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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Ruth Parry, 91 years young and still painting daily

May 09, 2018 02:18PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Ruth Parry’s oil painting of Mount Olympus. (Courtesy of Kent Parry) Summary: Ruth Parry, Holladay Artist of the Month.

By Holly Vasic | [email protected] 

At 91 years old, lifelong Holladay resident Ruth Parry is still painting almost every day. She uses oils on canvas and boards and is a fan of flowers and landscapes. Yet her flair for nature in her work hasn’t stopped her from painting almost all of her grandchildren and throughout her life. Thus far, she has painted nearly 700 pieces.

The painting of a 3-year-old watering tulips with a plastic cup is a favorite of Ruth’s youngest son Kent Parry. “We know who it is, because it’s my daughter,” Kent says of the girl in the scene. His mother has painted all of his children in different captured moments. “She’s done all of my nieces and nephews when they were young, in various activities. Out in the cornfield, or with flowers or with a favorite animal,” Kent said, of all 17 of them.

Kent is one of four children and grew up in Holladay with two school teachers as parents. Ruth retired from Cottonwood Elementary school nearly 30 years ago and that is when her art really began to pick up. Kent can remember her painting his entire life but only in the summer — school years are busy for educators — and even during the summers, they spent so much time at Lake Powell she didn’t paint nearly as much as so does now. Now, not only does she paint nearly every day, but Kent says she has a lot of works in progress happening simultaneously. “She’s just a bit more solitary now and a bit more … reclusive isn’t quite the right word, but a little more stay at home,” Kent said. She has more time than she’s ever had to paint, especially after her husband passed away three years ago. “This would be their 61st anniversary,” Kent said.

Kent’s mom and dad met at the University of Utah when they were both working on their teaching degrees. Kent said they met later in their schooling and his mom waited patiently while his dad served his mission in Hawaii. “They were married on April Fool’s Day so my dad wouldn’t forget when his anniversary was. And if he did forget he could say it was an April Fool’s joke.”

Ruth has work displayed at Parry’s Office Supply, Kent’s own business, and across the street at Myer’s Pharmacy. His dad was, what he calls it, the engineering department that would get her paintings set up at places. Kent has averaged selling about eight a year out of his store. “Which isn’t a lot,” he said, “but she likes to say it feeds her habit.” Ruth has also donated pieces and of course given them to family, like the one Kent has of his daughter giving the tulips a drink.

Ruth graduated high school from Granite High, now no longer standing, and grew up on Russel Street in Holladay. Kent recalls seeing some paintings her dad and brother — his grandfather and uncle— had done, but not a lot, and nothing like Ruth has accomplished. As for Kent, “We joke, and my dad joked about this as well, that we have the gift of appreciation and not of creation.” Ruth’s talent has passed down to some of the grandkids though, especially Kent’s own son Jeff, who is studying ceramics. Ruth has also painted with some of her grand- and great-grandchildren. At family activities they’ll often pull out the paints. “She has done that more with the second and third generations than with the first,” Kent said, but since she is a working mother and wife Parry understands.

Ruth’s shy personality doesn’t keep her from getting out of the house every once in a while for a lesson with fellow painter Bonnie Posselli, which has become more of a social call these days. Ruth has also given lessons to people in the neighborhood who were interested.

Kent doesn’t know exactly how long his mom has been painting, but he has a pretty good idea. “There’s paintings in the house that have been there well before I was around. So, I think she’s been painting most all of her, at least her adult, life,” he said, and she has no plans of stopping anytime soon.