Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A painting from my dear friend Rhody September 28, 2012

IN LIFE, RHODY YULE, impressed me with his humble spirit, deep faith and artistic talent. He thought the best of everyone. He appreciated life so much that, even up until days before his June 2011 death when he was but a shell of his former physical self, he desired to live beyond his 92 years.

Celebrity portraits Rhody Yule painted and hung on his garage, where I first discovered his work in the fall of 2009 while driving past his rural Rice County residence.

Losing my friend of only a few years—the man I met because I photographed the portraits he had painted and hung on the side of his garage in rural Rice County—was difficult for me. Yet, I knew Rhody’s legacy would live on in the hundreds of paintings he created through the decades.

Rhody, minutes before his gallery show opened in January 2011 at the Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault.

It was my absolute honor, after discovering Rhody’s work, to bring his paintings to the public via a mini art show at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church, rural Millersburg, and then during a much larger gallery exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

And now Rhody, in death, has blessed me with the gift of one of his paintings, the painting he knew I most favored.

A sampling of the religious paintings Rhody exhibited at a mini show at Christdala on September 26, 2010. The painting on the right is the one Rhody gifted to me.

On Tuesday evening, the day before my 56th birthday and just a day shy of the two-year anniversary of that mini exhibit at Christdala—yes, I spent my 54th birthday setting up that art show for Rhody—I picked up the painting Rhody wanted me to have.

I’d known for a few weeks that I was to receive the painting I’ve come to call “Woman in Reverent Prayer.” Tuesday I phoned Rhody’s stepson, Bob, asking if my husband, Randy, and I could come over and pick up the piece of art in a half hour. That would work, Bob said.

“Woman in Reverent Prayer” by Rhody Yule

Over at Bob and his wife Kathy’s condo, Rhody’s prayerful woman painting leaned against the living room wall as we reminisced about the man we had each loved.

And as I remembered Rhody, I felt myself slipping into sadness. I missed him and wished I had known him longer.

Then, when Bob told me how Rhody wanted me to have that particular painting and how Rhody’s gallery show at the Paradise was the highlight of the last year of his life, the tears seeped from my eyes. To be able to give someone like Rhody such a gift, to realize how much this meant to him, prompts the most humbling and joyful of emotions.

Shortly thereafter as I caressed the painting, Bob suggested that I might want to replace the dinged frame. No, I would keep the frame Rhody crafted, I said, running my fingers along the wood.

Bob lifted the four-foot by 2 1/2-foot painting onto the dining room table then so we could examine the date under Rhody’s signature. We could barely decipher the faint curve of double sixes, meaning Rhody painted “Woman in Reverent Prayer” in 1966 when I was just 10 years old.

I know nothing, really, about the oil painting except Rhody once sharing that it was based on another painting or photo, minus the rosary beads clasped in the kneeling woman’s prayerful hands.

Now, each time I view Rhody’s painting, which will soon grace a wall in my living room, I am reminded of my friend’s deep faith. And I am reminded of how very much his friendship meant to me and likewise my friendship to him.

To realize that Rhody wanted me to have this painting simply touches my heart with gratitude and love.

Rhody and me at his opening night gallery reception in January 2011 at the Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault.

FYI: To read about Rhody’s mini art show at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church, click here.

To read about Rhody’s January 2011 gallery exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault, click here.

To read my tribute to Rhody upon his death, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “A painting from my dear friend Rhody”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I absolutely love this post!!! What a wonderful story and what a wonderful gift you gave him by helping him have one of the best years of his wonderful life. I must admit I got all teary eyed reading this because I could feel the depth of your love for this talented and wonderful man and the grief that you still feel for the loss of a man who you wished you had known longer. Thanks, Audrey–what a wonderful tribute and a belated happy birthday. This is one you will most definitely remember!!!

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Treasure friends while they are near….take note–we only have this very moment and no guarantees of the next! A cherished gift to be sure! Blessings..D

  3. How lovely – it’s always amazing for someone to remember us in their death – such a blessing.

  4. What a wonderful gift you gave Rhody. To have his work displayed and admired must have meant so much to him. He was a talented man.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, Rhody was talented. In addition to the paintings he created because he loved to paint, he also was a professional sign painter.

  5. Julie Fakler Says:

    Wonderful story Audrey. Thank you for helping Rhody exhibit his work.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Julie. It was a team effort to make that show happen for Rhody and I was thrilled to be on that team.

  6. Jackie Says:

    The painting of the praying woman is beautiful, what a cherished gift and what a lovely story of your generosity toward Rhody. When i first saw the painting propped up next to the church (and before I read you words) I thought to myself….” i would want that one” I actually also thought, could that be “Mary” kneeling at the foot of the cross? I’m glad you have it, what a great remembrance for you each time you look at it!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Jackie, I cannot even begin to tell you how much having this painting in my home means to mean. The woman in prayer is such a contemplative piece, so reflective of putting one’s trust in God. And, of course, the painting reminds me of Rhody and his deep faith and our friendship.

  7. What a wonderful gift he left you, more than the painting.

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