Objects of Remembrance

by Linda T. Hurd

The oil painting of a ship by E. Louis Vuilleumier hung in my home where I grew up. I heard the artist had died in Italy in World War II. When my father sold our house, the painting went to his new home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After my father’s death in 1990, I learned that the painting went to a woman with the same last name who lived on Cape Cod. My father had a Boston accent with some French influence too, so he had a special way of saying “Vuilleumier.” I wondered about the artist and how my father had gotten the painting as my father was also a veteran of WWII. 

My father had often gathered at an uncle’s farmhouse in Randolph, Massachusetts with many aunts, uncles, cousins, as well as members of their faith communities. I met relatives from the USA and Switzerland there when I visited and helped my father’s cousin who lived at the farmhouse. When she, the third generation of owners, died in 2012, her heir and niece invited relatives to come and take some things before she would sell the house. I took a love seat, some framed pictures, and a small cardboard box. The box was addressed to Marie Vuilleumier from the Veterans Administration in Massachusetts. The box was only partially opened, but I could see it had an American flag in it. I wondered if this was the memorial flag for the artist. I didn’t know why the flag would be at the Randolph house but hoped I would be able to give it to a relative of the veteran.

I searched on Facebook, messaged two people, and then the box went into my basement. A couple of years later, I found a message from a man, Louis, from Cape Cod. He told me he was named after the artist and had a brother in California. His grandmother was Marie. His dad was the artist’s brother. I sent him the flag. I was glad that the flag would be with his family.

A couple of years later I got a message from Louis that they were going to honor his Uncle Louis’s life by having an exhibit of his art on Memorial Day weekend in 2019. My husband and I went to the Yarmouth New Church for the exhibit.

We learned more about the artist’s life and family. He had served in the medical corps, as he objected to killing. He served in North Africa and Italy. He contracted Polio and died within 24 hours of his first symptoms in November 1943, two years after enlisting, and was buried in Italy. He was 30 years old. Some letters to his family, photographs, and the collection of his artworks showed a talented and thoughtful man. His letters expressed his longing for the war to end and his return home. His parents were devastated by his death and not able to talk about their grief. They stored his artwork and letters away. At the exhibit, I saw the painting I had grown up with and many other works in oil and watercolor.

I have since seen Louis’s parents’ names in my grandparents’ birthday book and on the guestlist at their farmhouse wedding in 1916.  It seems they were among those who gathered at the farmhouse. The flag was left there. I am grateful for the ship painting that influenced me and my appreciation of art. It was a privilege to learn more about Louis and be part of the exhibit honoring his life.

Louis quoted in his notebook: “An artist is only a medium used by God to express and show the wonder and beauty of His works to those who otherwise cannot see them.”

Photos by Linda T. Hurd at the exhibit of E. Louis Vuilleumier (1913-1943) at Yarmouth New Church 2019

We encourage you to share a memory of someone who has touched your own life and work. Please share your remembrance in the comments.

Linda T. Hurd has enjoyed making art from a very young age. She has a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in writing and publishing, often using writing in her art. She sees her artistic abilities as a gift that has helped her in various ways throughout her life including making gifts, school projects, communicating, processing challenges, and gaining spiritual insights. Linda continually seeks more opportunities to communicate through her art and writing. Learn more about Linda’s artwork and blog at lindathurd.com.

Linda has lived in the Boston, Massachusetts area all of her life and is married with two grown married sons, three grandchildren, and another one on the way.  

2 Responses to Objects of Remembrance

  1. Being not so good at technology I could not go directly but copied and pasted the link into search and found this blog. Wow! My first reaction was “Have I seen this painting before?” No, but I have seen marine paintings in a similar style of the WWII era because there were marine artists on Cape Ann. It is possible that the pink light is distinctive, very luminous that to me suggests the light of God. This amazing story is a good reminder that many things work out or come into fullness in God’s time. Sincerely, Sharon

    • Artist Louis painted scenes around New England. I know there were paintings from New Bedford and I believe Rockport. So much beauty and character to see. I appreciate your observation of the light. I really like his style.