Wednesday, February 6, 2013


 You have probably heard of this phrase, the idea that we are all only separated by six degrees, (or less!)  Well, I'd like to share my experience with this truism.  It involves my grandfather, the artist Charles Burchfield, (whose painting is pictured to the left) and an immigrant who was Palestinian and born in Jerusalem.   So grab a cup of tea and let me tell you about it.

In 1990 I met my life partner, Juanita, and she was, at the time, a nurse who cared for medically-ill ICU patients in their homes.  Her best friend, Deb, was the mother of a young boy on dialysis, and so Deb also became my friend. She learned that I painted watercolors, and that I had a famous grandfather.   Deb's son died a year later, and after a two-year struggle, Deb divorced and moved her other two sons back to California, where she had grown up. She found a small home to rent that was owned by the parents of her good friend from Stanford.  Dr. Bisharat had immigrated from Jerusalem back in the late 1940's, and he studied Psychiatry in New York.  But he loved to paint watercolors, and greatly admired my grandfather.  Though a starving med-student, he was able to purchase a Burchfield watercolor by making monthly payments.

So Deb often visited Maurice and Mary Bisharat, and one day, as she walked about their home, she noticed the Burchfield painting on the wall.  Dr. B proudly told her how he had acquired it, and mentioned how highly he regarded Burchfield's work.  Do you know, Deb asked, that I am friends with his grand-daughter.  Well!   Maurice really wanted to meet me!  A year later Juanita and I visited Deb in California, so of course we went to meet Maurice and his wife.

Speaking of influence, this is a painting by my mother, Martha Richter, done in  1945, one of her earliest.

Their lovely home was full of Maurice's paintings, and I was struck by the Burchfield influence.  Maurice and I bonded almost immediately, talked art and music (he was a talented violin-maker as well!) and eventually we traded some paintings.  As we readied to leave, Maurice talked about how he had actually gone to visit my grandfather.  When was that, I asked.  He guessed it was around 1950-51.  I told Maurice I was around then,  since I lived only one mile away, and often spent time with my grandparents.  We chuckled and said our good-byes. And that was that - except when I returned to my Seattle home, I retrieved my copy of the 10,000 page transcript of my grandfather's journals.  I started reading the pages dated 1950-51 and I found an entry about Maurice!!  My grandfather wrote that a Mr. Bisharat had visited him and they spent the day in his studio.  At the end of the day they came into the house for some tea.  I WAS staying with my grandparents that day, because my grandfather then wrote:  "Peggy crawled up into Mr. B's lap and they became fast friends." !!!!!!  It was nearly 50 years later when we "reconnected!"

A painting by Maurice Bisharat


  1. What a terrific story, Peggy! I love it! Sounds like less than 6 degrees.

  2. Wonderful story Peggy! How wonderful that your grandfather kept a journal and it is still around now!
    I came across Tina Koyama's blog and have enjoyed looking at the Seattle Urban Sketching blog. Your sketching and color of University Village (done today?) is what drew me to your website. You'll be happy to know that my brain was saying, "I want to sketch and watercolor like her!" I'm just beginning with sketching!
    On another note, I also saw the beautiful sketch of your wedding at Immanuel Lutheran Church. I grew up (well, junior high on) with Pastor Susan Van Hoy Burchfield up in the Shoreline area. Is she the pastor that was sketched?
    Is the Burchfield mentioned in this post just a coincidence to Susan Burchfield in Seattle??
    Maybe our introduction is six degrees of separation!
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Rebecca Britt