- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (AP) - Like many local people of a certain age, Harold “Ham” Hampton remembers where he was at the time of the St. Anthony’s Hospital fire in 1949.

“I woke up that morning (April 5, 1949) hearing sirens,” Hampton recalled. “But I was only 10 years old, so I didn’t know what was going on.”

The fire, which began shortly before midnight on April 4, killed 74 people. But it galvanized a community - bringing people together for the common cause of building a new hospital.

Local Boy Scouts were among groups that helped raise money for what would become St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, and an iconic photo of four Boy Scouts receiving money from a motorist is on page 53 of the revised edition of “From Terror to Triumph,” by the late Donna Riley-Gordon, the longtime editor of the Effingham Daily News who died in 2012. Riley-Gordon’s aunt, Fern Riley, perished in the hospital blaze because she wouldn’t leave the babies in her care.

Lincoln Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America commissioned Hampton to paint the Boy Scout picture to raise money for the council. Officials there are asking for help identifying the boys in the picture.

Dan Wormhoudt, Two Rivers District president, said Hampton was a logical choice for the project.

“First of all, Ham is local,” Wormhoudt said. “The other thing that is good is that Ham is a student of Norman Rockwell, and Rockwell was a huge supporter of the Boy Scouts.”

While Rockwell may be best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers, he also enjoyed a 64-year association with the Boy Scouts, even though he was never a Scout himself.

Hampton, an only child who spent most of his boyhood living away from his widowed mother, said he began drawing as a child.

“I have been drawing ever since I can remember,” he said. “When I was a boy, it was kind of an escape.”

Hampton put his drawing aside as a young man building a career, first at the old Norge plant in Effingham, and then with 25 years as an Effingham County Sheriff’s Deputy until his retirement as chief deputy to then-Sheriff Ron Meek in 2000. But long before that retirement, he renewed his love affair with pencil and paintbrush.

“I got serious again in 1985 when I began taking drawing classes from Jackie Anderson,” he said. Anderson, now deceased, was one of the founders of the Effingham Art Guild.

“I thought I could draw until then,” he said. After several years of lessons from both Anderson and local artist John Gabb, Hampton sold his first painting in 1994.

“I began to get a little better, and John Gabb and Jan VonBokel (another local artist) told me I was missing the boat by not selling my work,” he said. Since then, he has worked on commission, though he donated his time on the Boy Scout picture. For that work, he used Rockwell’s work for the 1963 Boy Scouts annual calendar, “A Good Sign Around the World,” depicting Scouts of various nationalities coming together.

“I’ve always liked Rockwell’s art,” Hampton said. “He tried to tell a story and was big on facial expressions and hands.”

Hampton said the toughest part of his piece for the Scouts was the lettering, such as that shown on the sign one of the Scouts is carrying.

“By definition, I am not a letterer,” he said. “People think if you can draw, you can letter, but they’re totally different skills.”


SOURCE: Effingham Daily News, https://bit.ly/1O8LQSE


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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