Edwin Echelmeyer viewing the artwork of his late wife, Audrey Echelmeyer. Both of their works are currently on display at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre until Feb. 28.
For the Echelmeyer family, this art gallery is an exhibit of everlasting love between two lifelong companions: husband and wife; father and mother; grandfather and grandmother …
Edwin L. Echelmeyer is living a full life. Born in North St. Louis in 1923, the 97-year-old World War II veteran experienced a lifetime unlike many others. Shortly after graduating high school, Ed enlisted in the army. During his three years in the service, he received hand-painted cards and letters from a young woman by the name of Audrey M. Richey. He cherished these intimate messages.
Shortly after his release from service, Ed and Audrey were married. They ended up with a large and loving family: they had eight children of their own, followed by 25 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. Throughout their life together, Audrey continued to paint but was too busy as a schoolteacher to take it beyond a creative outlet.
"My mom always wanted to do an art show, but never had the time," said Maria Tadlock, youngest daughter of Ed and Audrey. "We've got over 20-30 years of her paintings here on the wall … her legacy and her art [have] spilled over to all of us."
Sadly, after 61 years of marriage, Audrey passed away, leaving her family a legacy of her artwork. However, Audrey’s love for creative expression continued … About a year later, her family started receiving paintings as holiday gifts. This time, the paintings were from Ed.
Audrey and Ed Echelmeyer's gallery, on public display for the very first time.
Ed took up painting and cooking as hobbies, two of Audrey’s favorite pastimes. Even though Audrey passed on, it feels like she’s always with Ed, inspiring him whenever he holds a paintbrush.
"One day he was just sitting there and felt the urge," Maria said. "It's very spiritual. She's very much an influence on him still to this day, even though she's not here … she's very, very close."
When Ed’s family brought his and Audrey’s art for display at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre, their works were celebrated. With his loving family by his side, Ed was presented a certificate of recognition from Mayor Len Pagano and Alderman Gregg Sartorius. Now, Audrey’s masterpieces are on display, side-by-side with Ed’s works, inspired by her eternal love.
Mayor Len Pagano, Ed Echelmeyer, and Alderman Gregg Sartorius at the Echelmeyer gallery reception. Dr. Sartorius is displaying Ed's Certificate of Recognition.
"I really appreciate what's been done by my family and by the people here," Ed said. "All the things that they have to take care of and do, and then to take the time to do something like that with me is just great."
The Echelmeyer family hopes that Ed’s story will give hope to anyone out there still wanting to explore life’s possibilities, and inspire us to never give up on new experiences.
To learn more about the Cultural Arts Centre, visit the Cultural Arts Centre's page. For more stories like Ed's, subscribe to the Cultural Arts Centre's e-newsletter.