Times Herald-Record by Chris Farlekas
Sitting in Bob Fletcher’s kitchen, the snow-quiet broken only the random cry of a migrating bird over the pond, it’s easy to understand how this artist captured the solemn moments of military funerals.
The 63 elegaic paints and drawings in his book, “Remembrance: A Tribute to America’s Veterans,” are rooted in the heart of this winter stillness, and in the patriotism of the Korean War veteran.
Twenty of Fletcher’s paintings from the book were displayed in Washington last month. They were chosen from hundreds of other submissions to commemorate Veterans Day and National Veterans Week.
The response to the initial publication of some of the work in veterans’ magazines in 1990, as well as the enthusiastic support of Rep. Ben Gilman (R-New York) was instrumental in the presentation of the New Milford man’s exhibition.
The same exhibit that drew so much attention in Washington will be on view today and tomorrow at Warwick Town Hall.
Over a breakfast of coffee and toast with cheddar cheese, the 70-year-old talked about the genesis of his art. Raised on an isolated farm in New Jersey, he was painting on wood his grandfather gave him before he learned to read. After Bob’s father dies of cancer when he was a teenager, Bob’s mother sought to foster his artistic bent by taking him to museums and parades. Bob became fascinated by military funerals in grade school. “I was out sledding one day when a military cortege came by,” Fletcher said. “I followed it on the sleigh until it turned dark. I was captivated by the ceremony and the honor shown a soldier. There was a mystique about it that captivated me.”
In his youth, he saw aged Civil War veterans at Memorial Day ceremonies. Once, when his mother took him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he remembers a World War I veteran sitting with a tin cup, accepting coins passers-by gave him. “He’d been gassed in the war, and part of his face was gone.”
After Fletcher returned home from Korea, he went to work in an advertising agency. In 1960, he began his own in North Jersey, commuting from his home in New Milford, just outside Warwick. He retired in 1985, and seriously began creating the drawings and paintings that make up “Remembrance.” The book traces America’s wars from the Revolution to Afghanistan, and often uses the historic Warwick Valley as a backdrop.
His son Rob wrote the text that accompanies Fletcher’s art. The research they went through “was enormous, and gave us a deep appreciation for what America owes its veterans,” Bob said.