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The First Artist: A Tribute to Dad

As Father's Day 2021 is upon us, this is the opportune moment to write a tribute to my father, Henry Ramos Caro, the First Artist in the Caro-Clare family.

My father was a talented artist and musician. A man who mainly kept his talents hidden under a bushel (unlike his daughter who blows her own shofar as far and wide as she can). He was born an American citizen in the Philippines, his father a US Marine (and POW survivor), his mother a native who kept her Marine on that lovely, hard won island he was happy to call home. They had 4 children, my father the oldest.

Shortly after emigrating to the U.S., my father was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought his own battles on Heartbreak Ridge in Korea. PTSD would be the result of that tour for the rest of his life. But there were some positives as a result of his 2-year stint in the military, Higher education was attainable. He enrolled in Pasadena City College majoring in Classical Studies and Commercial Art.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by my father's college portfolio, a collective of ads and artworks that were so very representative of the age (smack in the middle of mid-century). From his college works, it was easy to see my father was a fan of Cubism. Bold strokes and colors were also his signature, as seen in the painting above, an absolute favorite work of my father's.

He was also an amazing illustrator and cartoonist. He applied at Disney shortly after graduating from PCC. Sadly, at the time I speak of, Disney wasn't hiring 'people of color'. My mother felt it put a bit of a wrinkle in his plans and a dent in his confidence. Between that and having 4 kids in rather quick succession, there was no more talk of an artist career. I'm sorry, Dad, you would have brought much to the creative world.

But that didn't stop him from creative pursuits as a hobby. He painted, he strummed guitar, played harmonica and jerry-rigged a contraption so he could play guitar and harmonica at the same time, a la Dylan. He also played the upright piano in our home. Glow Worm was my favorite. He told the best corny 'dad' jokes ever.

And he definitely passed the torch on to his progeny. My siblings and I have varying creative talents in art and music, trickling further down into the generations. My father's college portfolio and paintings sparked my own desire to be an artist, although he was not very enthusiastic about it, telling me creativity is no career for 'those who like to eat'. Preach it, Dad!

But father, no one could ever crush the creative spirit that you passed on. Following in your footsteps, I took up my own studies in Commercial Art and made it my career, I, too, painted for enjoyment until, in a roundabout way, my design career transitioned back into a passion to create fine art. It's never too late, Dad, to start a new journey. And I like to think you'd be proud of my chutzpah at this later stage of my life. Serving myself a double-dose of the confidence that may have been squashed in you early on.

This is my loving tribute to you, Dad, The First Artist in our family. It's always in summer that I miss you most. A time when I would come home from a day at the beach, all salty, sunburned and sleepy, to find you grilling in the backyard, listening to Vin Scully and your Dodgers (and probably now rolling in your grave because I'm an Angels fan). Those are very happy memories and a very happy time for me.

And Happy Father's Day to all the fine fathers in fatherhood land. Unlike moms, who get all the glory on their day, make no mistake, you're important too. After all, what would this world be without the corny Dad joke.

And don't forget, readers, Dad's like fine art too. Remember it for all their special occasions; birthdays, holidays, or any days.


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