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Of Pawpaws and Paintings

October 7, 2021

Phil got an email from Community Action House this morning about an open house at their new food distribution center on Paw Paw Drive.

Paw Paws. A tree, a native tree here in lower west Michigan. A favorite of my moms. She planted one by our home on Grand Ridge Court. It’s still alive and offering fruit to anyone aware of how good they taste.

And Paw Paw Drive. Their last home was on Paw Paw across from the entrance to the cemetery where Ron is buried.

So we drove up to the old Semco building to attend this open house. A lot of cars but no people milling around to attend. But we went up to the front door and it opened. To find out that it’s to be on the 23rd instead.

A kind young woman invited us to look around. Showed us the layout. And pointed up to a wall high above. Of a mural being painted.

Joel Tanis (picture from his website)

I do art. I guess I’m an artist. So I was excited to see this man in his 50’s I think

Painting a Mural! All greens at this point. This as yet un-named man high on a ladder.

Phil was busy talking with the young woman so I took this opportunity to share a story with him I thought he’d appreciate. Since he was painting a mural.

The story I told him goes like this.

“Do you remember Cherry Lane Pre-school?" He replied, yes I do. So I go on to tell him that this was once the office for a large chicken hatchery that burned down. And that the house next door we lived in was built by the owner of the said chicken hatchery.

I go on to explain we renovated our bathroom the winter of 2011. I think. Doesn’t matter. So I was still spry enough to strip off the old tiles and knock down the bathtub enclosure. Finding a note for a treasure map. The layout of the yard and X marking the spot. Now below the gravel of The Church of God of Prophecy parking lot. (The property was split up when Mr. Lemmen passed away)

By the way, my great great grandmother who came from the old country, her maiden name was Lemmen also. So I suspect I am related to these people.

I got to the back wall of the tub and I find this strange “window” that was all covered up. Wondering what it was. Lines and paint. Strange.

Well I don’t know how I found her name. But I did. I hope I can find it to finish this story. Because she told me what it was!

I was so surprise and delighted to find out that her father, this Dutch relative had engaged an artist when the house was being built to paint a mural on the wall above the tub!

She went on to share about being a little girl sitting there with her friends watching this pastoral scene being painted for her to enjoy.

So this is what I shared with this un-named man up on his ladder with green paint all over his pants and hands.

Hoping he enjoyed the story. I think he did. And then I asked his name to put in my iPhone telling him I think this would be great story to go with the opening for the paper.

In fact, as I write this, I see this as a story to hand out to all the people attending on the 23rd and for the Holland Sentinel.

He said his first name. Joel. Didn’t dawn on me yet. Then he spells his last name.

Tanis! Oh, of course! Joel Tanis! Remembering him painting murals for Lincoln School. I was also doing my clay art with the kids at Lincoln.

20 years. I don’t think Joel remembers me but I remember him. His colorful and happy art. Art that all of us around Holland love.

An example of Joel's wonderful art

So driving home from there an hour ago I realized that for me stories like this are like murals I see with my minds eye. Like a tree. The trunk, three large branches that branch by threes smaller and smaller Full of leaves and fruit.

So I hope my Tree Mural gives you pleasure as you read it as I’ve had writing it.

I’m outside. Naturally. Sitting on my old lawn chair that I hate to give up. Rainy out but not cold. Almost 70 degrees.

Asking the question I’ve found myself asking many times in my life.

Was this just a chance convergence of related life details? Or not?

I leave it with you to decide!

Annie Olson (Pink Eagle)

Be sure to check out Joel at:

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