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St. Stephen's art club's annual sale honors a founder

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By Joanne Barron
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

It was near and dear to their friend's heart, so Grandma Moses Art Club members decided their art show and sale would be held in honor of one of its founders, Ellie Oliver, who died at age 89 in August.

Proceeds from the show, held last weekend at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, went to the church's People Helpers program, which assists those who have lost their jobs, are underemployed or who might need other types of help — such a lift to the doctor's office or a home repair.

Volunteers work with those who need caregivers and other resources.

About 50 pieces were submitted to the show from art club and church members.

Artwork included a quilt, some knitted prayer shawls, oil and watercolor paintings, a hand-thrown clay pot and more from about 12 artists.

Debby Frantti, People Helpers director, said the members came to her a few months ago with the idea for the sale.

“They wanted to do it in memory of Ellie, who loved the ministry of People Helpers,” she said.

Last year was the first time the show was held, but Frantti said Oliver had been talking to her about the idea for a few years before.

Sue Harvey, an art club member, said the sale last year raised about $5,000.

This year, Harvey submitted a cross-stitch piece she made 25 years ago with a verse about grandchildren.

She also had nine oil paintings in the show featuring landscape scenes from trips abroad and in Pittsburgh or from pictures of other places that she thought would be fun to paint, she said,

Other members, Mid Ice and Connie Roman, who Harvey said are talented painters, also had pieces in the show. Roman of Patterson Heights, has been painting for 70 years,

Harvey said Oliver and the late Pinx Roberts founded the Grandma Moses Art Club about 30 years ago to get older members out of the house to socialize and keep active.

At the time, Harvey was running her own similar group teaching people how to cross-stitch. When her group didn't work out, Oliver asked Harvey to join the art group.

Harvey said she hesitated, because she never had painted before, but Oliver insisted she join.

“The first year, all my attempts went right in the trash,” she said.

But Oliver continued to encourage her, was patient and urged her to keep trying. Harvey has been painting for 25 years since she joined the club.

“Ellie was who mostly kept me going. I owe it all to Ellie, and I mean that,” she said.

Although the group has only a handful of members now, they still meet every Wednesday at noon at the Henning House at St. Stephen's.

Harvey said all the members agreed they wanted to name the show after their friend to let everyone know how special she was.

Those who would like to make a donation to People Helpers are asked to make checks payable to St. Stephen's Church with “People Helper's” in the memo line.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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