December 2017

…Frankie Pardoe, Artist

Everyone knows that Frankie Pardoe, who passed away on November 4 at the age of 79, was a talented painter of wildlife, hounds, horses, fox and house pets.

Who in our world does not have at least one “Frankie” adorning their walls? Oil, acrylic, graphite. Original, lithograph or giclee. In my household, we have at least four originals and well over a dozen prints. Our own private Frankie gallery.

Yes, everyone knows that Frankie was a talented artist – but her greatest artistic talent could not be seen. It wasn’t renderings of animals or the portraits of friends or family. And it wasn’t captured on canvas or paper.

Frankie’s greatest artistic talent was the art of listening.

Yes, Frankie could draw. But Frankie also had the gift of being able to draw us out – without us realizing that she had done so!

Drop by for tea!

The kettle was hot. She was just waiting for you to come by. Sit down at the table.  Tea or cocoa? What have you been up to?  How is so and so? She wanted to hear all about it.

Although we were clearly in her orbit, somehow she made each of us feel as if she were in our orbit.

Lady Frankie

The small, historic chapel, so much a part of our community, was overflowing. Shoehorned into the pews were friends who had known Frankie for 5, 10, 20, 50 or more years.

As capacious as was Frankie in her friendships, she kept her own counsel.

Frankie was disabled, over time her mobility becoming increasingly limited, her health increasingly more fragile. She lived vicariously, through her family, friends, her visual arts and her listening arts.

The chatter in the chapel was revealing. Childhood polio. No, a thyroid issue. Cancer. Lyme Disease. Lupus.

How was it that we all knew Frankie, but we didn’t know the nature of what bedeviled her? That was yet another of Frankie’s gifts to us. Frankie did not want to burden us with her pain and troubles. She did not want us to worry about her. We knew she had bad goes of it. We knew that there were times that she ended up in the hospital. We knew there were issues with her blood. We knew that this scourge made her increasingly disabled.

During the eulogy we learned that it was idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare platelet disorder that causes easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. It wreaks havoc on the immune system, and over time causes a myriad of other physical and medical conditions. The cause is unknown, hence “idiopathic.”

When asked about her health, Frankie merely expressed the kind of frustration that one experiences with a car that is breaking down all the time: it was an inconvenience and a nuisance, and not interesting enough to dwell on. Moving on. What have you been up to lately?

Going out and about became an increasing challenge over the years. The weather, the moon, the stars, all the conditions needed to align, but whenever possible, Frankie made an appearance.  She would be seated somewhere, regally draped in gorgeous fabrics, deep colors, crimsons and golds.

However, Frankie was not holding court. She was never in the center of the room. Instead, she would be off to the side, strategically seated where she had a view of everyone in the entire room. She was the audience, the world around her, the stage. Here, she could study the landscape, the colors. Here, she could study us.

And when we found her, it was only natural that we would genuflect. And then spend a few moments basking in the warmth of her attention.

Her Legacy

She began painting in the 1960s, and she was prolific. Her work appeared on the covers of The Chronicle of the Horse, Maryland Horse and The Equiery.

There is not a Maryland art gallery or an equestrian gallery that does not contain a piece of her work.

From notecards to original oils, Frankie was generous with her gifts, helping to support virtually every not-for-profit equestrian organization in Maryland, and, of course, the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association.

In her quiet way, Frankie played a critical role in numerous careers. Frankie’s discerning eye helped to propel Karen Kandra Wenzel when she was launching her career as a foxchasing photographer (after hanging up her spurs). Writes Karen on Facebook: “Frankie was so kind to use several of my fox photos as inspiration for her paintings. I was deeply honored that a couple even appeared in the Centennial Art Collection for the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association.”

The list of artists whom Frankie touched or inspired, who give Frankie credit for helping to develop their confidence, is endless.

The list of horse people who have a “Frankie” in their homes is incalculable.

Drop by for tea!

In the beginning, she would make the cup of tea or cocoa for us.

Over time, we made the cup of tea for her.

If pressed, Frankie would share her latest art with you. In the beginning, she would take you down to her studio. Over time: “Tom! Can you bring up…”

Tom. Tom Pardoe, her adoring husband. Clearly, Frankie was the star on top of Tom’s Christmas Tree. No woman was ever loved as was Frankie by Tom. And she equally devoted to him, their kind, gentle and loving marriage serving a model for others. Devoted daughters Kim and Stephanie, their husbands. And grandson Kyle, her greatest joy.

To the Pardoe Family: You could have kept Frankie for yourselves. Thank you for sharing her with the rest of us. Our world is more beautiful because of Frankie, and we are truly better for having known her.

– Crystal Brumme Pickett