin Court on West Main Street. Then we rented a house on Madison Avenue in Jefferson Park and furnished it with the help of the Salvation Army. I will always be grateful to the Salvation Army for the assistance they provided when we first moved to Waynesboro.

In Jefferson Park we raised rabbits in the back yard, and the boys helped to feed and take care of them. Veryl canned rabbit meat, but we soon grew tired of eating so much of it, and the boys thought they should be played with rather than eaten, so we gave up the rabbits when we moved.

In 1946 we bought the house at 457 Oak Avenue, which was heated by three floor furnaces recessed into the crawl space under the house. Finally I dug through the crawl space and hauled out the dirt by wheelbarrow to excavate the entire basement. Eddie, Ronnie, and Linwood Mitchell, the janitor at W.H.S., helped in the digging. WHAT A JOB! With help from the boys I also floored the attic and put in asbestos insulation and sheetrock siding and an extra bathroom in the upstairs for the three boys.

Mums in bloom
Mums in bloom at 457 Oak Avenue, Waynesboro, Virginia

In Waynesboro I started teaching Art in the High School at $2520 per year. Upon my arrival at WHS Jennings was principal; later F.B. Glenn was principal and then Superintendent.

As my salary indicated, teachers in Virginia at that time had to have at least two jobs in order to keep body and soul together. So in addition to my work with the Waynesboro Public Schools I maintained a substantial garden behind the high school, worked for a time as a sales clerk at Leggett's Department Store, and began distributing the Richmond Times Dispatch and News Leader. After I discontinued that job in 1963, I sold life and accident insurance for a short time for Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company. I also sold World Book Encyclopedias for a time, as did my son Ronnie in the summer of 1959.

I was the distributor of The Richmond Times Dispatch for 16 years. When I terminated that job in 1963 I had 28 carriers who delivered to all parts of Waynesboro. They made their own collections and Veryl was a very vital part of this paper business as she got all the calls and the headache of handling the job when I was gone in the summers. She also collected from the boys and "spotted" the papers on the boys' routes just as I did. All of our sons had paper routes, and we substituted at times. I even continued to deliver a "rural" paper route in and around Waynesboro for six years after I retired as the distributor.

When I started my work with the Waynesboro Public Schools, I realized that there was very little if any attention given to arts in the public school program. Anything that was done was copy work or teacher manipulated--so much so that some of the activities were more the result of the teacher's interests than that of the student, so I accepted the task of developing creative activities rather than copying and imitative work.

For several years I worked mostly with the High School, but later I worked more and more with the elementary school teachers, developing the ideas which had started in my mind in the Norris Public Schools, particularly my idea that Art experiences related to subject matter help children LEARN. I helped the teachers, made demonstrations for their benefit, and conducted seminars for teachers only. During my years there I taught in all of the public schools including Winonah, the segregated school for blacks on the East side of town when I first arrived, which later merged into the rest of the school system upon the demise of the "separate-but-equal" doctrine in the 1960's.

While I was still teaching Art and Visual Aids at the High School I initiated work in Offset Printing. We produced teaching materials for all the schools. Later the Offset program became a full-time job, being managed by one of my former students, Mary Reese. The Visual Aids program also became a full-time job.

Eventually the needs of the Elementary Schools became so great that I spent all of my time working with those teachers. Thus three new programs were added to the High School. A full-time art teacher and a full-time craft teacher were added. Then a Photography course was added, and I trained the craft teacher in this new course. When I started teaching Photography at WHS there were no facilities for the program at UVa, so some students came from there to attend class at WHS. My program was actually a forerunner of the development of Photography as an art and as part of the school curriculum. Since that time photography has developed considerably as a profession, and a number of my students entered this blooming trade.

In 1946 I started a part-time association with the University of Virginia Division of Continuing Education by teaching Night classes and extension courses in Charlottesville as well as many other areas throughout the state. Included in the repertoire of those courses were courses for graduate and undergraduate credit in Painting, Photography and Jewelry, and a course for elementary art education for classroom teachers. Each summer thereafter I taught Art Seminars, sponsored by the University of Virginia Division of Continuing Education, including seminars at Front Royal, Va.; Staunton, VA.; Dallas, Texas; Mary Washington College; Bridgewater College; Norfolk, Va.; and Norfolk County. Some years later I completed work on a masters degree at the University of Virginia and received a Masters in Education in 1964.

Ray Yoder

Throughout my tenure at the Waynesboro Public Schools I published many articles in professional art magazines, including School Arts, Ceramics Monthly, Arts and Activities, Design, Everyday Art, and Gem and Minerals magazines. In 1970 I started making "Ray's Whistlin Critturs," ceramic animal whistles which I sold at art shows along with my paintings.

Ray's Whistlin Critturs

My work since 1934 has been in the teaching of all facets of the arts and crafts, including ceramics. So in 1970 when I read an article about ceramic whistles, I was fascinated with the idea of something different which would appeal to the interest of all ages of people. I made many figures, experimenting with the construction of the whistle in the completed form. It was not easy. Improper line-up of the parts resulted in many failures. Finally, through perseverance, I discovered the secret of correct construction which would always result in a whistle. After modeling my character in moist clay I hollow out the inside with a wire loop tool. Then I close up this hole with a tab of clay and cut the whistle into it. Extra tones are provided for by piercing small holes at convenient places for fingers to cover. After the piece is completely dry it is fired to cone 08. Acrylic paint is applied to seal and color the clay, followed by a coat of dark oil color. Before this dries it is rubbed down to produce the gleaming character — revealing high-lights and shadows.

Ray's Whistlin Critturs

National, State and Local Art Education Associations

I was one of the original group who started the Waynesboro Chapter of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1971. Our exhibits then were held at a Gallery on Chestnut Ave., and we had shows at General Electric by their sponsorship. Finally we met and formed The Shenandoah Valley Art Center at 600 W. Main on June 14, 1971. I was one of the original board members, but declined the invitation to be their first president, since I did not feel that I had ample time to devote to that position.

Together with my work with the public schools in Waynesboro I began to participate in the District "G" Art Section of the Southeast Region of the National Art Education Association, and eventually I served as President of the Art Section of District G in Virginia. As Chairman of the Art District I collected art work, paintings and so on from the public schools in the area and developed a traveling art exhibition of elementary children's work which circulated throughout the district. This was a very stimulating experience and led to my participation in the Virginia State Art Education Association and workshops that they conducted during the summer. In 1960 I was elected and served a term as President of the State Art Education Association and received the National Art Education Medal of Honor in Recognition and Appreciation of Support in Art Education. I also was listed in Who's Who in Virginia.

Eventually the kinds of work that we were developing creatively in the public schools in Waynesboro gained the attention of the National Art Education Association (NAEA). In the early 1970s the NAEA (which up to that time had focused entirely on secondary art education) made a decision to open a new department in elementary art education; and in April 1970 I was nominated and elected to serve as Chairman of the newly-formed Elementary School Art Division of the Southeastern district, at the Convention in Richmond, Virginia, April 15-18, 1970. Thereafter, I met with the 3 other district chairmen and planned programs, formulated ideas, and made and presented a position paper on what our beliefs and ideas were for the elementary art program. We presented programs at meetings at the national level and tried to stimulate interest in helping classroom teachers promote creative activity in Art in teaching curriculum. But the primary purpose of NAEA was to get an art education teacher in every school, including elementary schools, as well as high schools.

At that time there were only 25% of the schools in the United States served by an art teacher; and the figure is even less now, because less emphasis has been put on it in subsequent years. But the position of the NAEA was that we must have ART teachers teaching the art program in the elementary schools. Try as we might-and we did our best to influence the national organization -our elementary organization was unable to gain the respect and emphasis that we felt was needed to promote art through the elementary classroom teachers. In frustration, I resigned after 2 years with the program; but I've never stopped working in the direction that we had planned and hoped, for my desire is still that this work must go on.

In the classes that I taught in elementary art education I impressed upon the teachers the need for them to have hands-on experience in my classes and to give children an opportunity to do these things in relation to their school curriculum. In my orientation presentation on the first day of the class I impressed on them the fact that if they did not give children this opportunity they were more responsible than anyone else for the dire consequences of children participating in drugs, sexual abuses, and all kinds of irrational experiences.

Children need an opportunity to develop self-worth and to express themselves creatively. If they can't get this positive feeling through creative art, or through other creative activities, they will find other ways of expressing themselves and getting attention. So this has been my plea all these many years: that teachers of children at any level, in any organization--church, Sunday school, or public school--all give children an opportunity for creative expression.


Because of the mandatory retirement law in Virginia at the time, I retired from the Public Schools in 1975, after directing the art and visual aids for 30 years, and serving as the supervisor of art, visual aids, and offset printing. In 30 years with the school system I developed an Art Guide, initiated Photography teaching (1946), started a Film Library, built a clay mixer to provide inexpensive clay for our ceramics work, started Offset Printing services, taught Adult Night classes, and hired Lynn Hilton as High School Crafts teacher and Erin Girdler as Elementary Art teacher.

On my retirement from the Public Schools I was given a party and honored.by the National Art Education Association, the Virginia State Art Education Association and the local Art Education Association. They gave me a rousing vote of confidence for what I had tried to do--for which I was extremely grateful. I was also presented a Plaque by the President of the NAEA which included the statement: "For His Dedication and Contributions to Art Education in Virginia."

When I retired, Louis Spilman, the editor of the Waynesboro News Virginian said in an editorial: "Not only have his original paintings attracted considerable attention but . . . he has established himself as an authority on sculpture and modeling. Unquestionably, Mr. Yoder is one of the reasons why Waynesboro's public school system ranks in the very top tier of Virginia systems. He symbolizes the quality of instruction available throughout the local system." (News Virginian, ca. March 28, 1979.)

After retirement my work in Art continued. When I left the Waynesboro Public Schools I began teaching a painting workshop program "Painting Vacations," which was sponsored by the University of Virginia Division of Continuing Education for 11 years. Each summer I taught these workshop programs in various parts of Virginia, with headquarters at colleges and other areas noted for their scenic qualities. Students were drawn from all areas nationwide as well as some from abroad, including Japan, Pakistan, Canada and China, and the workshops were highly successful with both beginners and professional students. In 1985 I was rated in the top 32 Painting Workshop Instructors in the United States by the Artists' Cooperative Workshops in Port Charlotte, Florida; and my workshops were also endorsed by Tony van Hasselt, W.W.S., who was rated number one by the same survey.

Sentinel Of The Forest
Sentinel Of The Forest

By 1976 my work with ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS had brought me National attention as an Art Educator, professional painting instructor, and award-winning watercolorist, and I was invited by Parker Publishing Company in West Nyack, N.Y. to author a book. So, my book, "SCULPTURE AND MODELING FOR THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL" was published in 1976. It was SOLD OUT.

My paintings had been hung in many invitational and juried shows as well as private collections, and I had many one-man shows with numerous first place honors in water colors. In 1979 my paintings were accepted for sale in the Venable Neslage Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Between 1983 and 1986 I developed an innovative videotape approach to teaching watercolor painting and produced three videos (with technical help from Mrs. Eileen Knous and John Leitch): "Painting a Barn--a Study in Perspective," "Feeling for Trees," and "Woodland and Stream." Because of my early difficulty in painting trees in college, I had worked hard to represent my ideas of nature, and my videotape on trees and foliage presents one of the subjects in painting that had received no attention in any of the workshops I had attended or from any of the instructors with whom I studied. The videotape on perspective reflects a procedure I developed over the years for teaching perspective other than that of using vanishing points like I was taught in college, since it is impossible to use vanishing points when working outdoors. All of these tapes were very helpful in my instructional program in teaching landscape painting and have been available for sale to interested teachers and students.

In 1975 I started an association with the Waynesboro YMCA and taught many classes at the "Y," including painting, photography and ceramics. In October 1985 I joined the YMCA and Shenandoah Valley Art Center (SVAC) in a cooperative effort in teaching art classes, using the photo lab and the ceramics lab at the "Y" to teach those classes and the classroom at the SVAC to teach the painting classes. All classes were open to all ages and races, and members of both organizations were given a discount rate. The relationship proved very successful with 3 painting classes being offered and one each in ceramics and photography. I was planning a further relationship with the Waynesboro branch of Blue Ridge Community College when my arteries intervened (interviened?).

I was the top BLOOD DONOR for the Red Cross for this area, and when I had to quit because of my age in 1980, I had given 98 pints of blood. (I was 69 at the time, and the normal cut-off age is 66.) Thereafter, I began to have growing problems with ANGINA, short walks giving me pains in my chest. So in January 1987 I had a double by-pass heart operation at the University of Virginia Hospital. Following this a great deal of walking was recommended: During my hospital stay I daily walked the corridors. In the years since I have made it a daily practice to walk a mile or more, even if I must do it in the basement in bad weather. A FAST walk of 17 1/2 minutes makes my mile. This walk rejuvenates me and strengthens my heart. I had a great time staying at Ronnie's for a while recuperating from the operation.

Before my operation I had been going early to the Senior Center to play the piano. I had played the violin for a time in my youth, but I could not read music. One of the school music teachers got me started with the piano, and I then taught myself to read music, playing many of the popular church hymns. However, I did not dare play at home as my skill was not that good. I also taught myself to play the recorder.

After my heart operation I was forbidden to drive. Did that mean forever? My mind is Active, I am trying to follow the path and teachings of Jesus Christ, and KNOW THAT I AM A "BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN". GOD LOVES ME AND I LOVE EVERYBODY. I aim to give everyone a smile, for many people do not have one. That is one thing that the more you give, the more you have. PRAISE GOD.

Little did I realize all of the years as I was developing my skills that they were exactly what I would need. God had a hand in all this, because through my humble efforts, my slow progress, I developed skills in teaching as I figured out how to approach problems in order to help people. That has been the key to my ability to do an effective job of teaching; and it has been most rewarding. I am thankful to God that he has led and directed me in developing these skills, because I can see that many persons and were able to develop skills that were very meaningful and valuable to them. So it is with great thankfulness that I reflect on all that has gone into my background through God's direction. It has been a fabulous thing for me to realize all these years; and in the future I expect the same kind of Leadership, and I know I'm going to get it. I am confident of being challenged to work and improve my skills in helping everyone through the background of my experiences. My service is at God's disposal.



Of course I owe my successes to the love, patience, and understanding of my wife of 57 years, Veryl Hope.



May 15, 1991

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