Texas Painter Memorializes America's Fallen Soldiers

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Connections to the State of Texas


My father was stationed at an Air Force Base in Texas in the mid fifties, which is why I and my brother were born in the city of Harlingen way down in the southern tip of Texas. The closest large city in Mexico is Monterey and the most substantial city close to Harlingen in Texas itself is Corpus Christi.

My father did lot of fishing and scuba diving in the gulf and he and my mother explored the small towns of nearby Mexico whenever they had the chance. I still have a pair of beautiful carved stone lions – book ends that they bought on one of their many trips. My father was transferred when I was three and I never again lived in Texas.

Twenty years ago, my brother moved his family to Texas, Dallas to be precise, in order to attend a Bible College, Christ for the Nations. He and his wife and two, now adult, sons have lived in a small suburb of Dallas ever since. My three sons and I have driven out to visit them during the summer on several occasions, and the “flatness and treelessness” which quite a few residents complain about, doesn’t bother me at all. I rather like it.

But my family is not really the focus of this particular essay.

Ken Pridgeon from Baytown, Texas is the focus of this essay.


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Retired Sign Painter from Baytown, Texas


Baytown is a city in Harris County, Texas situated east of State Highway 146 and south of Interstate 10. Travel twenty-two miles west you will find yourself in Houston; travel south instead toward the Gulf of Mexico and you arrive in Galveston. Baytown located at the mouth of the San Jacinto River had a population just under 72,000 in 2010. On a quiet street in Baytown there is an unexpected and patriotic treasure inside an old unassuming store-front, the “Portrait of a Warrior” Memorial Art Gallery.

The gallery is replete with portraits of U.S. soldiers, men and women from Texas who have died in America’s recent conflicts in the Middle East. Most of the large portraits are completed, framed, and hanging on the walls. But there is always one painting in process and sitting behind the easel, you will find Mr. Ken Pridgeon, a retired sign painter.Every portrait in the store-front depicts a fallen soldier, a young man or woman cut down in the prime of their life,a child who will never return to their parents home.

Mr. Pridgeon began his career by serving his country for ten years in the United States Air Force where he worked as an electronics technician. Even while on active duty in the Air Force, then he was painting, usually to help out a fellow airman.

“You see we didn’t have color photographs in 1953 so I would make Sepia tone wedding pictures into color photos for the guys’ wives and families when I was in Germany. …. I got out of the Air Force in 1963 and did not know how to talk civilian. I must skip some things and go straight to what I had dreamed of doing, from when I did my first sketch – become a billboard artist….”

After spending a few years as a billboard painter (at the time an extremely dangerous profession), Ken established himself in a sign painting business. After he retired, and at the request of a friend, he undertook to paint the portrait of a young soldier who lost their life overseas.


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A Patriotic Portrait Artist


Before long Ken was painting another and then another portrait of a fallen soldier. He always talks with the families, finds out about the young man or woman’s life, hobbies, special interests and then paints a portrait that reveals and commemorates who they really were.

Mr. Pridgeon explained, “I am a portrait artist and teacher of portraiture. I like to tell the story of the person's life in the background and make the portrait a fine arts painting worthy of standing alone as the old masters did in some cases. [Families] love the warmth of my portraits and above all, they love that I maintain the subject's likeness throughout the process starting with the eyes…. I make portraits that cheer our living and honor our dead.”

The “Portrait of a Warrior” Memorial Art Gallery was established to memorialize and honor fallen military personnel from Texas who served overseas in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Underneath each portrait in the gallery there are photographs and stories provided by the soldier’s family. Thanks to Mr. Pridgeon’s hard work and dedication -- he spend 12-14 hours a day working in the gallery -- every family receives a copy of the portrait. They are also invited to come to the gallery when their son or daughter’s portrait is hung.

Ken’s earnest intention, his over-riding goal is to paint a portrait of every American soldier from Texas --- he refers to them as "my boys and my girls" --- who has died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just over five hundred soldiers from Texas have died so far and the number is likely to continue rising.

The following video tells the story of Mr. Ken Pridgeon, the men and women he strives to honor, and the “Portrait of a Warrior” Memorial Art Gallery in Baytown, Texas. Please take a few moments to watch the video. Thank you for your concern and your time.


Texas Painter Memorializes Our Lost Soldiers

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Books Addressing the American Military

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Your Comment is Welcome and Appreciated 37 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Oh, wow, how awesome he is!!! That is just fabulous. Thanks for the great hub about this painter. Very interesting. In His Love, Faith Reaper


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

You're welcome and thank you Faith. He is amazing and awesome isn't he? I was so impressed when a colleague sent me the video, I just had to find out more about him and his work. Take care. :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Absolutely amazing! What a wonderful man to use his talents to memorialize fallen soldiers and give some comfort to their parents. Thank you for writing this hub and showing me this man and his art. I was fine reading but the video had me crying. Beautiful man and hub.

Voted all vuttons but funny and shared with my followers.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

This hub made me cry. Ken is a great man. Such a sad wall. Voted up and more.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

tillson - Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I was so impressed with his dedication and devotion to the fallen soldiers and their families that I had to write it, The video had me crying as well. I appreciate you sharing this with your followers. I would like for everyone to see it...sometimes I think the war and the human losses incurred do not seem very real to us anymore. Ken makes these young men and women real. Theresa


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Thank you for highlighting Mr. Ken Pridgeon's “Portrait of a Warrior” Memorial Art Gallery. His work is truly overwhelming--the video is precious. A nation of heroes indeed.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Moonlake - You and I had the same reaction. It is a terribly sad wall, but I am so glad there are good Americans like Ken to memorialize our fallen soldiers. Thanks sop much for stopping to read and for your comments. Take care. Theresa


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

What a talented person! His work will long be remembered for the great ways he paid tribute to others.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi RT - I was so impressed when a friend shared his video with me, I just had to find out more and share it on HP. I have family in Texas -- Dallas area, and they had never heard of him. I want everyone to hear about what he is doing to memorialize the soldiers and comfort the families. Thanks for your comments. :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello teaches - I was amazed when a friend sent e the video about him. I just had to find out more. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great weekend. :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

I was thinking about a what if. What if each of all of our followers contributed $1 to Ken Pridgeon in support of his efforts to memorialize these warriors and provide portraits to parents/wives, children/siblings. Then what if all those people's followers did the same. Then what if we did again next year, then once every six months, then once a month…. Then what if that inspired a portrait artist in every state to do the same as he is doing…. What a wonderful thing something like that would be.


old albion profile image

old albion 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Mr Pridgeon is indeed a rare man. He shows so much passion for the fallen and gives so freely. Thank you for this excellent hub and finding such a man.

Graham.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Old Albion - He is indeed a rare man. You are very welcome and I am so glad to be able to share Mr. Pridgeon and his work with others. Have a great week.


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

A well written tribute to a man deserving tribute. Somehow I suspect such men find tribute in the doing what they do and not from the words I leave. It is what makes them worthy of our praise. Thanks for sharing Theresa.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

RT - That is a lovely idea andit would be a wonderfulthing. I am kind of in the middle of an argument with HP right now.... You have a large number of followers and are well respected onHP, Would you be willing to get something started? Can we even do that on HP? Would we ask people to donate a dollar to the foundation where he works? I will be happy to lend my name and hub to any thing you suggest, just not sure I should organize it myself. :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Alan - He is deserving of recognition and praise, but of course you are right. He was the caring and concerned man that he is. and was painting pictures of fallen warrior's long before anyone heard about him. Recognition is nice and praise is sweet, but in the end it is the work that matters and that we do it well, whether anyone else notices or not. :) ~~ Theresa


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

The time involved would keep me from organizing this any time soon. Someone with time to research the how-to and maintain the effort would definitely have my support.

Though my first thought was that a retired vet might be able to do this, I just heard about a 12 year old girl who organized people and groups to raise money for her cause. Here's a bit on her story:

http://highlandpark.suntimes.com/news/14458957-418...


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thanks RT - I will read her story and look into it. ~~ Theresa


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

What a true labor of love. It's mind-boggling, the way he learns about each soldier he is memorializing from the family and makes it so personal. Of course Alan is right, - Mr. Pridgeon doesn't need our appreciation. It is we who need to exercise our ability to appreciate something not only done well, but so much from the heart. Somehow we get to share in it by doing so. Thank you, Theresa, for bringing it to our attention.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Nellieanna - You are so welcome. I was so impressed by his devotion and determination to tell each soldier's story, the least I could do was to share Mr. Pridgeon and his work with others. It is a privilege to do so. Theresa


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you. We know a family whose daughter was the first female officer to be killed in Afghanistan. Her class ring is displayed in the library at West Point.

What a wonderful tribute, by the artist and by you, to these young people, the ages of my own children, who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Kathleen. I, too, was very impressed by this artist and his work. I wish more people knew about his work ad perhaps more artists of various kinds would do something similar. Have a great week.


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Theresa, and what a wonderful hub this one is.

Great tribute to our fallen!

Hope you're doing well...

Voted up and away

John


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Glad to see you active on HP again. It's been a crazy month for you!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Kathleen - It has been a crazy month, a crazy semester in fact. Just getting my toes wet and trying to catch up on reading. .. it will be a while before I have time or energy to write. Be sure and check out arb's most recent Hub - I think I shared it. Yesterday was a lovely break - thank you. :)


dauber 4 years ago

I AM KEN PRIDGEON AND I JUST WANT TO SAY THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME REMEMBER OUR KIDS WHO VOLUNTEERED TO DEFEND US-YOUR COMMENTS ARE APPRECIATED FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART...


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

You are very welcome Ken. And welcome to HubPages. I hope you are having a great week.


Brenda Rochelle 4 years ago

In August this year I went to visit our daughter, Cathy and her husband, Mike who pastor The Baytown Church. . They told me about Ken Pridgeon and his Portrait of a Warrior Gallery and we paid a visit. After shedding a lot of tears I introduced myself and asked if he could use help. I want to see the Gallery large enough to do honor to all Texas Fallen Heroes. Let us all remember Ken and his mission and Do what we can whenever we can to help him.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Brenda - I am so glad you got to meet him in person and see his work up close. How wonderful that you have offered to help him, and have a vision for a larger gallery. My heart rests easier knowing there is someone there on the ground to help him and look after the memory of our fallen soldiers. Bless you. Theresa


point2make profile image

point2make 3 years ago

I have seen his work and it is so moving. Ken Pridgeon story is so touching and uplifting at the same time. His dedication to our fallen soldiers and to their families is so inspiring. We all need to help Ken with his efforts .........and we all need to "thank" him in every way that we can.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi point2make - I agree with you it is moving and uplifting at the same time. I only saw it through the website and I was so impressed.with his compassion and diligence. I am glad that there are other people who know about him and his work. That is the primary reason I wrote the hub, I wanted people to know about him. Thanks for reading and commenting. Theresa

P.S. I was extremely impressed with your hub on Jews, Arabs and Palestine - I teach college history and I often try to make these things clear to my students. I want to read tit again, more slowly and thoughtfully and then I will respond. Thank you for undertaking what is usually a hot and divisive topic.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 3 years ago

Theresa: This is a wonderful piece. It is always so good to know that there are really decent people out there in the world who are still doing good things and important work. Voted up.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you TT2. I was so impressed when I ran across this gentleman's work. I went back to look at it 2 or 3 times and did a little digging to find out more about him and it made perfect sense to do a hub. Thankfully, there are decent people and they do do good things. :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

Wow...what gifts these are: Ken, gft#1 and the Portraits...the rest of the gifts.

How touched I was to see the diligence and love Ken puts into each work.

Thank you so very much for sharing this....

Voted up ++++ shared g+ facebook twitter pinned


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 20 months ago from Nashville Tn.

Thank you for sharing the story of this wonderful painter. He used his talent and gift to honor our fallen soldiers. A loving thing to do. I voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will share.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 20 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Patricia - He is am amazing man. I was so impressed with his story, I just had to write about it. You are so very welcome. Blessings. Theresa


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 20 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi vocalcoach - His work and service to our young men is simply amazing. I so admire his dedication. Thanks for reading. Blessings. Theresa

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    Theresa Ast (phdast7)543 Followers
    82 Articles

    Theresa Ast earned a PhD (Emory) in European History and has taught history for 20 years. "Confronting the Holocaust" available at AMAZON..



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