An artist’s maker

177

Dear Artist,

My grandfather, my mother’s father, Kohei Shimozawa, was one of five children of ancestral landowners from the farming village of Nishioi, north of Odawara City in Kanagawa-ken, Japan. In 1925, when he was 20, in an effort to break away from the limitations of the role of a second-born son in a Japanese family, he followed his brother and cousin to Canada. There, Kohei worked on a strawberry farm and at a cedar mill in Hammond, B.C., and followed other seasonal Japanese workers to the salmon run on the Skeena River, where he worked in a cannery and slept in a Japanese bunkhouse.

Odawara, Japan, c. 1918 Kohei, sister Yoshi, brother Masashi and their mother Kiku.

Odawara, Japan, c. 1918
Kohei, sister Yoshi, brother Masashi and their mother Kiku.

After five years, Kohei returned to Japan and met Kimie Mizuno, the cousin of the family who had sponsored him on their strawberry farm in Canada. Kimie was the second daughter of seven children of land owning rice farmers from the neighbouring village of Iizumi. In school, where she excelled, Kimie had been given the nickname, “Medaka” — a tiny Japanese rice fish with large, round, high-set eyes. Though she graduated at the top of her class and longed to attend university, as a girl, Kimie was sent to teacher’s college and married Kohei on April 1st of that year. It was 1931. Without a travel permit for his bride, who was by then pregnant, Kohei returned to Canada, alone. After one last season at the cannery, he got off the boat at Ocean Falls, B.C. and took a full-time job as a jitney driver at the paper mill, loading rolls, along with his brother, onto the ships at the dock. Kohei wrote to Kimie and their baby daughter Atsuko in Iizumi, where she lived with her parents and commuted to nearby Odawara to teach high school.

Odawara, Japan, 1931 Wedding photo of Kohei Shimozawa, age 25 and Kimie Mizuno, age 20.

Odawara, Japan, 1931
Wedding photo of Kohei Shimozawa, age 25 and Kimie Mizuno, age 20.

By 1937, Atsuko was starting school and Kimie was implored by her parents to reunite with Kohei in Canada. Kohei’s plan was to return to Japan once he’d saved enough money to establish an independent and comfortable home for them there. At the train station, a member of Kimie’s family asked five year-old Atsuko if she would like to go to a nearby shop to choose a present for herself. When they returned to the platform, Kimie had boarded the train and it had departed for Yokohama.

Kohei and Kimie settled into life in the Japanese community in Ocean Falls, with Kimie teaching at the Japanese language school and Kohei working at the cedar mill. On March 30, 1940, my Mum, Carol Noriko was born in Ocean Falls. Nine days before Canada declared war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Kimie gave birth to David Tetsuo. Japanese were assembled, their property, bank accounts and fishing boats confiscated, and they were removed from the coast and relocated to inland internment camps. Kohei and Kimie, my Mum and her infant brother, David were forced to leave Ocean Falls on March 17, 1942 and sent to the small, french speaking farming village of Letelier, Manitoba. In the summer, Kohei worked in the sugar beet fields, threshing grain, digging and moving outhouses and digging and planting gardens for the town people and farmers. In the winter, he cut ice from the Red River and transported it by horse-drawn sleigh. At night, he walked the long road home backwards, turned against the winter wind. They fetched water from a nearby pond and strained it through a cloth before boiling it to drink. In 1943, Kimie gave birth to their fourth child, Betty Fumiko.

Letelier, Manitoba, Summer 1943 Kohei with David, Kimie with Betty, Carol

Letelier, Manitoba, Summer 1943
Kohei with David, Kimie with Betty, Carol

When the war ended in 1945, Japanese families in rural Manitoba were permitted to relocate to Winnipeg. Kohei went ahead and found work at Dominion Wheel and Foundry where he poured molten iron. He found, after much resistance from landlords around town, a three-room suite in a four-suite tenement house in the north end, with one shared toilet and sink and no running hot water. Kimie boiled water on the stove for baths and cooking. When Noriko, Tetsuo and Fumiko were enrolled in Sunday School at the Japanese United Church, they were asked to choose their own names for baptism. And so, my mother became “Carol,” after a girl in school who she thought was nice. Kohei worked the night shift at the foundry, riding his bicycle there at 2am. Kimie found work as a housemaid for a German family and a Jewish family who, perhaps because of their own families’ experiences with persecution in Europe, were the only families to hire her. By 1948, the Shimozawas had saved enough money to buy the house of the German Menonite family Kimie had been working for. They moved across the river to East Kildonan, into a three-bedroom Craftsman with a proper bathroom with tub and running hot water. Soon, Kimie began sewing piecework for fine leather gloves at the Perfectfit Glove Company, and immersed herself in volunteering and holding meetings as part of the Japanese United Church. She read the entire newspaper, plus the Bunjei Shunju magazines Atsuko would send her, and discussed current events with Kohei. She packed canned goods and parcels and sent money to Atsuko in Japan, all the while relentlessly seeking permission for her to join her family in Canada. Japanese Nationals were not on the list of allowed immigrants. Kimie hosted university students, welcomed families into their home at holidays, and offered her guests a proper Japanese — if a bit Canadian-style — bath, in her bathtub.

Winnipeg, Spring, 1955 Family portrait as Atsuko is about to leave for Japan to marry her fiancé Hisao Tsushima L-R: Atsuko, Betty, Kohei, Kimie, David, Carol

Winnipeg, Spring, 1955
Family portrait as Atsuko is about to leave for Japan to marry her fiancé Hisao Tsushima
L-R: Atsuko, Betty, Kohei, Kimie, David, Carol.

In 1954, with the help of a Canadian Senator who was also a member of the United Church, Atsuko was finally permitted to enter Canada as an immigrant. She was 22. Atsuko lived for a year with her family, learning to drive, working in her chosen field of study as a dressmaker, and becoming close to her parents before returning to Japan to marry her betrothed. She became a fashion designer in Tokyo, had a beautiful and accomplished family, and visited ours regularly to ski at Whistler and to see her parents, who would eventually return to B.C. to retire. All of us have visited Atsuko on numerous occasions in Japan. David Tetsuo studied engineering, attended graduate school and became an engineer and Betty Fumiko, like Kimie, became a teacher. Both also raised remarkable families.

Tokyo, 1959 Carol, Atsuko and Atsuko's son Junichi

Tokyo, 1959
Carol, Atsuko and Atsuko’s son Junichi.

After high school, my Mum, Carol, accepted a job as a cabin attendant for Canadian Pacific Air Lines in 1959, and at age 19 was living independently in Vancouver and flying to Japan. She travelled the world and visited Atsuko, who told her she was too modern and westernized to make a good wife to a Japanese man. In 1962, while living in the West End, a friend who knew she was interested in art offered to introduce my Mum to a fledgling painter. She was 22. Bob was boarding with a landlady who prepared his meals, while he kept a studio on Pender Street. He was burning a lot of stuff in the back dumpster at that time. When Carol appeared, my Dad suddenly understood that the world was a big and wondrous place and if one was loved by the right person, life could open up with possibilities of purpose, adventure, stability, tenderness and family love. “She made me pull up my socks and gave me a reason and the confidence to really go for it — to try to be an artist,” he told me. In August, 1964, Bob and Carol were married in a friend’s garden and honeymooned for two years in Europe, where she traded her glamorous life as a ’60s flight attendant for a Volkswagen Westfalia they bought upon landing in Amsterdam. With his handful of beans — an advance for future paintings from his dealer in Vancouver — Bob bought Carol a bathtub and strapped it to the roof of the van.

Vancouver, 1964 Carol and Bob get married.

Vancouver, 1964
Carol and Bob get married.

Because my Mum’s childhood had been one where her parents were most often working, she, with the exuberant support of my Dad, stayed home. My brothers, David and James and I grew up in a house where my Dad worked in his studio from 5am until 8pm with a snooze at 5:40 and dinner at 6. My Mum did everything else. After assessing our particular proclivities early on, she enrolled us in music lessons and then drove us to every one, even taking up classical guitar, herself. She volunteered at our schools, stood in the rain for soccer, and carpooled for dance and choir and gymnastics. She also sewed all of my clothes, dance costumes and Halloween costumes and baked our birthday cakes and the cookies we took in our lunch boxes. In her elegance, I didn’t wear a pair of jeans until a friend’s mother offered to buy me some. When my Dad had an idea to paint a girl in a blue-and-white-striped dress, he described it to my Mum, and she made it. When he asked for one with polka dots, she made that, too. She reupholstered the furniture and planted strawberries in an old barrel. She loved music and movies. She mowed the lawn. She collected ceramics.

Winnipeg, c. 1977 L-R: Betty, Kohei, Sara, Atsuko, Carol, Kimie, Mark, James, Jeff

Winnipeg, c. 1977
L-R: Betty, Kohei, Sara, Atsuko, Carol, Kimie, Mark, James, Jeff

When my grandparents finally returned to B.C., my Mum worked with my grandfather in the gully behind our home until it was completely terraced and planted with hybrid stone fruit trees, and an apple-pear. She plopped us on the floor of the public library while she filled up with her own passions; Lawrence, Atwood, Ondaatje, Monro, le Carré. Then we’d go home and strike up The Genn Family Ensemble — our family band — mostly Beatles covers. I remember the comfort of hearing her prepare dinner in the next room every evening while I practised Debussy, Bach, Khachaturian and Schumann. She attended every recital, was a Beaver den mother, and camp chaperone. She constructed and sewed my school mascot costume including a giant papier-mâché tiger head. Her tiger has only recently been retired. She sat through countless swimming lessons, sailing and synchro and tennis. When I played volleyball in junior high, she applied to the city of Surrey to have a net installed at the point, on the beach where we lived, so everyone could enjoy the sport. Her net is still there.

The Genn Family, c. 1980 James, Bob, Sara, Carol and Dave

The Genn Family, c. 1980
James, Bob, Sara, Carol and Dave

My Mum started a small business with a friend, arranging dried flowers. They exhibited at the prestigious Circle Craft Market. She made colloids, collages and serigraphs with my Dad. Early on, when he bought her a loom, however, she said, “I will do my own thing.” Instead, she hopped into her ‘66 Austin Healey Sprite and drove to the community tennis court — where she would build, over the next 50 years, some of her longest and most intimate friendships. When she slipped and tore her knee when I was in elementary school, my Mum switched to golf, and most of her friends would take it up, too. A little over a month ago, I was finally invited to join them — 16 women, each as mellow, kind and joy-ready as a polished river stone — on their annual, week-long golf trip, a day’s drive from home, in a nearby holiday resort. My mum’s grace, her humour, her intelligence, thoughtfulness and her willingness to participate in life and friendship was, as always, embodied by her daily example. I let it shine into me.

Vancouver, 2008 Carol and Bob welcome Baby Zoë Francis Noriko Genn

Vancouver, 2008
Carol and Bob welcome Baby Zoë Frances Noriko Genn

For five decades, my Mum watched my brothers and me plod through the bogs, thickets, plateaus and high ridges of a life in art. Just as she escorted my Dad in the same devotion, she nudged us, ached for us and quietly applauded our hardscrabble. She was a believer in personal responsibility, integrity, in bucking up, in planning, and in dreaming. She was always thinking of others. She didn’t take short cuts. Hers was a style of low-key, steadfast constancy; of intimate understanding and witnessing, and tough but magic realism. It turns out, like many things she dedicated herself to, she was good at it. She was good at making artists. Over the last few years, when it seemed my triumphs might be outnumbering my setbacks, my Mum’s pep talks began to refine into only gentle words of praise: “You are on your way.” “You have done the work.” “You have paid your dues.” “It is all yours.” James, a director, and Dave, a composer, arranger, producer and rock-n-roll Hall-of-Famer, are in the same boat. It’s been many, many years since The Genn Family Ensemble has had to be prompted to practise. All of it, only possible, because of Carol, and her first artist, Bob.

The Genns, 2013 L-R: Peter, James, Dorothy, Sara, Bob, Shauna, Tamara, Zoë, Carol, Beckett, Dave, Poppy, Stanley

The Genns, 2013
L-R: Peter, James, Dorothy, Sara, Bob, Shawna, Tamara, Zoë, Carol, Beckett, Dave, Poppy, Stanley

Sincerely,

Sara

PS: “Whenever someone asks me what I mix my paint with, I usually answer ‘love.’ If you can put a little love into it you can’t go wrong, and during this period of my life love was in plentiful supply. I would work in my studio on Pender Street during the week, come home for dinner, go to plays or concerts in the evening and spend a lot of time with Carol. Kahlil Gibran said, ‘Work is love made visible.’ This seemed true at the time, and it has an even deeper meaning for me now.” (Robert Genn)

Carol and Sara, May, 2021

Carol and Sara, May, 2021

Esoterica: When my Dad passed away in 2014, I told my Mum that whatever she wanted the rest of her life to look like, I would be there, do it with her, and that she would have my unconditional support. We packed it in — travelling, being together, keeping our family close, visiting her grandchildren and nurturing, daily, her lifelong friendships through her passions. We visited James, who was directing a television series in Budapest; she accompanied Dave and his band, 54 40, in Mexico; we toured the galleries of Melbourne, Sydney and New York with Peter; she took long holidays with us and saw my studios in New York and California and attended even more openings than she had already racked up over her 49 years with my Dad. This spring, my Mum found a lump in her armpit and was told she may have two years. Early Saturday morning, I held her in my arms, in her bed at home, as she peacefully slipped away. “You are the light of my life,” she’d whispered to me. “You are my purpose and meaning,” I wept into her, stroking her delicate hands. “I’m going to miss you so much.” At her highest expression of the grace, practicality, beauty and elegance that she lived every day of her life, her eyes replied, “You can do it.”

Carol Noriko Genn (March 30, 1940 - July 31, 2021)

Carol Noriko Genn
(March 30, 1940 – July 31, 2021)

 

“The temple bell stops
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers” (Matsuo Bashō)

 

 

My sincerest gratitude to  my Uncle, David T. Shimozawa for his contribution of the Shimozawa family history to the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre’s Archives, here, here, and here.


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177 Comments

    • Elaine Stonkus on

      What a beautiful story. Many, many wonderful memories will sustain you as well as your “Mum’s” love that will remain in your heart forever. My deepest condolences.

    • Dorothy E Curran on

      What a beautiful tribute for a life well-lived and generously illuminated by love and intelligence. Thank you for writing and sharing at this difficult time.

    • Nina Augustin on

      Such a huge loss in your life. What an amazing mother you had. I’m so very sorry for your loss. May all those precious memories you made with your mother, especially in the last few years bring you so much comfort in your time of grief.

    • This is an amazing story of your family. Such a huge loss for you now. Your mother was an amazing person. May the precious moments that you spent with your mom, especially in the last few years bring you so much comfort as you grieve her loss.

    • Brenda Lowery on

      So sorry for you loss, Sara. Your story brought me tears….you’ve no doubt lost a beautiful person! Sincere condolences.

    • Dear Sara, thanks so much for the lovely family tale. You and your father have been the inspiration to create every day, just as your mom has inspired you and your family. You are indeed so lucky to have had such wonderful parents.

    • Sara, thank you for sharing about your mom’s beautiful soul. I’m so sorry for your loss. I always had an impression that she was a quiet and gentle force behind your dad and family and especially also after he passed. After reading this, your family story about your mom and dad, I am certain that your wonderful character, talent and strength are qualities you derived from both of your parents.

    • Anne Montgomery on

      Dear Sara and family,
      Discovering the letters of your Dad and yourself has been such an uplifting and inspiring trail for me to follow. The perspective and light they shed on the world has given me many bright moments of joy and learning. Reading your beautiful tribute to your mother and your family brought hot tears to my eyes as it fused with my own mother’s loss last year. I turned to my art and created a small collage of her presence the day I was waiting for her ashes to arrive at my door.It helped me traverse the barren landscape of my world now without her.She was 101 and saw so many changes in her lifetime and she brought much good into this world just as your mother did. Aren’t we lucky!Thank you for sharing and spreading the love.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss… your beautiful words brought me to tears and touched this fellow reader. Very well written. Your family had been so lucky to have the pillar of grace, beauty, love, generosity, and strength that was your mother. And she, blessed as well in her life well-lived with the love around her. She sounds like an incredible and admirable woman. An example to live up to.
      Much condolences <3.

  1. My heart is full from your gorgeous descriptions of your family, especially your mother. She sounds like one in a million. I’m so happy for you that you had parents like you had.

    May you feel their spirits blessing you daily.

  2. Donna du Plessis on

    Thank you for your mother’s story. I have often wondered about her and am happy to know what a strong person she was.

    • Thank you for your loving family story. You were blessed having such parents, and I am sorry for your loss. My own parents passed many years ago, but I can assure you yours will be loving and guiding you forever.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your mother, Sara. Her fascinating history and her determination and devotion to her family and the creative pursuits of her own interests and talents have to be a treasured legacy for you and your family. Your pride in your heritage and the role your mother played in your life shines through your eloquent eulogy. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt story with us. It touched my heart and I know it will many others.

  4. Oh dear Sara, I have a big lump in my throat. So sorry you lost your mum, it is one of the hardest experiences to bear. I was hoping your story wouldn’t end this way. Hugs.
    Ps. Until today I wasn’t aware of your Japanese ancestry ❤️

  5. Lori Fontaine on

    Dear Sara,
    You have honoured your family with this wonderful, heartfelt post. I’m grateful to have read it. The story of each generation and the way they determinedly and proudly thrived is so inspiring.
    My heart breaks for the loss of your Mom, much in the same way it did when your Dad passed. Your family is intertwined with every artist that reads the Letters and through them we are encouraged and strengthened.
    This community of artists, brought and held together by the Letters of your Dad and you, is a legacy to your generous and loving family.
    Sending strength and love to your family, with appreciation and overwhelming gratitude,
    Lori Fontaine

    • Oh, yes , Sarah,. . . Robert Genn shared so much of himself. . . .. With a Kindness of Heart, Dedication to the Craft, Astute Observations, Insightful Teaching, Gentle Inspirations. . . Coaxing us to Jump into Our Own Lives and simply Practice!

  6. Patricia Larenas on

    What an inspiring life you have just told us about- I’m very sorry you have lost her; my sincere condolences.

  7. Our hearts are bursting with the blessings you engendered through your love and honor for your family. Thank you and my deepest condolences for your loss. She and he were on the water now they are the water.

  8. What an amazing woman!! How blessed you were to spend the time and learn the lessons of love.
    Beautiful photos and memorial to hold deep in your heart. You are doubly blessed. . .condolences for your most recent loss.

  9. Thank you for your loving family story. You were blessed having such parents, and I am sorry for your loss. My own parents passed many years ago, but I can assure you yours will be loving and guiding you forever.

  10. Thank you, Sara ,for sharing your mother’s story, and yours. Certainly, you will miss her. But she will always be close,and she will continue to shine through you.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to your mom and to your heritage! My mom was Nisei, too, but from Montana. While every family is different, I see many parallels.

  12. A beautiful story of Love in so many ways. What an incredible, brave and vibrant life Carol Nariko Genn lived! I am so sorry for your loss.
    Her smile and words will no doubt be a consoling presence as she is remembered fondly for the words, art and love she planted in so many people’s hearts. I was happy to meet your mom a few times – such a calming presence she offered.
    My deepest condolences to you Sara, and all those who will miss your mom.

  13. Your loss will be as profound as the gift of a beautiful loving life she shared with all. The best part is each of you have the ability to repeat the lessons learned from both parents for the new generations of lives to be lived gracefully and creatively.

  14. So very sorry Safa….that is certainly a great loss…what a wonderful Mother/person she obviously was…
    I have been following firstly your Dad…and now yourself and have enjoyed every posting…
    Thank you for sharing this ….hopefully you will ultimately be happy to think what a wonderful Mother you had…
    Sandy Bogert.

  15. You have my heart-felt thank you for sharing your mother and your family’s journey – and, of course, my condolences. As I know you (and your father before you) for your writings, your mother and father did well. Thank you for continuing their legacy for us to learn and enjoy.

  16. Phillis Elliott on

    Dear Sara –
    So very sorry for your lost, I lost my mama years ago but she is always with me in memories. They will help you thru this tough time & always keep her with you. I was once a student of your father – admired him as an artist, plus followed him as much as possible thru the painters keys. How wonderful of you to give us the family story. My God. Less you always!

  17. Donnally King on

    Thank you for a beautiful story. It is an inspiration in these troubled times.
    My teacher, advocate, inspiration, Mother, will turn 100 in December. She has lead our family for generations. She was my first tennis instructor, Cub Scout Den Mother, tutor, art teacher and counselor. Even though her hands can no longer control her marks, we continue to paint together. She contributes ideas on color, blending, line and theme.
    I am blessed to have her in my life.

  18. Wow, such an incredible story of your mother and her life and your family. So inspirational and full of love. What a gift your mother gave to you! Many condolences to you on her passing.

    • Such a beautiful Mother you had, and your devotion to her as she aged, gave you both love and inspiration. Thank you for sharing her story. It is so important that we know of the resilience of so many immigrants from Japan who were treated so badly by their country and their communities, but still went on to live huge and purposeful lives filled with love. You were all blessed to be a family.

  19. Sheri-Lee Langlois on

    My heart breaks for you Sara. I was so honoured to meet your mom several years ago at Canada House Gallery. She seemed to be the strength behind her successful husband and children! What a legacy she has left for you and your family now. May you always be blessed with life-sustaining memories.

  20. I’ve enjoyed and followed yours and your Dad letters and artwork for several years, but never knew your Mum’s role… she was obviously the heart and soul of the family, and I am so sad for your loss. But you can get through it, and be strengthened by it, and I’m sure your art will continue to grow and flourish. And please keep the “letters” coming.

    • So sorry for your loss! Very special family history, and tribute to her life! I golfed with Carol at Hazemere Golf Course for many years. Carol loved to golf, and was always striving to improve her game. She was a very special friend, and will be missed by all that new her! Sincere Sympathy! Bette Dawe

  21. Such a life story and inspiration. Never to give up, do things with grace and love. What a heritage. What memories! My thoughts are with you all.

  22. Dear Sara
    Thank you for sharing this experience. Your mother was so totally accepting of life as she found it. Such resilience,courage and love.
    Your loss of her will be great but she lives on in you and your wonderful work.
    My heart is full

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    I am touched! I can understand your background. Don’t know why politics have a way of uprooting families.
    My family fled to Sweden from Estonia to escape Soviet persecution, followed having to leave Sweden because Stalin demanded the return of the refugees because they were considered to be the property of the Soviet Union. Happy to live in Vancouver, Canada!

    • So sorry about the loss of your wonderful Mom.
      I did not read the whole story to the end. Just notice on Instagram that your Mom had passed away.

  24. What a beautiful tribute to your mother and your whole family. You have been deeply blessed and so, your life is a bright light for all who know you!

  25. What an absolutely beautiful, and yet heart-wrenching at times, story. I am so sorry for your loss. You have definitely honored your Mom as David Kessler suggests in “Finding Meaning”. Thank you for sharing this joyous and loving tribute.

  26. Such a beautiful tribute to your Mum and your whole family. I was engrossed in your family story and the hardships that led to the success and strength of the people within it. Tears rolling down my face reading your final words which showed how precious and life enhancing your relationship with your Mother is and was. Love toy you as you go through your grief and hold that love close to you xx

  27. Linda MacGregor on

    Such a powerful legacy your mom has created: your tribute paints a sensitive portrait that is an inspiration to all. I’m deeply touched by these words and by your lives. I lost my mom and I understand the pain that will be your constant companion – over time, I hope this will ease . I believe it is our memories that sustain us through the incomparable grief. My sincere condolences to you and your very accomplished family.

  28. Sharon Stein on

    Dearest Sara,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful life/love story. I’ve been a follower for years, thanks to another Artist friend.. there is Always Something very valuable, in these letters, I have saved them all. I paint and teach, and often refer my students and fellow artists to your site. I’ve been told…”. If you’ve been given this..(meaning Art Instruction and all that it can entail, pass it on.” I have kept that promise to my Mentor…and found my art life enriched. Also….getting a good deal of enrichment from you and what you pass on. Bless you.

  29. Joseph K Murray on

    Hello Sara !
    What a wonderful way to honor the inspiring traditions your Mom and Dad taught you ! You also gave it back to your Mom after Robert passed . That was wonderful that you did that for your Mom . Not many people are willing to do that . I am sure your Dad has been watching over you and your Mom and has been deeply honored by your choices in life and what you have accomplished .
    Now the pages of time have passed you to a new stage of life . You have much to live for with the inspiration and help from both your Father and Mother ! Go for it !

  30. I was riveted to your family’s story and stuck with sadness at your mom’s passing! You have my deepest sympathy and praying that you will be comforted with the wonderful family memories and uplifted by your parent’s love that continues to live in and through you. Thanks for sharing at such a difficult time.

  31. Karla Thomas Solomon on

    Very touching and beautiful. Such a full life, such a rich family background. May her memory be a blessing.

  32. Blessings be on you, Sara. I am sorry to hear of your mum’s passing, and I know you will miss her. Thankyou for your open heated sharing of your family’s history.

  33. My deepest condolences to you and your family. What beautiful memories you shared with all of us! She will live on in your hearts and minds for eternity!

  34. My condolences Sara. Even now, through your loss, you are touching and teaching us.

    Many thanks for sharing the story of your remarkable family, and of course, the life pf your beautiful mother, who filled her life – and the lives of many with love and inspiration. The family your parents made is so rare as to seem almost magical.

    I love that you and your siblings gave back to your mother, and more…Blessings on you.

  35. I am so sorry for your loss. The family account you published as a tribute to your mum is arresting, heartfelt, and beautiful Would that we all might live such a good life as did your mother. I offer you my deepest condolences.

  36. It is truly moving & beautiful to see how your parent’s loving spirit has bloomed in you & through you many others. Thank you for sharing your heart felt & encouraging story! We all need this inspiration in these difficult times!
    With my deepest sympathies.

  37. Fabienne Parsons on

    Sending much love of strength to you, Sara and everyone who was lucky enough to know her. Carol was so lovely, graceful and kind beyond words. She was always game for anything and truly interested in everyone she met. She embraced her big full life and was indeed a blessing. xo

  38. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your loving mother with us, and your beautiful heritage. May you be blessed as you continue to share their wisdom with us.

  39. Sara,
    I am so sorry for your loss.I have always admired your Mom after conversations I’ve had with her over the years at Crescent.Now after reading your letter I am even more in awe of her.She had a remarkable life and what an incredibly moving story.Your Mom was such a lovely person and raised an amazing family….what beautiful memories your mother and father created for you …Anne

  40. Elizabeth Sue Mahy on

    When your Dad got ill, I was struck by how brave he was and pragmatically just soldiered on until the end. Now your Mom! I am heartbroken for you.
    You have written a remarkable memorial for your mother. What an amazing template you have written out because she taught it to you. I plan to share this tribute with some other artists.
    I would tell you to be strong, but you have already been so advised.
    Peace.
    Beth Mahy

  41. Beatrice Biederman on

    Dear Sara and family,
    I am so sorry for the loss of both of your parents. Your Mother was so generous with her support. I attended an artist workshop once, the man taking the workshop also had a very helpful wife. She said, “every artist should have a helper”. From your story of her life, she certainly was an inspiration and help to all the family. Your Dad’s letters often mentioned his dog, not very often his wife. Your letter is such a beautiful account of her life as a helper, mother, and friend. Thank you, and God Bless.

  42. Such a beautiful and profound story of love and dedication , Sara. I feel very honoured to have been allowed the privilege of reading your mothers life’s work! A truly remarkable person.
    I’m very sorry for your loss but sadly , you have gained so much. And so have all your readers. Thank you

  43. Thank you for sharing this very touching and interesting story. Tears shed. It was a blessing that you could do so much with her after your father passed. Wish you comfort and wonderful memories.

  44. What a beautiful legacy your Mum has given to you and your family, such a heartfelt daughterly tribute. May be love and peace follow you in this time of loss.

  45. Susan V Curtis on

    Sara thank you so much for sharing your distinguished, creative family’s history. Condolences to you and your siblings, and your whole family.

  46. Thanks for sharing this lovely tribute to your mom and to the family she’s been at the heart of for so long. May she rest peacefully, and may her memory be for a blessing.

  47. I was shocked and in tears upon reading the end of your beautiful recounting of your courageous mother and family. My grandmother, who passed away years ago, has always been a very strong influence on me, through her courage and loving throughout her life. Your mother must have been an amazing model for all the Genn family. You are a very courageous person, as your dad was, to share with us your artist’s insights, encouragements and your humanity, which I find very touching, always! You are the living incarnation of your mother, and your father, which is something to be very proud of, in spite of the pain you must be going through. My deepest condolences.

  48. Believe that you will see her again, because you will. Smiling and happily cheering you on before you do! The moments here are so short. Let go quickly all sentimental thoughts. Allow forgiveness to take hold and blossom into truth. You are perfect.

  49. Such a beautiful tribute to your mom and your family. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so hard to lose a parent, may the love you are surrounded with help you get through the grief and sadness. Your mother will always be with you.

  50. What an amazing, accomplished, and beautiful lady who left a wonderful legacy. Her story is inspiring. So very sorry, Sara. I lost my mother, too, and miss her constantly.

  51. Sara, so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family story. You certainly are a wonderful continuation of your inspiring and talented parents. I have been reading your dad’s messages for many years and now yours.
    Thinking about you during this time of loss and sending a big hug.

  52. Thank you for sharing this story of your amazing mum. She will never leave your thoughts, I don’t go half an hour without thinking what my mom would say. Much love to you and your family during this sad time of loss.

  53. Sherry Killam on

    I add my condolences and gratitude to so many others whose lives you and your family have touched and enriched. Thank you for sharing the inspiring family history that ‘made’ you. May all beings be blessed.

  54. Terri Carlson on

    What a beautiful tribute. To your wonderful parents. This sharing brings your parents alive to me and I anticipate each week, not only the sharing of your father’s wisdom but the legacy going on with your wonderful contributions.

  55. Christa Brenan on

    Deepest condolences to all of your family, Sarah. Keep mixing love into your art – it’s a beautiful legacy.

  56. Neill Slaughter on

    You have my heartfelt condolences Sara. However, what a magnificent story concerning your family ties to Japan. Even though I have been reading your father’s and your letters concerning art for a number of years, until last week I had never replied before, although I have shared the contents of many of those informative letters with my former students and friends who are also artists. I was a university art and art history professor for four decades until I retired in 2016. I still draw and paint as well as exhibit , jury exhibits from time to time and lecture on art history occasionally. I have found so many of these letters quite inspirational, which is why I share them with others. Thank you for sending these informative letters on a regular basis. Sincerely, Neill Slaughter, Professor Emeritus, Long Island University

  57. WOW!
    absolutely beautiful and amazing, Sara.
    Simply Divine….
    Sorry for your loss…
    Thank you for sharing such beauty…

  58. Dear Sara,
    What a moving and beautiful tribute to your mum, whose gentle grace and beauty and kindness I remember vividly, even decades since I last saw her. I loved reading these memories, and am so sorry for your loss. I’m thinking of you and James, and send my love to your whole family. Here’s hoping we meet up again before we’re all old(er) and grey(er)!
    Yours,
    Suzanne

  59. Dear Sara
    This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing and I’m so sorry you’ve lost your beautiful mother. She was special in so many ways and her story of grace and grit will stay with me. The love between you and the wonderful memories will surely give you solace in the days and weeks ahead. . Sincere condolences to all your family.

  60. I am so sorry that you have lost your Mother. You have my deepest sympathy at this time of grief and mourning. I enjoyed reading your tribute to her and the history of your family. What a treasure that history is! How wonderful and selfless was her personal service to her family! But, most of all, she and your Dad, left priceless treasure behind that is their gift to the generations of today — you and your siblings. God bless you all.

  61. This is a GREAT story. USC IGM Art Gallery artist, Mike Saijo is interested to be connected to you and the Genn family.
    His email address is mike.saijo@gmail.com

    Our nonprofit, artAngels.org is the fiscal receiver for the USC IGM Art Gallery. Our site is a bit under construction since USC reorganized all our computers and much of our data is disorganized, but you can get the basic idea.

  62. Cyndi Tamayao on

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful family history with us. I’m so sorry for your loss. Love is forever.

  63. So sorry for your loss, Sara. Your mom is a beautiful spirit which will always be at your side. You have such rich memories of her and your dad and the rest of your family. Thank you for sharing!

  64. Barbara Belyea on

    I’ve always wondered what wellspring fed the calm joyful balance of Robert Genn’s art. Now I know. Thank you, Sara, for your kindness in sharing the story of your family’s remarkable lives.

  65. Thankyou for sharing your family’s story. I will head over to read more. And I’m sorry that you have lost your mother. You and your siblings are orphans now. It’s a strange feeling, not having parents. But having each other, and the memories, will sustain you. xxx

  66. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Sara, at the loss of your wonderful mother. I have read and benefited from your dad’s letters from day one through the years and have followed yours, now knowing about the essential person in your lives who made it all possible. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and remarkable history with us! God bless you all.

  67. Marcia Hornbeck on

    My sincere sympathies to your family on the loss of your mother. Your memorial to her makes me wish I had known her, too. You describe her with so much love.!

  68. Lyn Tremblay on

    Sara, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s history and especially the beautiful words written about your Mom❤️ She, and your father, have left you an incredible legacy and such rich memories! Cherish those gifts,. They are your heart song, your inspiration, your life well.

  69. Sara my deepest condolences. I have been reading these letters for many, many years. Your parents live on not only in their own children but also in the hearts and minds of everyone who reads these letters. I know you and your dad are extraordinary and it comes as no surprise your mom was too.

  70. I see you’ve touched a lot of people with your story, Sara. I’ll add my own “thank you” as well. too paraphrase something that Olive Senior recently wrote, ‘in order to have fruit you first need a tree’. We all build on those who came before and couldn’t be who we are with out them. Your mother and father seem to have been a wonderful ‘tree’.

    Jack

  71. Russell Hennessey on

    Sarah I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mom was an incredible person and I am so glad to have known her. All the best to you and the family from myself and Sue.

  72. Sending warm thoughts and wishes for deep peace. I’m so sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your remarkable Mum. Many blessings to you and your remarkable family at this sad time.

    • Dear Sarah
      I am very sorry for your tremendous loss. After reading your eloquent tribute to her, it is clear that many of her finest attributes and your dad’s
      shine through you! Your courage and love at this difficult time will see you through…. Thank you as always for sharing ….

  73. Sending heartfelt condolences to you and your family Sara. This letter is a beautiful testimony to your mum—her life and the love and dedication she had for you all.

  74. I’ve re-read your memorial story tonight, Sara, with misty eyes. How very precious, your lives together, with hardships in the WWII generation, and then the strengths and talents of both your mother and dad in making loving nurturing surroundings for you, your brothers and sisters. And what a talented bunch they sired! Your wonderful memories of them will live on.

    • Mary Louise Abeln on

      What a gift to have both parents be so wise and passionate. Your grieving will be another way to honor your mom.

  75. Carolyn Fourie on

    Sara theres nothing i can say to you thathasn.t been said by others.Your letter was beautiful and i offer you and your family my deepest sympathies on your loss.

  76. What a wonderful, wonderful story. It filled me with hope, wonder and a sense that all things are possible for everyone, no matter the circumstances and hardships. Family – so important – so fragile – so strong.
    Thanks Sarah

  77. Such a lovely reflection, a rich tapestry, really, that you have woven, creating a mantle of love. Clearly a love intentionally, tenderly nurtured by a remarkable woman and mother, and planted where she knew it would continue to flourish – in those whom she loved most dearly.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Sara. May that mantle of love keep her close and feed your heart, always.

  78. What a moving and beautiful story. I am very sorry for your loss, but glad that you and your mother spent so much meaningful time together.. She raised a lot of artists indeed.

    The very best,
    Sharon Stone

  79. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your mother’s amazing story with such an abundance of eloquence and love. She will always be with you in spirit. Please accept my condolences on your loss.

  80. I did not know your Mom. However I followed your family for years due to your Dad who I admired.
    What makes a family so successful in the arts? Always doubted that it was possible. Now I know! Your dear
    Mom made it possible with all her virtues. A great person, woman and Mom. You are so lucky to have had
    her in your life.
    My sincere condolences
    Ursula

  81. I felt as tough I knew your father through his writings for years, and it is especially moving to hear of your mother’s life and recent death. What a blessing she has been to all of you. Thank you for sharing this lovely memoire.

  82. Pamela Goossen on

    Thank you, Sara, for sharing this lovely tribute with us. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you must feel. But what a life she had! What character, resilience, strength, compassion, beauty. And now, of course, both your parents would be immensely proud to see not only your accomplishments but the way that you lift other artists up. Thank you for your generosity — and gain, my sincere condolences.

  83. Leslie Hancock on

    Sara, thank you so much for sharing your family story so intimately. Your Mom’s love and devotion was a joy to read . I am so sorry for your loss. Know that Love never dies it only changes form. Her love (and your father’s love) for you and your brothers is still present with you every minute of every day. Never doubt that.

  84. Sarah, James and family. Your mother gave me so many memories that it is hard to remember them all. The hospitality and love is hard to fathom and it brings tears to my eyes. Be strong and remember we are all here for a reason. A year when we lost a few of the charms or our life.

  85. Sara, my sincerest condolences to you, your brothers, and the entire family as well as your wider circle of friends in the loss of your Mum. What a beautiful honoring of her life and presence that comes through the words you’ve authored above…such tenderness and love. Knowing this is a difficult time, may your family’s grieving be as gentle as a brief falling rain.

  86. Dear Sara, Thank you for your most beautiful story–a fitting tribute to your incredible Mum! I didn’t know her well but as new citizen of Crescent Beach, I have discovered just what a quiet legend she was. She was so proud of all of you and I know that you will carry a piece of her with you always! Blessings to you all.

  87. Linda and Murray Brotherston on

    We first knew your mom, and dad, through my brother Doug (and Gerrie) at Hambleton Galleries, and then through golf. She was terrifically gracious and terrifically lovely to be with, and to golf with. We are very saddened to hear of her death. Thank you for the heart-felt wonderful tribute you wrote. She was very proud of you, your brothers and your families, in a quiet sincere Carol way, and her grandchildren were always in her heart. Our thought are with you all.

  88. Denise Vanderwolf on

    What a beautiful legacy that your family has given to you and you will carry forward. So sorry for you and your family’s loss but know that your mom and dad will always carry in your heart.

  89. Amy McCormac on

    Oh Sara, my heart is breaking for you. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s awful to lose our parents, especially when we are in a close and loving family – a disturbance in the force. I’m glad you have this remarkable family where you will all continue to be so close and supportive and loving. Your family history reads like a movie, and looks like yours is the family to make it! Hugs, Amy

  90. Janet Faught on

    So sorry for you loss Sara. I see where you got your inspiration. Your parents are amazing and so are you and I am so grateful to read your posts. I followed your dad for many years before You started posting and received much. Thank you. Hugs!

  91. Dear Sara and family, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mother was a beautiful woman. As you are, Sara. Thank you for sharing her story.

  92. Deirdre Ní Argáin on

    A beautiful tribute, I soaked up every word. Heartfelt condolences. What a well lived life! An exhibition on the artist’s mother has just come to an end at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. As part of it a group of artists and creatives made short reflective pieces on their mother’s impact on their creative life. Making my own piece was a very healing experience for me and my mother who is now in her 90s. Although a very caring loving mother she was resistant to my art and my wish to be an artist. You have been a wonderful daughter and the love shines in your work.

  93. Radmila and George Ionides on

    Dear Sara and the family
    With great deal of sadness we accept a loss of another precious friend. Please accept our deepest sympathy and live the rest of your lives knowing how much love you have in your family. We in turn remember live with memories of wonderful days we spent with Robert and Carol. Carol shared with us many of her family’s stories which are so so well summarized in Sara’s letter, thank you for that, your parents are so proud of you.

  94. Rosemary Pahl on

    Dear Sara and family: Your tribute to your mother and in fact your whole family is heartwarming and truly beautiful. Your Mother was a very special person. May you find peace ,comfort and even joy in your memories amidst your tears and sadness. Even when somewhat expected, I know from experience that you are never ready for the loss of a parent. Thank you for sharing , with all my best wishes to you .

  95. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. She sounds like an amazing person and reminds me so much of my own mother. Always there doing for others, intelligent, denied going to university in lieu of the “boys”, making our clothes, keeping gardens and chickens, belonging to various groups, learning to golf, supporting my Dad both at home and at the store that they operated. An inspiration.

  96. Such a beautiful story of your family, Sara. I was not expecting the story to end as it did. Heartfelt and tearful condolences to you and your family.

  97. Heather Traub on

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful family’s story. I met your Dad once at the Leighton Centre outside of Calgary and he inspired me with his Down to earth spirit and his excellent work ethic. What a gift your Mom was to grubs out his best over the years and her children’s best as well. My condolences for this derp
    Loss. You and your brothers are in the front row, now. ♥️

  98. My condolences Sara and thank you for sharing your mother with us during this time of great loss. I read a quarter at a time until I finished the last line this morning. I felt each word needed my full attention and this is how long it has taken. Somethings are not to be rushed. I hope there are many in you life that will continue to whisper with complete conviction – you can do it! I hope they are there to say again these words on those days when it is too difficult to say to yourself – I can do it. My heart goes out to you and your siblings and the rest of your family.

  99. Heartfelt condolences to you and yours. This is such an eloquent and loving tribute to your beautiful mother and her amazing life. Thank you for sharing this with your readers, and wishing you love and peace with her passing.

  100. My deepest condolences to you and your family. Thanks for sharing this tender history. With so much focus on your dad in these letters, it was lovely to read and learn more about your mother. I love how she nurtured the artist in each of you. She did a great job!

  101. An amazing and beautiful tribute to your beautiful and talented Mom. A wonderful heart warming story to read. My deepest condolences to you Sara and to your two brothers as well. You are a wonderful compilation of your loving talented father and loving amazing mother. I know you will all keep on using the talents that they encouraged in each of you. May you be comforted in so many wonderful memories and continue to express your joy in art and being kind and supportive to others.

    All the best to you

    Paul

  102. Rita Ann Forman on

    Dear Sara,
    My deepest condolence for your loss. I hope your wonderful memories of your Mother comfort you in your grief.
    Thank you for sharing her life story and love.
    Sincerely,
    Rita Forman

  103. Dear Sara,
    So sorry to read of the loss of your mother. Missing my own dear, talented mother, I can relate. The story that you have written is an amazing, well written, detailed account of your family’s life and history … thank you for sharing.

  104. Very sorry for your loss Sara. What a interesting woman of substance and goodness, your mum, and what a wonderful life she lived. She has left you a priceless legacy. I have been receiving Robert Genn letters for 10 years now. It’s beautiful that you have carried on where he left… I see now more clearly the familial bonds from which great and delightful things spring. Stay well.

  105. This brings me to tears for the beauty of a life so well lived, and for your immeasurable loss. Thankyou for sharing this portrait of love, and your extraordinary mother. Sending you buckets of ❤️ And sympathy.

  106. This is such a beautifully-written tribute to your mom, and to family – a treasure of Canadian history and literature. There is so much of the 20th Century — the beauty and the horror — encapsulated in this story. I will never view your paintings (or your Dad’s) the same way again. Thank you so much for sharing, and I am sorry for your loss.

  107. Darrell Tomkins on

    A lovely tribute to your mother. An inspiration of a life well lived. Thank you for sharing your family story. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  108. Sara, your mom’s amazing life story touched my heart deeply. Your family’s example of integrity and strength continues to uplift me. You all walk in beauty and then sweetly spread it around the universe.
    I’m sorry for the loss of your mom from ‘this side’ and know she will feel loved and love you back, forever.

  109. I’m so sorry Sara. I didn’t see this till now.

    Your mother was a wonderful light in your life. I’m sorry that for now, her light has dimmed.

    I’ll be thinking of you.

    Peace and love,
    Ed

  110. I’m so sorry Sara, I didn’t see this till now.
    Your mother was a wonderful light in your life. I’m sorry that for now her light has dimmed.
    I’ll be thinking of you.
    Peace and love,
    Ed

  111. I am also just seeing this. I have so enjoyed your father’s letters over the years and now your own, and now reading this I finally understand how your father was able to create so much beauty and share his vision and wisdom with us all. He was so fortunate to have found this woman who gave so much of herself so that you all could be who you are. Inspiring you and caring about the people you became. My own Mom was such a woman:) Your words are so beautiful and are truly what every mother would want to hear. God bless you and your amazing family!

  112. Sara, thank you for sharing this wonderful story of your family and the wonderful, loving influence your mother was.
    I just saw this. Will be keeping you & your family in my thoughts.

    • Rolf Reichert on

      Sara, I just read this incredible letter about your family’s amazing history and the loss of your wonderful mom. I therefore would like to extend my sincere condolences to you, and your family. With love and peace to all of you sincerely, Rolf
      “God saw her getting tired, when there was no cure to be, he put his arm around her, and whispered , come with me.
      He took her to his garden, and laid her there to rest, his garden must be beautiful, he only takes the best.”

  113. Mary Gayle Selfridge on

    So very sorry for our loss of your beloved Mother, she is with her Dad again and May her walk on Spirit Road be filled with Peace and Light. Such a beautiful tribute dear Sara,blessings

  114. thanks so much for sharing. I feel honoured to have met your mum when you guys visited budapest. She was clearly so happy to be in the company of her own children and you of her company. that’s so special.

  115. Sarah, what a compelling read this entry is.

    I am so sorry for your loss. May your mother rest in peace, and may you and your family each be comforted, blessed, and healed. And may both of your parents now be reunited as a loving couple for eternity.

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https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Quiet-Morning-1994-34x30-wpcf_260x300.jpgQuiet Morning, 1994
Acrylic on canvas
34 x 30 inches
Robert Genn (1936-2014)

Featured Artist

Robert’s technique includes a tradition of strong design with patterns of color and form, with a pervasive sense of personal style. Grand themes are transposed onto small panels and larger canvases in a manner similar to members of the Group of Seven. Most of Robert’s work is in acrylic. He has also done considerable work in oils, watercolour, and silk screen printing.

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Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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