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Paint Me a Picture

Ninety-three year old Nadene Heth has painted a beautiful life story

Nadene Heth has been drawing pictures ever since she could hold a pencil in her hand.  She began “painting” with her crayons and recalls when, during the Depression with her father having no money for crayons, she would journey to a nearby creek and gather small rocks to paint her pictures.  By rubbing the small creek rocks on her drawings, Nadene deftly colored her masterpieces with nature’s very own reds, yellows, and grays.

The ninety-three year old painter and retired schoolteacher was born at Hayes Creek on March 4, 1922 as one of five children born to Frances and Lula Gilreath Creekmore.  She is the widow of Arthur Heth who was a local school teacher and Army combat veteran of World War II.

She recalls growing up, especially during the Depression era, in McCreary County.

“We took in fifteen dollars per month from a schoolteacher who boarded with us,” Heth remembers.  “That’s all we had.  We used that money to buy flour, sugar, baking soda, and such.  We raised the rest of our food in a big garden and kept chickens, pigs, and cows.”

Each year, Heth’s family would grow an “early garden” and a “late garden” to provide year round food for the family.  She recollects shelling her daddy’s crowder peas, raising pumpkins, and enjoying the crunchy heads of cabbage her mother retrieved from a hole in the ground where they were kept buried and preserved for winter meals.  The family canned food including beans, tomatoes, and meat.  Nadene remembers her father raising and slaughtering young beef for canned veal and the yearly fall ritual of slaughtering pigs and salting the meat down in the smokehouse.

Although money was tight, Heth didn’t go hungry as a child and strongly feels living a long life has much to do with the type of food eaten during childhood.  Since her own childhood diet consisted of meats and vegetables served fresh or preserved without artificial preservatives, Heth is concerned about the health and longevity of recent generations who have grown up consuming artificial preservatives and additives in their childhood diets.

In addition to raising their own food, Heth speaks proudly of her father for making a cotton gin and of her mother for raising cotton.
“We would sit on each side of the gin and catch the cotton,” Heth explains.  “Mom would card the cotton and use it to fill her handmade quilts.”

Before retiring, Heth was a McCreary County teacher for thirty-two years.  She began her teaching career in the one room schools of Marsh Creek and Ball and taught grades one through three for about fifteen years in the two room school at Hayes Creek.  She spent the remainder of her career as a first grade teacher at Pine Knot Elementary.

“In the one room schools, I had about fifty students in grades one through eight,” she explains.  “I had to rotate students and subjects to make sure all of the children got their lessons.”

She laughs as she recalls “Old Man Murphy” coming to the school at recess when the students were playing basketball.  Heth had joined in with the students and was playing with them.

“I was so young and tiny,” she laughs.  “He couldn’t pick me out as the teacher!”

Heth, who is an accomplished crochetist, learned to crochet from one of her Marsh Creek students, Georgia Creekmore Wilson.
“We had a club,” Heth states.  “The girls brought their thread to school, and we all crocheted at break.

For Heth, the two biggest changes in education which occurred during her career were the arrival of black and white TVs on rolling carts in classrooms and the introduction of phonics.

“I was probably among the first to introduce phonics,” Heth recalls.  “I was really interested in phonics and helped get it started at Pine Knot Elementary.”

Heth has been the secretary of the Big South Fork Art Club since l992.  The club, organized in 1991, meets at Heth’s house every second and fourth Monday.

“It helps keep us young,” Heth says of the art club.  “We are all old, but we have fun and get a lot done!”

 Heth, who paints primarily with oil, has artwork on display throughout the county including the public library, churches, and the courthouse.  One of her favorite projects consists of six 30×30 paintings featuring highlights from the life of Jesus, including the birth, crucifixion, and ascension.  The six majestic paintings are displayed at the East Pine Knot Tabernacle Community Hall.
Heth has no idea how many paintings she has completed and regrets she didn’t keep a record of her many masterpieces.  She is primarily a self-taught artist but did take a few classes as an adult.  She credits the classes for teaching her how to blend and use other techniques.

Her advice to those who wish to paint is simple and direct.
“Just start painting and keep practicing,” she advices.  “That’s the only way you can learn.”

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