July 17, 2010 in Washington Voices

92-year-old woman paints from the heart

Jennifer Larue
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Devonia Grashio, 92, pauses from painting at her home Tuesday. She turns out two or three watercolors a week from her table by the window.
(Full-size photo)

For years, Devonia Grashio stood behind her man, Air Force Col. Samuel C. Grashio.

She watched him go off to war in 1941 as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps. When he went missing, she took a course in drafting at Gonzaga University and went to work for Boeing to support her children. Her husband returned a year later and gained much attention as a survivor of the Bataan Death March and one of few to escape a POW camp in the jungles of the Philippines.

Grashio, 92, traveled with him as he continued to serve his country in the Middle East, Italy, Canada and America until his retirement in 1965. They settled in Spokane, where Grashio grew up. He found employment at Gonzaga University and she at a school for the hearing impaired where her drafting education came in handy. “I really enjoyed it,” she recalled, “I got to draw pictures to go along with the words we were trying to teach them.”

As she nurtured others while raising a family, she found artistic expression in ceramics but refrained from painting. “I painted a landscape in grade school with purple hills and a red sunset,” she said, “One of the sisters told me that I couldn’t use red with purple. That stopped me on the spot.” Still, her desire to paint remained; dormant but eager to emerge. She remembers her first inspiration coming from a painting her husband found in Italy in the 1950s and the thought crossed her mind that one day she could and would do that.

That day came in the late 1990s when she signed up for a class at Spokane Art Supply. Her first lesson was a still life. She moved on to more individualized attention with a few lessons from local artist Sister Betty Bradley and then she was off; fully emerged in art.

In 1999, Grashio’s husband passed away and art became the love of her life. “It gives me something to get up for every day,” she said, “I look forward to it and it keeps me sharp.”

She works in watercolor on a drafting table in the living room of her South Hill home where the walls in every room are filled with her elegantly framed work. The subjects include birds, animals, flowers, fruit, landscapes, old farmhouses and, her favorite, children standing in a frothy shore with their hands joined. She paints every day, recording the beauty that has touched her life over the years. “I get these things in my heart and I have to paint them,” she said.

Grashio has given away dozens of paintings to private parties as well as auctions. She has sold a few to family friends. In the fall, her son Sam Grashio hopes to find a venue in which to exhibit her paintings, a possibility that she finds both exciting and frightening. “I just hope the public likes it,” she said as she leans in with her hands on her heart, “because they come from here.”

If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail jlarue99@hotmail.com


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