Shadow box a tribute to a mother lost too soon

Lela's Shadow Box by June Yoder.

Lela’s Shadow Box by June Yoder.

Ever since she became eligible a decade ago at age 65, June Yoder has been entering artwork in the annual Art is Ageless® competition at Farmington Presbyterian Manor.

She’s made quilts and crocheted afghans, sculpted a birdbath and taken photographs. This year’s entry, however, had a more personal meaning to June and her husband, Ed, who live in Bonne Terre.

She calls it “Lela’s Shadow Box.” Inside the 12-by-15-inch frame are mementos of Ed’s mother, who died when she was 25 of a then-mysterious heart condition. Ed was only 4. There’s a photo of Lela, a Perfect Attendance Certificate from Primrose school, a seventh grade report card from St. Francois County Public Schools, and several vintage Valentines. There are dried flowers and a little cloth doll. There are hairpins, a cross pendant and other jewelry, and a pin that says “Special Mother.”

The items had been stored in a drawer for years. June decided they should be on display.

“She was a lovable person, and the family has just given Ed things of hers that they had,” June said. “That’s how I come about putting everything together in the shadow box. I did the same thing with his Army things.”

“Lela’s Shadow Box” won first place in the Mixed Media amateur category at the Art is Ageless competition held in February. June has several other blue ribbons from past events, too. In 2013, her photo of a dilapidated house won at the local level and went on to be included in the annual Art is Ageless calendar. Last year, she took the prize in the local Sculpture/3D category for her sand-casted birdbath.

“I like to keep my hands busy,” said June, a retired hairdresser.

June also considers herself a historian, and she’s writing a memoir of her childhood. She attended the one-room Coonville schoolhouse, and she grew up around her parents’ combination grocery store, filling station, and roadhouse, which had dances on Saturday nights.

Last fall, when June’s mother passed away, she discovered all of the old beer and gas signs at her parents’ home. Now, the Yoders are making up one of their outbuildings to look like the old gas station/tavern. She even acquired some vintage gas pumps to put out front and a few other antique items from a home that her son helped to demolish.

“I’m re-creating my childhood,” June said.

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