Ahern: Beverly couple create 50 years of Christmas cards
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalistemail@example.com November 27, 2013 1:58PM
Beverly resident Judie Anderson’s artwork of Santa Claus for one of the many Christmas cards that she and her late husband Bill created together over nearly 50 years. | Supplied image of marriage.
Updated: January 2, 2014 6:11AM
Just in time for the holidays comes a true Christmas love story.
The story begins in the late 1950s when Judie Anderson met Bill, her husband-to-be, when they were students at the Art Institute of Chicago. The two visited a popular watering hole one night and noticed one another.
“I saw him in the next booth,” Judie said. “He had a friend with him, and I was with a friend, too, but we made eye contact. I saw that blond hair, blue eyes and the dimples, and I thought, ‘I want that.’”
Despite Judie’s sense that Bill was as attracted to her as she was to him, he did not ask her out. Instead, his friend asked her out, and she agreed, all while keeping her thoughts on Bill. Along the way, she discovered that Bill was engaged, which explained his not asking her out. But then one day, he was, as Judie said, “disengaged.”
Bill asked her out, but they were destined to have one date only. Bill was drafted and was soon on his way to Korea for the war there.
The two kept in touch via letters, and at one point, when Bill was scheduled for a trip to Japan, he asked Judie what gift she might like from his travels. Judie promptly requested white, silk brocade dress material, but Bill did not catch on that she intended the material for a wedding dress — a dress for their marriage.
By 1960, Bill was released from the service, and when he returned he proposed to Judie. They married in 1961. Because each created Christmas cards every year, they decided to combine their talents and give the gift of art to their friends and family. Thus began a tradition that continued each year of their life together.
The first set of cards produced in the 1960s included all kinds of Christmas themes, whether it was in art, stories, or in one case, a recipe for Christmas mulled wine. By the 1970s, their children, Karen and Jamie, were contributing, and the Christmas cards reflected artwork the children created.
By the 1990s, grandchildren were on the scene, and the cards began to reflect new little people in the Andersons’ lives. Their creativity never waned, as evidenced by recipients one year receiving a flat card with folding instructions inside. Once folded, the card formed a box that opened to reveal a tiny crèche.
The ‘90s also saw Bill experiment with anamorphic art that showed a distorted image that could only be revealed on a mirrored tube that was placed next to the art.
Over the years, people began to request a chance to be on the Andersons’ Christmas card list, and famous author Studs Terkel once gave a rave review of one of their cards.
Besides the Christmas cards, the Andersons illustrated many books together, and both worked for the Chicago Tribune as well. Judie was a full-time illustrator, while Bill free-lanced a special children’s cartoon.
In 1991, however, Bill suffered a debilitating stroke, one that would temporarily take art from him. The stroke was severe enough that he had to reteach himself how to create art. In time, he found that his creative ability returned.
Bill’s health took another downturn in 2001 when he became a victim of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. By this time, Judie was retired from the Tribune, and her caregiving duties increased.
“It was so worth it. I would give anything to be Bill’s caregiver again,” she said of her husband. “We just had so many good times.”
In 2009, however, their good times came to an end when Bill passed away, just shy of 48 years together. Judie’s card that year was a small Christmas tree, bare of any color, except for one lone ornament.
“I miss him being here,” she said. “We have lots of wonderful memories creating the cards, and we had a very good time together.”
Despite Bill’s absence, Judie still showcased his art, but his last contribution came when she included his self-portrait as Santa Claus.
“That’s his last card,” she said.
Greg Lochow, owner of Franklin Framing, 13019 Western Ave., Blue Island, gave Judie the idea to display the cards that she and Bill created together over the decades. She loved the idea and gathered up nearly 50 years of their creations.
“I just had this brainstorm for Judie to show her work, and now we’ll show Judie’s card exhibit throughout the holidays,” Lochow said.
Lochow will also sponsor a special holiday reception for the exhibit at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7. The event is open to the public and will start immediately after Blue Island’s annual holiday Light Parade.
After this show closes, Judie plans to stage another, showcasing more of the work that she and Bill created.
“Ours was a special relationship. We were not only marriage partners, but business partners as well — soul mates who shared a love not only for each other but our work as artists,” she said. “We created a world of art for ourselves and others to enjoy, and these Christmas cards are symbolic of that love.”
For more information about Judie’s art, visit her Facebook page or contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Franklin Framing at www.franklinframing.com.