September 26, 2022

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Club News: P.E.O. MF discusses state convention, LP gets art history lesson | Lifestyles

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P.E.O. Chapter MF discusses state convention

P.E.O. Chapter MF met on June 2 at the Council Bluffs Country Club for its regular monthly meeting, with Nancy White as hostess. Discussion was held regarding proposed amendments slated for the Iowa State Convention, which was held June 4 in Des Moines. Representing the chapter were Mary Stuhr and Judy Hughes.

The program was presented by Lauren Lakatos, daughter of our own Cindy Lakatos, on skin care for the face and the importance of understanding “SPF is your BFF,” especially as we age. We thank Lauren for her time and for the skin care samples.

Our next social gathering will be a lesson in Tai Chi held at Valley View Park on June 16.

P.E.O. Chapter LP gets a lesson on artist George W. Simons

Members of Chapter LP of the P.E.O. Sisterhood met in the Social Hall of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on May 10, at 1 p.m., to address their current business agenda conducted by vice president Monica Sciortino in place of the vacationing president, Beverly Fletcher. Upon arrival, members, guests and visitors were treated to frosted cakes and beverages served from a draped table decorated with spring flowers by hostesses Katie Wright and Debra Ebke.

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In lieu of the earlier announced speaker who was indisposed, Chapter LP chair for programs and publicity, Joanne Becker, gave an impromptu talk on the life and work of the revered Iowa artist, George W. Simons (1834-1917) whose drawings and paintings are often on view at the Council Bluffs Public Library, the Dodge House and in the permanent collections of the Hoff Center for the Arts and Culture (PACE) and Joslyn Art Museum, including a self-portrait.

According to recollections, Becker said the artist was born in Canada and reared in Streator, Illinois. Simons migrated to Iowa in 1853 after having previously met and worked for railroad pioneer, Grenville M. Dodge whose surveying party was on assignment in Illinois for the Mississippi and Missouri Railway. Struck by this young man with the bright red beard and blue eyes, Dodge hired him on the spot as a cook. The cook spent his off-duty hours sketching scenes of the landscape, which were in such intricate detail they became a reference point to Dodge and the railroad surveying party. Simons was thought to have had a photographic memory, which proved to be of great value to the surveyors.

As noted, this experience, coupled with a need for employment, inspired Simons and his family to settle in Iowa where he focused his artistic ambitions to the territory known as Kanesville. His depictions captured the territory, town structures, log cabins, tepees. wagon trains, steam boats, locomotives and people, including native Americans and those of the Mormon Settlement. Brigham Young once offered to pay Simons a day’s salary of $6, which the artist thought to be a handsome sum.

In 1862, George Simons joined the Union Army during the Civil War, as did Grenville Dodge. Sources say that Dodge became the youngest general ever to serve in the U.S. Military. During the war, Simons kept a daily journal in which he sketched many scenes of war-torn towns and villages and soldiers in distress. However, since the artist rarely signed his work, much of it has perished over time.

After the war, Simons went on several traveling expeditions, which led his family to ask him to settle down in Iowa where they farmed and kept to themselves. Their need for privacy led people to believe the artist had passed away. On one occasion, George Simons was referred to in past tense by the local newspaper — The Daily Nonpareil — prompting a published apology.

Altogether, George Simons was an Iowa resident for approximately 56 years. Late in his career, he became a Council Bluffs photographer, taught art classes, and worked in local theaters. He also accepted a commission from N.P. Dodge, brother of Grenville Dodge, to draw and paint a series of scenes reflective of both Council Bluffs and Omaha. His style of Regionalism brought national recognition to the work of this artist. Of particular interest to many of his followers, Simons painted panoramic views, as well, in which he used up to 10,000 feet of canvas to encircle entire rooms. These works, too, have vanished over the years.

Simons ultimately retired to Long Beach, California where he passed away in 1917 at the age of 83.

Chapter LP was set to meet at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 600 Bluffs St., at 1 p.m. on June 14, when they expected to hear historian Dr. Richard Warner, president of Preserve Council Bluffs, in a presentation on the “Middle Years” in the development of Council Bluffs. Chapter LP is presenting a year-long educational series on historical highlights of Council Bluffs during its 176th birthday anniversary. The programs are open to the public.

— Quotes from Kate Gregory, librarian and gifted writer

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