When shopping at the local thrift store, you never know what you’re going to find.
In Andreea Myhal’s case, she found a piece of Nakusp’s history. Myhal was walking past the thrift store, run by the Arrow Lakes Health Care Auxiliary, when she spotted a painting in the window.
“I noticed the darker colours in the painting, and there was something dramatic about it,” she said. “As I got closer to the window I noticed it was the Minto, and I thought it was wonderful, and I love Nakusp so much, and all its symbols, so I decided I wanted it, no matter what.”
Upon closer inspection, she noticed the signature: J. Spicer. Myhal immediately went into the thrift store to see if anyone had bought the painting. When she found out no one had claimed it yet, she made her move and purchased it.
The Spicer family is both well known and well respected in the Arrow Lakes region. Their farm served the community for many years until the valley was flooded in the late sixties.
Though the painting was undoubtedly a Spicer creation, the question was whether it was Jean Spicer, or her daughter, Janet, who brought the Minto to life.
That question was answered when Myhal contacted Janet Spicer herself. Janet was able to confirm the painting is indeed a Jean Spicer original.
Looking at the painting, Spicer’s eyes lit up as she gazed at her mother’s handiwork and memories of her father, Chris Spicer, came flooding back.
“My twin sister and I were four when the Minto was decommissioned, but I can still remember going with him,” she said. “I can still remember riding with him on the Minto, and that huge wheel with all the water dripping off of it when it was churning around.”
The painting shows the S.S. Minto at dusk. The mountains behind the sternwheeler are highlighted by the soft evening light. The Minto itself shines bright white against the dark background. Something else that makes this painting unique is the medium used in creating it. Many of Jean Spicer’s paintings were done using either oil or acrylic paint but this one was done in pastel.
Along with being a talented painter, Jean was also extremely intelligent.
At the age of 17, she graduated from the University of British Columbia, and became the youngest woman in Canada at the time to have a bachelor’s degree in science.
“She was a genius, a shy genius,” said Janet.
Most of what Spicer painted was either landscapes or flowers. Most of the time she would take a photograph, using that for guidance, but every so often she would take an easel, painting what she saw directly in front of her.
Jean Spicer died in 1994. Seeing her mother’s work evokes a lot of feelings for Janet.
“I was very close to both my parents, and it’s very touching,” she said. “I love the painting, and I think it’s very beautiful.”
Myhal isn’t sure she’ll ever know how the piece wound up in the thrift store, but she’s very happy she was in the right place at the right time.
“I don’t know who donated this beautiful piece, but I’m eternally grateful and blessed by it.”