King of the Hill


I unearthed this photo of my father and grandmother recently when going through a box in the attic. I stared at it for so long, wondering at the lost beauty of that moment, revealing the seemingly endless future that lay ahead for my father. I wonder if this was taken the day the family left Iowa to come to California. He seems to be proudly gazing back, saying goodbye to his old life, and full of hope and excitement for the adventure in his future. One thing I will say about my father is that he always cut a dashing figure. My grandmother seems to be saying, “Yes, this is my handsome son, and what of it? He always steals the spotlight, but that is natural.”  And the little Scotty dog. I never got to meet him but my mother remembers him fondly, and had a beautiful carved figurine of a Scotty dog that she doted on instead.


It has been some time since I have updated this blog, and with the gray rainy weather it seemed like a perfect time to climb into the attic and rummage around for more of his drawings.

This image I find both haunting and serene, as if she is poised between one part of her life and another, trying to make a decision. I find pools very symbolic, and people sitting on the edges of them are usually trying to muster up the courage to go all the way in.

Or, they may just be toying with the idea, not really serious about it, but wanting the sensation of water swirling about their toes. I would love to see this one printed really large, maybe life-size, hanging on a wall.

woman at pool edge

Long Ago Portrait

This is a portrait my father did in the early 60s in Frankfurt around the time of my birth. I did not know of its existence until today. This woman’s daughter apparently found me on the internet and emailed me a photo of this painting. You can imagine my surprise. 


I really love my father’s painting style and so wish he had done more. He had a habit of giving away the ones he did so, so who knows how many more could be out there? Thank you, Sara Carter, for bringing this to my attention after so many years.

My and My Orderly, 1946

I love looking at old photographs of my father, because they often show expressions that were heretofore completely unknown to me. “A smile?” you might ask. “What could be unknown about that?” And I say to you that in the smiles I see from these photographs I see something in him from happier times. I don’t know how war could ever be a happy time, but I do believe my father was happiest while actively working as a Lt. Colonel in the Army. He loved his men, took great care with his appearance (as you can see from this photograph), and likely had many drinking buddies. I like to think of him like this best.

And, if you hadn’t guessed it already, my father is on the right.

Cheb, 1946 (as written on the back of the photograph)

Sketch of Neck and Shoulder with Drapery

'Til the Boys Get Home

I came across this article about my father’s military service when I was cleaning out the garage today. I thought it was worth posting. I like what he had to say at the end.

Samuel S. Wray, Jr. is awarded the Silver Star


Book, originally uploaded by Living in Monrovia.

3 x 5, pencil on paper

Coat Wrinkles

Red Tie, originally uploaded by Living in Monrovia.

3 x 5, pencil with wash

The End of the Beginning

I started this blog with the idea that I would give the world a little of my father’s talent, one that he kept hidden away, and write about him a little, as a way of getting to know him.

I have done that; I have started with the ending, an ending I saw coming from many thousands of seconds from now. My thoughts live in seconds, not minutes or hours. They thrash about before making it to the page, before my fingers tap, tap, tap so lightly to engage the current that carries their signal to the screen, and—tap—through cables and ether to yours. But this ending, that of my father’s life, was an eon within a second. An achingly short moment that will last forever in my mind. And so, it saddens me to say that this beginning of his ending is now over. My father passed away on September 1st, shortly after 9 a.m.

He had grown ever distant, depending on my mother’s care, rarely speaking, but existing as a monument to his own life, a mystery and an icon in the lives of his family, a face turning away, towards something only he could see, a hand that once expressed desire through lines, now clutching a blanket.

He was my father, yet I hardly knew him. He is the greatest unsolved mystery in my life, and I know not what to do with him, except give him to you, here, on the page. I have clues, through writings and drawings, of what he really felt about a life that changed abruptly at the close of the Viet Nam war. It was the end of the largest chapter of his life, and he closed the cover to the contents within, ciphering quiet secrets at the end of his pen.

Today, I open a Mead notebook, dated 1969. I want to find something of him in the quoted material he obsessively wrote down. He would not dare to write his own thoughts, but in copying down feelings and thoughts he could attribute to others, he may just be revealing some of himself. And now, as I read these passages again, I stumble and stop, because I can hear him speaking to me:

“We like to figure things out and make them come out right.”


CLOSED, originally uploaded by Living in Monrovia.

Here is a photo I took of one of the file drawers of my father’s. He obsessively cut out images from magazines and categorized them according to what would make the most sense in terms of a reference for figure drawing. I haven’t counted how many folders he has, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number topped 500.