Fran Vanassen is a very talented artist who moved here from Fort Bragg three years ago. Although it must have been hard for this artist to leave the many majestic seascapes for painting possibilities, Vanassen says she loves living in Gridley. She had lived in Fort Bragg for 25 years after retiring from teaching first, second and third grades in Lodi for over 30 years. She and her husband John and son Ron had spent many summers in Fort Bragg before moving there.
Often showing her quick wit, Vanassen said her husband went fishing every time he saw a mud puddle.
Vanassen started drawing when she was little, but drawing is not her favorite pastime. She remembers her first drawing was of an elephant. She specializes in wax based pencils and acrylics. Several of her paintings are on display at the Bank of the West in Gridley. She took lessons from artists such as E. John Robinson and Bill Martin.
Vanassen teaches pencil and acrylic painting at The Wishing Corner and is thoroughly enjoying it. All class supplies are provided for the classes and available for purchase for future projects. She enjoys getting acquainted with the people who are excited to have the classes available here. Vanassen will teach from junior high age and up.
Art isn't her only talent as Vanassen can play the piano by ear.
Growing up in Texas, her father was an oil field worker and her family lived in a home on a company lease.
A part of her life that still makes her cry even though she was just 11 when it happened, is the fact that she was a student at the New London School at the time of the famous explosion March 18, 1937.
She, along with other surviving students were interviewed in 2007 for a DVD now out, "When Even Angels Wept," which states that that day began like any other day for the children of New London Texas. Thirteen minutes before the last bell, 293 of the children had fallen victim to the worst school tragedy in American history. Accumulation of leaked natural gas produced one quick and massive explosion heard for miles. Nothing remained from what was once considered the richest rural school in the world. An entire generation died at that moment."
Other than her memories, the only remaining ailment is that Vanassen is deaf in one ear but a doctor told her at the time she should have been totally deaf. She remembers bakery and lumber trucks being used as pseudo ambulances to transport her fellow students and teachers to area hospitals. Though she was covered in blood, she mainly remembers the white plaster everywhere, covering her head so much that she could not see for a time. It took two weeks before she could be seen by a doctor because of so many being treated at once. She was frightened of anything after that but she did manage to go back many years later to see the new school and the museum on the explosion that is now there.
Page 2 of 2 - "There wasn't a hospital that had a bed available. I had nightmares for years," Vanassen remembered. She was rushed to the hospital many times for shortness of breath following this horrific day. To this day she knows she cannot get excited or upset or she will be short of breath again.
When she somehow managed to get out of the rubble, she mainly remembers she needed to find her father who would be looking for her.
It is this horrific memory that most drives her to see the beauty of life and appreciate it, especially in her paintings.
She most enjoys painting seascapes, something her son talked her into trying. She has sold many paintings over the years and she said she is seldom idle.
She also enjoys quilting but finds great pleasure in painting scenes in open clam shells to hand out to friends.
It is easy to see why Vanassen was called "Dimples," in high school, but she says there are wrinkles now at the front door instead of dimples.
She has done plenty of volunteering in her time and says her life is happy. She and her husband Johnny were married 54 years, three months and 18 days before he died in 1998.
Beautiful paintings can be seen nearly everywhere one looks in Vanassen's home whether it be a beautiful barn that comes complete with knots in the wood to "Cuffy's Cove" a favorite haunt of her son's in Fort Bragg.
If you are interested in taking art lessons from Vanassen please call The Wishing Corner at 846-0869.