MARCO ISLAND — Malendra Trick wanted to do something to honor our veterans. Specifically, the combat veterans of the Second World War, members of the “greatest generation,” who are now in old age, if still living, and will soon be only a memory.
So she decided to do what she does best – paint.
“I’ve been watching these World War II documentaries, and I woke up in the early morning hours one day and knew what I needed to do,” said Trick, sitting in her studio above the Shops of Old Marco. Trick is a painter, with an international clientele and a wide-ranging output, from landscapes and still lifes, to designs for licensed products such as handbags, puzzles and Lenox figurines, to nudes and portraits of many prominent Americans.
For what they are calling the Veterans Portrait Project, Trick is painting 20 individual portraits of local combat veterans. They will be displayed on Marco Island at Iberia Bank, starting with a reception on Sunday, November 10, the day before Veterans’ Day. After hanging at the bank for about a week, the exhibit will move to the Iberia Bank branch in Naples.
While the veterans depicted in Malenda Trick’s paintings are by and large veterans of the type that might be described as “grizzled” – these are mostly WWII vets – she did not paint them as they appear today. The oil paintings, many in black and white or sepia-toned, depict them as they appeared in their service years. The men in the paintings are young and in uniform, hearkening back to the days of Glenn Miller, “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” and a country united, not divided, by a war that everyone could believe in and get behind.
After the exhibit makes its rounds, Trick is giving them to the subjects. Clark Shaw, her husband, attorney and business manager, said that Trick’s canvases sell for up to $6,000 in larger sizes. He estimated the value of each portrait at $2,000.
“Malenda came to me for help putting the project together,” said Keith Dameron, vice president and branch manager of Iberia Bank on Marco. “She said, ‘I don’t know any veterans, and I don’t know how to put this together.’ Malenda specified combat vets, and said it doesn’t matter which war. I have a bias toward the World War II vets. We’re losing hundreds of them each day.”
With help from Lee Rubenstein of the VFW, Dameron compiled a list of veterans to use as subjects for the paintings.
“We have some true heroes,” he said. “Peter Thomas landed in Normandy on D-Day in the first wave. Bedford Biles was a paratrooper in the same invasion. It’s nice to show the World War II vets we really appreciate what they did.” Wayne Smith, said Dameron, was another veteran of Operation Overlord, the June 6, 1944 invasion of Nazi-controlled France.
One more recent veteran being painted is former Marco Island police chief Thom Carr, who served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Another subject of Trick’s brush is Earl Hodges, who owned a chain of local funeral homes and gave his name, along with a major endowment, to Hodges University. Unfortunately, Thomas Howard, the first in the group to be portrayed, and who Trick counts as an inspiration for the entire project, did not live to see it come to fruition.
Hodges University and the Naples Backyard History group have also expressed interest in hosting a showing. But the unveiling will come at Iberia Bank on the corner of Elkcam Circle and Bald Eagle Drive, on Nov. 10. There will be a reception for the subjects, their friends and families, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., followed by a public reception with refreshments from 6 to 9 p.m.