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Local man paints a beautiful picture

Canyon Country veteran, former milkman and teacher highlights life with his art

Posted: January 4, 2009 9:03 p.m.
Updated: January 5, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Canyon Country resident Joe Hendricks holds one of his ocean scene paintings.

 
Joe Hendricks, a resident of the Friendly Valley retirement community in Canyon Country, has done many things in his 81 years, but a constant thread throughout the years has been his painting.

It has woven itself through his high school days, his time in the Merchant Marines during World War II, his career delivering milk and bread in the wee hours of the morning, his tenure as a kindergarten teacher and finally his retirement years.

"I fell in love with drawing and painting when I was about 15," he said. "My first works were on a scratch board, but later I moved into oils and watercolors."

Hendricks has painted mostly landscapes and animals, but there is the occasional portrait. "But I really love painting nature scenes, forests, mountains, ocean scenes. These are my favorite subjects. There is something peaceful and tranquil about them as well."

Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1927, Hendricks moved to the North Side with his family shortly thereafter. In 1944, he wanted to join the regular service after high school, but was too young. He then opted to enlist in the United States Merchant Marines.

At that time, the Merchant Marines was an auxiliary to the Navy and was called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.

During his term, he traveled to France to deliver ammunition to the Allies. On the trip he remembers observing German buzz bombs flying from the French coast towards England. "That was a strange sight," he said. "I was so young I wasn't really scared, but I just watch them fly over in amazement. I had not seen anything like that before."

After his enlistment, Hendricks became a milkman in Chicago. It was a job that required him to wake up early in the morning so he could deliver the dairy products to the customers before dawn. "That wasn't the greatest job in the world, but I did the best I could," he said.

In those days, much of the milk, butter, eggs and ice cream was delivered to people's doorsteps.
Hendricks also began delivering bread from the Weber bakeries to various grocery stores in the Windy City. In the mid-1950s the company transferred him to Los Angeles. After several years, he tired of this employment and sought another occupation.

"I had been attending Grace Community Church in Glendale," he said. "We were meeting in a garage, but had plans to expand. One of those plans was to establish a school. I always wanted to teach, so I enrolled at California State University, Northridge on the GI Bill to earn my teaching certificate."

Once finished, he was hired as a kindergarten teacher. "I suppose I could have taught in any grade," he said, "but the principal told me there were so few male kindergarten instructors in the state, I could make a difference in these kid's lives. He also said that these children do not have strong male role models in their lives, so I could really help them. With that kind of persuasion, how could I say no?"

While engaged in this profession, Hendricks continued to paint, and was busy raising three children from his first marriage. His superiors at Grace Community saw his work and asked him to teach art, as well. He was also a physical education instructor for several years.

After retiring from Grace, he moved to the Santa Clarita area and did some substitute teaching for the Sulphur Springs School District. After losing his first wife, selling his home and moving to Friendly Valley, he met a woman while walking his dog, Ginger. The two struck up a conversation and soon he recalled that she was a nurse who actually helped to deliver his granddaughter Kimberly.

Originally from Virginia near the Chesapeake Bay, Lillian was an OB nurse at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital for over 20 years and also had a spouse pass away recently.

The couple began seeing each other and were married within the year. They have been together almost six years now.

"He's such a sweet, special man," Lillian said of her second husband. "He has a fabulous talent for painting. Some of these pictures are absolutely beautiful. My favorites are the ocean ones, but they are all something very special."

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