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Portrait of the artist’s wife

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Theresa Tucker with a sculpture done by her late husband Charles Lloyd Tucker (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Charles Lloyd Tucker has been dead for almost half a century but his art still hangs on the wall of his studio in Hamilton Parish, and his easel is in a corner.

His widow, Theresa, lovingly tends it all, carefully opening doors to allow air in when it is hot and humid, closing them at other times.

Once in a while people ask to buy some of the work, but she refuses.

“I wouldn’t sell any,” she said.

She met Mr Tucker when she and her mother, Jessie Jackson, visited his studio in the early 1960s.

She loved looking at art, and wanted to see his work. Mr Tucker was Bermuda’s first professionally trained black artist, and one of the Berkeley Institute’s first art teachers.

Right away, she found him not only attractive, but also warm and friendly.

“I was more seclusive, but meeting someone who was so full of life, I said, ‘Oh my goodness’,” she said.

Mr Tucker invited her and her mother around for tea. They found they shared a love of music and began going to piano recitals together.

Their marriage on June 29, 1963 caused a stir: she was 20 years younger than her husband.

“Did it raise eyebrows and open mouths,” Mrs Tucker laughed.

Until then she had led a relatively quiet life on the North Shore in Pembroke. Her father, Dudley Jackson, was a mechanic and her mother was a seamstress.

After Mrs Tucker graduated from Berkeley, she became a stenographer for the British Military, then stationed at Prospect.

Looking back, she thinks she may have looked on her husband as a father figure. Her own father provided for the family but was not a particularly warm person.

Before marriage, she was an ardent reader but afterwards she felt she really had to devote herself to her husband and their two children, Hans and Sarah.

“My life became about them,” she said. “But it was a happy marriage and very busy. His gallery was part of our home.”

They welcomed visitors at all times of the day and often without warning.

“I still have two or three visitors’ books filled with names,” she said. “People were so pleasant. I had worked with the army prior to that so I could feel my way into his way of life.

“We had governors, painters and other people come and see him. “[Sir Julian Gascoigne’s] wife, Lady Gascoigne, and he exchanged paintings. It was rather interesting.”

She loved looking at art, but never did any herself. Instead, she was the critic in the house.

“He didn’t seem to mind,” she said.

Friends would often urge her husband to charge more for his work, but he refused.

“That was just his way of doing the thing,” she said. “For a time he would sit out by the road. There was an alcove there by Bethel Church. He would put up his easel and visitors would stop and talk. There was never a dull moment in his life, from what I could see. I had to keep up with him. He was the artist.”

Tragedy struck the family in January 1971.

“He was getting ready one morning for school,” she said. “I heard this noise and when I looked he had flopped out on the floor.”

By the time the ambulance arrived Mr Tucker had passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 58.

“We didn’t know he had a heart condition,” she said. “And he always loved to cook. He would make cassava pie with a dozen eggs, and Christmas pudding. He didn’t know then that all that richness was seeping into his bloodstream.”

Mrs Tucker was left with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old to care for, and a mortgage to pay off.

To get by she closed off her bedroom and rented it out as an apartment. A friend of her late husband in Tucker’s Town helped her a bit financially. She also got help from an unlikely source — bees.

Mr Tucker had maintained several hives at the bottom of their garden; Mrs Tucker took them over.

“It was interesting,” she said. “You got your own honey and the wax. We would spin out the wax, first with a manual spinner and later with an electric one. We were able to sell the honey. All those little things helped us financially.

“So we survived. I was always believing in God as my strength and my helper.”

Later, she reluctantly sold them after spiders got into the hives.

Eventually, she found a job as an administrative assistant at Francis Patton Primary School. She was there for 30 years before retiring in 2001.

“I was able to work half a day when my children were small,” she said. “It was a pleasure working with the principal, Dean Furbert. He was there every morning at 8.30am and would play the piano for the children. That was very inspiring.”

One of her few regrets in life was that she never learnt to play herself.

“I guess it’s too late now,” she said.

She never remarried although she had offers.

“I was trying to live a life pleasing to the children,” she said. “I didn’t want to bring anyone in to upset our family. The Lord was my strength.”

Although she has slowed down a bit, she remains involved in a ministry run by Harrington Sound Gospel Chapel.

The church sends radios to people in poor countries so they can tune in to gospel programmes around the world.

“If you can get a radio into a family home it can make such a difference,” she said.

“In different parts of the world women are abused. There is so much cruelty in the world. There are nations that don’t want people to hear the word of God.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

Masterworks buys Tucker paintings

Chris and Nancy Cairns lost almost everything during the California wildfires last year.

Among the handful of valuables they had left were four paintings by the Bermudian artist Charles Lloyd Tucker.

They sold them to Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.

“When the call came in about selling the paintings the person answering really didn’t know what to do with the call,” Masterworks founder Tom Butterfield said.

He quickly snatched the phone. Paintings by the late artist rarely come on the market.

“The Cairns had never visited Bermuda,” Mr Butterfield said. “They’d inherited the artworks from Mr Cairns’s father, Don, who was here from 1960 to 1962 in the US Navy. He befriended Mr Tucker while he was here.”

The pieces include views of Victoria Street and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Mr Tucker’s widow, Theresa, marvelled at the condition they were in. According to her, they have fared better than some of his work here, probably because of the drier climate in Ventura, California.

“They look like he just painted them,” she said. “They are great.”

Masterworks was able to obtain the works with the help of a sponsor for a little less than market value. They are worth about $5,000 collectively.

Mr Butterfield was particularly excited by the purchase because Mr Tucker was one of his heroes.

“In my mind, Mr Tucker was a person who taught more than just art at Berkeley. He taught about dignity, self-respect and respect for others.”

Masterworks currently has about 20 Charles Lloyd Tucker works in its collection; the Paget gallery was gifted with one in January.

“We are having a good year,” Mr Butterfield said.

It is expected that the art will be reframed and available for viewing in May.

Don Cairns, left, and artist Charles Lloyd Tucker in the 1960s (Photograph supplied)
Theresa Tucker in her late husband Charles Lloyd Tucker's studio (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Theresa Tucker (Photograph supplied)
Happy family: Theresa Tucker with her late husband, Charles Lloyd Tucker, and their son, Hans, in the late 1960s
Coming home: Tom Butterfield with one of the Tucker works