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Original drawing by famous Wahoo native and children's author/illustrator returns to town

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Wahoo Library Director Denise Lawver holds an original pencil drawing by Wahoo native C.W. Anderson that she recently purchased at an estate sale and donated to the library. 

WAHOO — Denise Lawver loves estate sales. But she loves them even more when she can buy an original drawing by one of Wahoo’s Five Famous Sons at an estate sale and then donate it to the Wahoo Public Library.

Lawver, who is the library director, made the recent purchase at an estate sale in Omaha. She was drawn to the sale after reading an article in the Omaha World-Herald.

A valuable painting had been discovered while preparations were being made for the estate sale. The painting, called “The Sanley Farm,” was by Dale Nichols, a David City native known for his art depicting prairie landscapes and red barn winter scenes.

The painting was of a farm that sits east of Surprise in Butler County. It is where Nichols' sister and her husband lived. It was painted in 1933 and catalogued by the Art Reference Bureau a few years later, but it basically disappeared not long after that.

Apparently, it had been on the wall of an Omaha home for many years. A family member purchased it to add to the collection of Nichols’ work at Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City.

Lawver’s interest was piqued by the article, and she was eager to attend the estate sale. She scrolled through a website with a list of other items offered at the sale and was shocked to see an original pencil drawing by C.W. Anderson was available.

Clarence William Anderson was born in Wahoo in 1891 and became a famous children’s book author and illustrator, as well as an artist. He wrote more than 40 books, but Anderson is best known for the book series “Billy and Blaze” about the adventures of a boy (Billy) and his pony (Blaze).

Anderson loved horses, and they were the subject of many of the books and art he produced. The drawing Lawver acquired is of two colts playing.

Lawver purchased the drawing on the final day of the two-day estate sale. She was worried that the drawing would have been sold already when she arrived early on Saturday morning, but to her delight it was still there. She purchased it for $150.

“I feel I got a good deal,” she said. “It was a very fair price, and I was just thrilled to bring it back to Wahoo.”

The drawing will join other art by Anderson, as well as other local artists, at the library.

The library began collecting art when Robert Dolezal donated paintings and drawings by his mother, Clara Bartak, who studied art at the University of Nebraska in the 1920s.

The donation sparked a plan to collect works from artists in Saunders County.

“There are some awesome, talented people in Saunders County,” Lawver said.

Dolezal also donated money to pay for the cost of the display and upkeep of his mother’s art, as well as an estate gift to be used for future art collected by the library. Lawver said some of the Dolezal donation will be used to reframe the Anderson drawing.

Once it has been reframed, the drawing will join a display of other Anderson drawings and prints collected by the library over the years. A wall in the library is dedicated to Anderson’s work.

Along with Anderson, Wahoo’s Five Famous Sons include baseball legend Sam Crawford, musician and composer Howard Hanson, movie producer Darryl F. Zanuck and Nobel Prize winner Dr. George Beadle.

Many artifacts from these men can be found at various locations in Wahoo. Honoring Anderson at the library is appropriate, Lawver said.

“It fits for C.W. Anderson to be here because he was an author and illustrator,” she added.

Lawver is intrigued by the fact that the newly found Anderson drawing and the long-lost painting by Nichols ended up in the same home in Omaha.

“I love the correlation between the two artists, one in David City and one in Wahoo,” she said.

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