Sunday, June 13, 2010

Johnny Spade Finds His Way Back to Family

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago my father had a small appliance store in the Ozarks' community of Noel, Missouri. In order to sell his wares, it was necessary to occasionally allow customers to buy "on time." Someone who needed a television, for instance, might be able to scrape up forty or fifty dollars for a down payment, and then come to the store every week after they got paid and put five or ten dollars on the account until it was paid off.

Occasionally somebody might bring in something of value to help settle their account. Johnny Spade, a local Native American, owed Dad money on something that he had purchased at his store. I remember Johnny, but I have no idea what he was paying on. One day Johnny brought in an oil painting of some wild stallions circling an abandoned vehicle. It was something that he had painted (signed "Johnny Spade '65"), and he wanted to apply it to his account. My Dad really liked that painting and accepted it as payment on the account.

Dad had another friend make a nice pine frame for the painting of the horses, and when it was suitably framed, he took it home where it hung on the wall for the next forty years. Last winter, after my Dad passed away, I laid claim to that painting - because I knew where it needed to hang next.

Josh and Ed Shields were youngsters who went to the Noel School when I was principal there. They were friends of my kids. Their mother, Vickie Shields, died when the boys were still in junior high. I was at her funeral service and remember being impressed with how the boys held up with all of the people coming forward to shake their hands and hug them. When I read Vickie Shields' obituary, I learned something surprising - she was Johnny Spade's daughter.

I learned through my daughter, Molly, that Josh Shields now lives in the Phoenix area. I called him a few days ago and arranged to meet. I let Josh know that I had something that belonged to his family, and I wanted to get it to him. I was fairly cryptic, declining to tell him what it was. This morning we met in Tempe and I was able to finally get Johnny Spade's painting back to his family. Josh, now a thirty-six-year-old insurance salesman, was surprised, and he told me that he had recently mentioned to his wife that he didn't have anything of Grampa Spade's. Well, now he does.

I think that Josh liked the painting of the horses, because he shook my hand three times while we visited! I know that I was happy to see that heirloom make its way back to family, and I suspect that somewhere Johnny Spade was smiling also.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Good job, Pa Rock. Sounds like something out of Dickens. (Of course, in that version, the Spade Painting is the key to the missing Spade family fortune and Josh, a widower, needs money to secure the safety of his children)