A picture to the past
When Susie Cerecedez walked into the The Graham Leader office for an interview Tuesday, Oct. 22, regarding Graham Area United Way, she found something she did not expect, a connection to her past and a man who made a profound impact on her life.
On the wall of the office was a 1977 drawing by artist Jack Stevens. Since 1970, Stevens worked on paintings, sculptures and drawings at his home, according to his website. He passed away Friday, May 3, in Wichita Falls, and to Cerecedez, seeing the drawing opened her to her past with the man in the small town of Kamay.
“I do remember being at vacation bible school and he was my Sunday school teacher from the age of 5, all the way until I was 13 or 14,” Cerecedez said. “So, every Sunday morning he was the Sunday school teacher, he was over the kids (…) he taught bible school lessons in junior high, he came to the school.”
Before working as the executive director for Graham Area United Way for almost 20 years, Cerecedez grew up in the West Texas town close to Iowa Park with her family. Cerecedez said her father was not very religious in the beginning, but came to an understanding with Stevens, who was a part of the First Baptist Church in the town, regarding her visits.
“Jack would try to minister to him (her father), so he came to our house quite a bit and he sat on the back porch with my dad and talked to him and so pretty much they had (an understanding) that, ‘Yeah, you can take her to church,’ so him and another family took turns picking me up and taking me to church on Sunday morning, Sunday nights, we did Christmas stuff and plays and stuff,” Cerecedez said. “I was just very involved and literally the First Baptist Church of Kamay raised me and he just happened to be a deacon, a Sunday school teacher and sometimes the preacher.”
On top of his religious work, Cerecedez said Stevens would make visits to the local school and show off his art to the students.
“The school was real lenient, and I always in art, and so he came to the school and he would show us his art and show us a little bit about how he did it and he always had the youth, and not when we were like little, little kids, but when we in junior high, we would all go to his house because he was over the youth and he would have parties and stuff and drinks and we would go through his art studio,” she said.
Stevens knew Cerecedez’s father well and offered to speak at his funeral, which she said was another way he helped her in over a painful experience in her life.
“He even preached at my dad’s funeral when he passed away, he took care of my dad’s funeral for us and I thought that was really kind and I didn’t even have to ask him, he just called and said, ‘I know it is a hard time, I would be more that glad to,’ and I said thank you,” Cerecedez said. “It was a really hard time, so he came and he did my dad’s funeral and he did it with amazement because he knew my dad well.”
Cerecedez said she plans to make a box with the artwork, a letter written to her from Stevens in 2003 and other items in memory of his impact on her. She said his impact gave her life lessons she will continue to use for the rest of her life.
“Everybody has a time in their life where they have to make choices, we always make choices (and) every choice leads to another choice, but probably if I did not have that word of God in me and that instilled voice in me (…) I probably would have made a lot of wrong choices in life,” Cerecedez said. “I mean it was easy to know that someone loved me, that God loved me and there was a purpose in my life that we all have a purpose (and) everybody has a purpose (and) that we all have gifts. I remember him teaching me, ‘The more you use those gifts, the more gifts you get. The more blessed, the more blessed you get.’”
For the rest of the story, see the Saturday, Nov. 2 edition of The Graham Leader.