Our New Sanctuary

Members of Sufism Reoriented come from all backgrounds, professions and walks of life. Most have been actively involved in the Walnut Creek community for two decades or more – owning homes, pursuing careers and raising their children here. Following are biographies of a sampling of the people who make up our congregation. Perhaps you'll recognize a neighbor or colleague you've known for many years but didn't realize was a member of Sufism Reoriented.

Carol Conner

Carol Weyland Conner Carol Weyland Conner was appointed the Murshida, or spiritual director, of Sufism Reoriented by her predecessors, Dr. James MacKie and Ivy O. Duce, in 2001. She is a 1967 graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a doctorate in psychology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She taught in the Department of Child Health and Development at George Washington University School of Medicine before going into private practice. At the top of Murshida's list of special interests is childhood education. Her parents were both educators, and she grew up with a profound respect for the importance of education. "It is a joy to see the preschool and elementary age children thrive at our Meher Schools in an atmosphere of love, security, and rich, positive stimulation for their growth. It gives me joy to see these delightful children blossom and excel in the happy environment of our school."

Pete Wells

Pete WellsStudents at the University of San Framcisco recently posted a video of Dr. Pete Wells's rap lecture, "Call Me Fractal," on YouTube. Rapping is only one of the ways that math professor Pete plays with concepts he finds fascinating to make them "accessible" to students. For instance, he performs puppet shows on group theory, and he gets students out of the classroom to hunt natural fractals at Lands End on the San Francisco coast or to analyze the math in artwork at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Pete collaborates with scientists internationally in the study of hypercomputing – exploring what computers might achieve in the far future. Every Thursday at noon he hosts a free lecture at USF on new topics in computer science.

Ellen Evans

Ellen EvansTo thousands of students and alumni and their families, she is "Miss Ellen," the principal they visit and update about their changing lives. "One of the most satisfying aspects of my years as principal of The Meher Schools is seeing that our students come back. Sometimes they return as trained teachers who want to work in the school they love so much. I'm also excited that our alumni bring their children here. Now we have a second generation joining us." The school attracts a diverse population, welcoming people from all over the country and the world. (Only two percent of the students come from families where the parents are members of Sufism Reoriented.) The school has never advertised; people hear about the program through word-of-mouth and the school's website. Ellen, who serves on the Diablo Valley College Early Childhood Education Advisory Board, is also thrilled that so many families with children are moving into the Saranap area and enrolling at The Meher Schools. She says happily, "These young families are allowing us to operate as a neighborhood school."

Tim Tacker

Tim TackerIf you see a powder-blue '67 Volkswagen Beetle tooling around the Walnut Creek neighborhood, it's probably Tim Tacker's. Tim took the offer of a free VW "bug" and refurbished it top to bottom. The coordinator of buildings and grounds at The Meher Schools, "Mr. Tim," as he's affectionately known, also drives a green Ford pickup that's a familiar sight around the Saranap. After earning a degree in industrial education, Tim worked for several years in the construction industry. Then, in April 1991, a friend asked him to help with "a few projects" at the school – and he's still there, working hard. Tim's job provides constant challenges, but being around the vibrant atmosphere of the children is what makes it a special experience. "When I see little moments of kindness between children or teachers and students, it really touches me."

Lori Humphreys

Lori HumphreysAs a math teacher at Carondelet High School, an all-girl Catholic school in nearby Concord, Lori Humphreys impressed her students with her high standards and her availability to help them with their homework, even late at night. Lori was passionate about young women succeeding at math. She was also one of the founders of the Saranap Community Association (formerly Saranap Homeowners Association). Lori loved to sing and was a member of the Chorus of Sufism Reoriented. In spite of being in the final stages of leukemia, she participated in the chorus's December 2007 concert on Union Square. Lori passed away in February 2008.

Duncan Knowles

Duncan KnowlesDuncan Knowles's knowledge of the history of the Bay Area has led him to appointments to community task forces by the mayors of San Francisco and San Mateo, California; he has appeared on CNN, the History Channel, CNBC, and NPR. A retired senior vice president of Bank of America and former president of the Tice Valley Homeowners Association, Duncan has always cherished time with his family. A widower with four grown children, he recently married Ann Reed, and they share a condo with her daughter Laura and his daughter Mary, who has Downs syndrome. Recently he and Mary have been enjoying ballroom dancing together. Of Mary he says, "Though disabled, she is a giant in love and kindness. She inspires me every moment of the day and brings me so much happiness."

Lilli Remer

Lilli RemerMost Boy Scout leaders end their careers when their sons graduate from the program. Not so Lilli Remer. Lilli became active in scouting in 1981, and although Royce, the youngest of her three sons, became an Eagle Scout in 2003, Lili is still going strong. In 2009 she was awarded the prestigious Hornaday Award by the Boy Scouts of America National Council and, in part as result of that, was named to Who's Who in America for 2010. She also received the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council's highest award, the Silver Beaver Award. Lilli says the joy of scouting has been watching boys grow and develop – about 500 so far. She also contributes to the lives of young people through her "day job" as a research scientist investigating how to prevent drug and alcohol problems. Lilli gives life to the saying "Kids are our most important investment."

Nick Remer

Nick RemerAs a retired airplane mechanic, Nick Remer still likes to find out what makes things tick. Recently he designed a model steam engine; then he built a clock. He is renovating the home his family bought on Juanita Drive in 2007, doing all the work, including the plumbing, himself. Nick doesn't mind that not one of his three grown sons shares his enthusiasm for designing and building structures and machines. "None of them is interested in mechanical things, but that's fine with me. They're artists and computer wizzes. Their interests have actually expanded my life greatly. If they liked to do exactly what I'm interested in, it might be boring."

Stephanie Oswald

Stephanie OswaldAfter three decades as a resident of her Walnut Creek neighborhood, Stephanie Oswald still has more to say about her passion for her house and neighborhood than about any of the very different careers she has explored in her busy life. She has worked as an attorney, an assistant pastry chef, and a software tester, and is currently chief financial officer for The Meher Schools. Stephanie sees her professional life as a backdrop to her love of being at home and enjoying activities with friends. "This is the neighborhood where I set up a home with my husband and brought home two babies." Stephanie likes that she lives on a street where people walk with their children. Her other passion is cooking. And she even enjoys taking charge of food preparation for special events for 70 or more. "As with anything," she says, "it's quite doable once you get used to it."

Jacquie Allen

Jacquie AllenMarrying into a family with a Downs syndrome child reinforced Walnut Creek resident Jacquie Allen's belief that people with developmental disabilities can become contributing members of society. With a degree in education and a background in nutrition, Jacquie joined the staff of Las Trampas, a program in neighboring Lafayette that serves the developmentally disabled. She and her clients started a business called Rapid Rolls, baking muffins and brownies and selling them with coffee at the Walnut Creek rapid transit station. Now Jacquie is program director at Futures Explored, a Lafayette program that provides work- and life-skills training for adults with developmental disabilities. Futures Explored operates a catering company called Huckleberry Café-to-Go that delivers fresh gourmet box lunches and party platters to homes and businesses. Jacquie has two grown children and three grandchildren.

Diane Cobb

Diane CobbDiane Cobb, one of Sufism Reoriented's best-known artists, is represented in about 200 private and public collections in the United States and Europe. She is also a long-time art teacher at The Meher Schools. Diane describes her style as "realism with heart." One of her recent exhibits included landscapes inspired by the beautiful hills that surround Walnut Creek, works of "impressionistic" realism, and even surrealism. It also contained portraits of children. "I'm so struck by the beauty of children and the surprisingly individual ways their beauty appears."



back to top

Tom Smith

Tom Smith Tom Smith, like so many people, fell into a job after college but dreamt of entering a career he could really love. After graduating from Stanford, he went to work for a janitorial company and was shocked when he discovered he'd been there 28 years. During that period, he explored art as a hobby, taking classes and working on creative projects at home. It was his wife, Casandra, who finally suggested a career change after they renovated their Saranap home and yard. "She told me that I really had the skills to do landscaping installations and convinced me to retire from my job and start a business."

They launched their joint venture, Stonesmith, a landscape company that specializes in waterfalls, ponds, and stone gardens, in 2000. Tom does the heavy lifting and Casandra designs the surrounding landscape, selecting and putting in the plants herself. Tom, who has found the joy he was looking for in a job, says, "It's fun all the time. Every job is a work of art. Instead of a pencil, I have a shovel." For a little refreshment looking at yards with water features, go to the Stonesmith website.

Tighe O'Hanrahan

Tighe O'HanrahanDr. Tighe O'Hanrahan still remembers attending a conference on hospice work in 1975. "I was touched by the idea of treating death as transition from life rather than as a final event, a period when you need the support of your family and your doctor. I remember feeling this is the way death should be handled. There were only a few places in the country offering that kind of care back then." Tighe surprised himself by making a commitment to bring hospice work to Walnut Creek.

He began by offering hospice care to an elderly woman in his practice who was dying of cancer. "My colleagues wondered why I would want to continue to take care of a dying patient. At that time, family doctors felt more comfortable having someone else handle death, partly because of their discomfort and fear about death. I didn't feel uncomfortable being with a dying person because of my belief in God."

In 1977, working with a small group of dedicated volunteers, Tighe co-founded Hospice of Contra Costa County, now the Hospice of the East Bay and located in Pleasant Hill. For the next 10 years, he continued to volunteer while the hospice became established.

Tighe and his wife, Claudia, have four grown sons, and he serves on the board of the Saranap Community Association.

Karima Hastings

Karima HastingsKarima Hastings wasn't sure what to do when she graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a major in community studies. In 1996 she joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in Cameroon, Africa. After traveling six hours into the jungle, she arrived at her cinderblock house and was frightened to find that someone had stolen her stove and utensils. "My next-door neighbor, Fidele, was so kind – she came over and brought me a stove. She visited me every day. She was about 45 and had never married or had children and loved taking care of the Peace Corps volunteers."

After two years away, Karima's heart pulled her back to the Saranap neighborhood where she grew up, and today she is a second-grade teacher at her alma mater, The Meher Schools. "I love the fact that we teach cooperation rather than competition. That's what people thrive on anywhere in the world." You might see Karima on an evening stroll with her husband, Ira, and their son, Matteu, as they stop to look at the leaves and bugs the preschooler finds so fascinating.

Pauli Warren

Pauli WarrenSince Pauli Warren is dyslexic, she was nervous about trying to learn Spanish as a middle-aged DVC student. However, trying to communicate with her new neighbor, who calls her pelirojo (redhead), was ample motivation. "My neighbor was 20 years old with two babies, and she didn't speak any English." That was in 2002. Now Pauli can get along quite well in Spanish at her neighbors' parties, even though some still laugh at her pronunciation.

In spite of Pauli's reading difficulties as a child, she managed to get a Ph.D. in biology. "When I discovered science, it was like a curtain drew open for me," she remembers. Now most of her science goes into horticulture. She's even planted whole gardens for her neighbors and gives them all the flowers they want from her yard. Pauli is also a prolific knitter and likes teaching people who have difficulties with knitting. She knitted a dinosaur sweater for her friend's son, Gabriel. She will knit for just about anyone, including those who call her to do special projects for the Knitting Guild. For all her learning difficulties, Pauli compensates with relentless perseverance. And energy. One year she created 300 costumes – ranging from butterflies to tigers – for the Meher Schools' White Pony preschool.

Carolyn Parker

Carolyn ParkerAnything you ever wanted to know about roses, you can ask Carolyn Parker, if you find her working in her garden at the corner of Meek Place and Leland Drive. But there are other ways you can easily get her advice.

After a few years of growing and arranging roses, Carolyn discovered that she wanted to tell others about the exquisite plants. The challenge – she knew she wasn't a professional writer. "I would give chapters to friends and they would correct my grammar. It was a struggle to learn." The story of how she began by planting a few roses, learning as she went, is documented in her book full of practical advice, Roses A to Z. (Her first book, The Poetry of Roses, didn't require writing, as she paired poems with her photographs.)

Carolyn says that living across the street from The Meher Schools has greatly influenced her garden design. "I want the children to see beautiful flowers as they pass by on their way to school." Many parents and children have wandered over to see the profusion of roses up close. If you don't catch her working outside, you can read her gardening insights on her website, Roses from A to Z, and her Rose Notes blog.

back to top

Margo Watson

Margo Watson Margo still remembers the day she first drove to the summit of Mt. Diablo. "I had always loved mountains, but I was a busy mom. I lived here 10 years before I found time to make the trip." The vistas stunned Margo. She is a student of Chinese watercolor, and the view reminded her of a beautiful landscape painting from China. "I'm the kind of person who dives headlong into a project. That day I decided I had to photograph the mountain." Over the years, Margo has delighted in the many discoveries her explorations have yielded. "Did you know that the back side of Mt. Diablo turns red at dawn?"

In recent years, her passion has focused on photographing birds local to our area. Margo commutes many miles each week to Bay Area parks to capture images of red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, or herons in flight. "I laugh at how I must look, a middle-aged woman chasing birds through the hills, carrying a heavy lens."

Margo has lived in the Saranap for 25 years with her husband, Dick, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore Lab. Her photographs and note cards are available at Searchlight Bookstore, located at The Meher Schools, 999 Leland Drive, Lafayette, and at the visitor center atop Mt. Diablo.

Marie Schoolmaster

Marie SchoolmasterYou'd never guess looking at Marie Schoolmaster that she had been a police detective known throughout the county for her tenacious work investigating child abuse. In one highly publicized case, no one saw the connection between two unsolved child abuse referrals. But when Marie learned that both children had been in the same daycare home, she made an unannounced visit to the daycare provider. Seeing the children's subdued manner, Marie knew something was terribly wrong. Later, her sensitive interviewing techniques allowed the frightened children to open up, giving police the evidence they needed for a conviction. Marie received an award for her work on the case, and later the Concord Police Department named her Officer of the Year.

Convinced that parents need support to break the cycle of abuse, Marie served on the boards of the Child and Family Therapy Center and the Contra Costa Child Care Council. She also helped start the Family Stress Center in Concord.

Marie retired from the police force in 1992 and went to work as a teacher at the Meher Schools' White Pony preschool two years later. She says, "It's a joy to see the happy and healthy faces of the children here who are thriving in an atmosphere of love."

Bill Cook

Bill CookIn his 30 years as an obstetrician, Bill Cook delivered 6,000 babies. A birth he remembers vividly is the one he missed in 1965. On his return from naval duty, he was concerned that when his ship docked, his wife, Anna, wasn't there to greet him. Her excuse was a good one – she was in the hospital giving birth to their first son, William. Bill was anxious to get home for the birth, but Anna delivered a week early, and he missed the event by two hours.

Bill was a fourth-generation doctor. His great-grandfather served as both a physician and chaplain in the Civil War. Bill's grandfather drove a horse and buggy to women's homes to deliver babies. Bill looked forward to Sundays with his physician father when he would go along on house calls and they would then see a movie. In the family tradition, Bill says, "I never thought about being anything but a doctor."

Now retired, Bill lives with Anna on Boulevard Way in Walnut Creek. They enjoy volunteer work and occasional visits with their grandchildren. Though Bill did not deliver his grandchildren, he did make it to the hospital for all their births!

Ray Lein

Ray Lein Octogenarian Ray Lein jumps out of airplanes and belongs to a motorcycle club—but that's just for recreation. A World War II veteran and retired air traffic controller, Ray finds fulfillment now as a member of the American Legion. He is on the executive committee of his chapter's board of directors and serves in the honor guard and as a chaplain. He is also chaplain of his Masonic lodge. "It feels so natural to me," he says. "My career profile in college indicated that I should be a minister, but I wasn't ready then." Ray finds special satisfaction in working with military families. "I write letters of condolence to widows. When I officiate at a funeral, I feel honored to salute the life of someone who fought for our country's freedom."

Ray served on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific during World War II and after college trained as an air traffic controller in the Air Force. Later, working as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration, he was transferred every few years to a new location, including Alaska. "There's lots of excitement in that work, but it is incredibly stressful. Many times pilots in private planes radioed in to us, panicked because they were lost in the fog, often flying upside down. We would tell them to let go of the controls and the plane would automatically correct itself. Soon they'd call us back exclaiming, ‘You saved my life!' I said lots of prayers in the control tower." Ray loves planes and still holds a pilot's license. However, his main focus now is his customized motorcycle.

Ray LeinRay bought his first Harley Davidson in 1947 and rides his Harley Road King "hog" regularly as part of a Harley owners' club. "Hog riders are the kind of motorcyclists who stop and help little old ladies cross the street. On one last ride, a two-year-old got excited seeing our bikes, and the next thing you know he was sitting on mine trying to understand how it works."

Ray is a member of Sufism Reoriented and raised his two children in Walnut Creek after retiring from air traffic control. He moved to Dixon a few years ago. His daughter, Rosanna, is a preschool teacher at the White Pony School. Rosanna doesn't have a motorcycle, but she tries to keep up with her father in the adventure department. On a sunny summer Sunday in 2008, they went skydiving together. Rosanna says, "I'm so proud of my dad. I look forward every year to watching him march in Dixon's Fourth of July parade."

Sara Rosnow

SaraBefore the Nazi supply train could pass, 17-year-old Sara pulled the dynamite from her pocket and opened the box of matches in her hand. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed. The matches were soaked from the rain and the ditch she had just waded through. It was 1942, and Sara's pre-dawn Resistance mission in her native Poland was to blow up the railroad tracks.

Her companions lit their fuses, but again and again Sara's matches failed to light. With dynamite about to explode all around her, her friends yelled to her to quit and run and tried to pull her away. But Sara stayed. She took a deep breath and struck her last wet match. It flared into flame! From that moment, Sara understood that she and all her companions were in the hands of God, and that He was, indeed, governing His world. "I wanted to conquer the Nazis single-handedly," Sara admits. "Instead I got a miracle from God."

Sara spent part of the war in a concentration camp and lost her family to the war.

Later she started a new life in America. She got a job, married, and had two children. She studied psychology and began learning about classical art in her spare time. Eventually she and her husband saved enough money to buy a favorite Chagall lithograph entitled Artist's Wife. The piece helped Sara retrieve warm memories from her childhood. "Chagall and I came from the same kind of village life," she says. "His art is full of images that are very familiar to me." Sara's love of classical art led her to a job at Pasquale Iannetti Gallery in San Francisco, where she worked for 27 years, specializing in paper works by artists like Rembrandt, Monet, Cassatt, Chagall, and Picasso.

Sara has been a member of Sufism Reoriented since 1982. She tells her friends, "I don't know much about God, but the values of these people I was deeply drawn to. They are very, very important in my life."

When she finds herself awake late at night, Sara sometimes goes to her kitchen and bakes a few pies with apples gathered from a tree in her yard. With their thick and nutty crumb topping, her friends declare Sara's are "the world's best apple pies!" Perhaps a bite carries the fragrance of Sara's remarkable life.

back to top

Ellen Kalm

Tom Smith Ellen Kalm's 1930s childhood in France's Alsace Lorraine district was filled with music and interesting guests who enjoyed the conviviality of her home. Ellen loved playing the piano and was considered so gifted that she dreamt of becoming a concert pianist. However, in 1938 Ellen's life changed dramatically when the Nazis imprisoned her father in the Dachau concentration camp.

Ellen was shocked by the realization that her parents were vulnerable and she could lose her life at any moment. "I had always believed in God, but it wasn't till these dark moments that I completely surrendered to Him. When God saved my life, I felt He must have a job for me to do."

After the war, Ellen found herself on a ship headed for America, part of a wave of almost 100,000 Jewish refugees who emigrated here over several years. These immigrants often had no idea what they would do when their ships docked.

Years earlier, one distinguished guest in Ellen's childhood home had been Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, an internationally known psychiatrist and friend of her parents. But when Hitler's regime began persecuting Jews, Dr. Reichmann emigrated to America. When the analyst learned of Ellen's arrival in New York, she opened her home to the young woman. Ellen is grateful to her and to so many people in her life who have helped her when she needed it most.

Reichmann would become the model for the psychotherapist depicted in the 1964 best-selling book I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Her compassion bolstered Ellen's ability to start a new life. Ellen remembers Dr. Reichmann telling her, "You have so much love to give people. You should make a bridge between your musical talents and the field of mental health."

Ellen began building that bridge after marrying and moving to California. In the 1950s she took a job at Children's Hospital in Oakland and began working after hours bringing music to dying children. Ellen became a music therapist, and her prodigious volunteer work expanded to many other facilities to include people of all ages with catastrophic illnesses and injuries, the terminally ill, and severely disabled children.

Ellen draws on her own life experience to help others in need. She tells people, "There are three questions we each have to ask ourselves: ‘Who am I?' ‘Why am I here?' and ‘How can I cope?' Once we answer these questions inside ourselves, we can move forward with life."

Now in her eighties, Ellen brings comfort and the joy of music to critically ill children at George Mark Children's House in San Leandro.

Diablo magazine honored Ellen in its December 2008 issue as one of five volunteers who embody the spirit of giving in the San Francisco East Bay community.

Asked about her childhood traumas and the challenging lives of the families she works with, Ellen says, "We all have suffering. It's what we do with the moments we have in life that counts."

Kay Ramsdell

Kay RamsdellA high-pitched alarm goes off in the intensive-care nursery, and Kay Ramsdell reacts instantly. She runs to the baby's bedside and sees that the infant has stopped breathing. She puts a small mask over his nose and mouth and squeezes a bag of oxygen that breathes for him until his own respiration starts again. Kay is a neonatal nurse practitioner at UCSF Medical Center, one of the country's highest-rated hospitals for infant care, where she also attends challenging births. She explains, "Immediately after a high-risk delivery, babies are passed through a window into a specialized emergency room. It's amazing. A whole medical team is waiting, and all of our movements are choreographed to save the newborn's life."

In 2006, however, Kay faced a delivery that robbed her of her professional calm. She had flown to Alabama to help her daughter, Hallie, prepare for the birth of her third child. When Hallie went into labor, Kay volunteered to babysit her two little grandsons at home. But at the last minute, another relative took over, and Kay jumped into the car taking Hallie to the hospital.

No sooner had Hallie settled into the backseat than the baby was born. But she wasn't breathing! Kay immediately began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and asked her son-in-law, Dan, to dial 911. The 911 operator said, "Go to a delivery room," and hung up. But because of Kay's efforts, the baby started taking in air. Then Kay tied off the cord with one of Dan's shoelaces and borrowed his shirt to use as a receiving blanket. When they arrived at the hospital, Kay realized how strange they looked. "Dan was bare-chested, and a brown shoelace was tied around the baby's cord." Today Sophia Kay is a hearty, happy little girl, and a family member recently mused, "It was a miracle. What if Kay hadn't been there?"

Kay RamsdellIn spite of the intense stress involved in working with critically ill infants and their families, Kay loves her job. She's grateful for the "egoless collaboration" that she and other medical staff engage in constantly. She's also proud of the strides her team has made learning to support families whose babies aren't going to live. "I want these parents to have tender experiences with their babies – like going outside in the sunlight for a little while, away from all the medical machines. I find myself joined with families and my fellow caregivers so often in deeply shared love."

How does she cope with the stress of these strong emotional experiences? Kay bounces back—literally—through dance. As a young woman, she was part of the Santa Cruz Ballet Company, and she still manages an active life in dance, choreographing, teaching, and performing. Kay was one of the hip-hop dancers at the Chorus of Sufism Reoriented's May 2008 performance at Union Square in San Francisco, dancing to the song "All Are One." She says, "Dance balances my life, but it's much more than that. It comes from my heart, and from God, and it deeply sustains me. For me, dance is a channel for God's love."

Leroy Parker

Leroy Parker"You're a living, walking work of art," a woman at the bank recently exclaimed to Leroy Parker. She was referring to his hand-painted clothes, one of his many art projects that inspire people to engage him in conversation. He explains, "The power of art makes people feel like family and speak to each other spontaneously." Though Leroy has exhibited his paintings in museums and galleries, neighbors often see his large watercolors in the driveway of his Leland Drive home in Lafayette. Not long ago, a neighbor named Kathy stopped Leroy in the street and asked, "Are you the artist who makes paper out of plants and blue jeans?" She offered him some old jeans and dried lily petals that she had been saving for him. Leroy accepted them and soon brought her some new paper from a batch he named "Kathy's Pants."

Leroy also delights in discussions about art with his students at San Jose State University. He has commuted there since 1969 and been a tenured professor since 1973. One of his students thought so highly of his paper-making class that she arranged a half-million-dollar endowment for the department so others could continue to take the class in the future.

The most meaningful art conversation Leroy has had in many years occurred by mail. It involved his painting in a show at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara. "It was an 11-by-12-foot painting of geometric shapes and roses," Leroy remembers. "A woman wrote me that in the unfinished faces of the roses, she realized I had painted the face of God. This woman totally got it! All of my work expresses my love for God."

Leroy ParkerOne of Leroy's most unique art projects was painting manhole covers throughout the Bay Area, including two on Newell Avenue in Walnut Creek, across the street from Kaiser hospital. The day Leroy painted those designs, a stranger came over to talk to him. She told him, "I just visited my friend who is dying in the hospital. Seeing you painting this really lifts my spirits." Leroy still has the letter he received from Willie Brown, then mayor of San Francisco, giving him permission to paint any manhole cover in the city. Leroy also held the honorary title of Head Fresco Artist for Broadway Plaza's 50th anniversary in Walnut Creek.

In late 2009 Leroy completed a new and deeply fulfilling project—having a studio built next to his home for him and his wife, Carolyn. Leroy says enthusiastically, "The neighbors have been telling us how excited they are that we finally have our own studio. I'll be able to offer paper-making workshops." Visit Leroy's website to see examples of his creations.

back to top