By Marly Fuller
Most people look at retirement and 50 years of marriage as a wonderful goal. Jerry and Pat Harvey saw it as a great place to start.
It was more than half a century ago that the two met at University of Nebraska. Jerry was in dental school and Pat was studying business. Since that time they’ve been married for 53 years.
After school, Jerry was a dentist in the Army. During those years Pat danced through a variety of careers: secretary, NASA data scientist, assistant provost at William & Mary after getting her MBA there, and college math and business instructor. She was even working on a doctorate in leadership at age 70.
“This is my seventh career,” Pat said with pure joy and delight. She got into painting in her 50s and has been a professional artist for the last decade. “I never really took any art classes, for me it’s intuitive. I see it, she said as she pointed to her head with her eyes closed.
Included in the Harveys gallery description is the Jonathan Swift quote “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” Not only do the pair perfectly represent this idea, they have mastered the art of translating said vision into beautiful works anyone can enjoy. Pat’s abstract paintings are dripped in unimaginable scenes, blending traditional and unique styles and mediums to create portals into other worlds, both real and fantastic.
After 30 years of comprehensive dentistry in the Army and another eight as a contractor, Jerry took up woodworking in 1996. He was inspired by his father who had always been into furniture woodworking as a hobby and nearly furnished their entire childhood home with his creations.
Jerry’s projects began with just a few hammers and nails before he discovered Woodcraft of Richmond, where he took classes and got hands on with specialized tools. He learned how to use a lathe to turn wood and began making anything from Windsor chairs to PAAL and Woodcraft award-winning tables. He also makes turned bowls and miniature boxes, all from exotic, found wood.
“There is a sculptural quality to doing a filling,” said Jerry. “Dentistry is art and science. You have to have the vision and the hand coordination, and woodworking feels like the perfect segue.”
Jerry and Pat share a gallery at Artworks in Richmond, where they show their work in studio No. 106, lovingly named “Tea with the Black Dragon.” Pat has even painted some of Jerry’s work and dabbled in creating wood stains from scratch.
The duo have such an energetic, playful essence. When asked what their secret is to staying “young” and active, a summary of their philosophy is to “Take a risk and keep learning.”
Jerry has been taking advantage of the senior course auditing programs at local colleges to satisfy his curiosity about everything from the origins of the universe to philosophy. Right now, he’s taking a Religions of the World course at John Tyler. He agrees with the science that says if you keep your mind active and learning new things, you can stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s. It stimulates the brain.
Imagination is critical, especially for the Central Virginia Art League, which is chaired and inspired by Pat. She is coaching the group now for an upcoming abstract art show.
“It doesn’t take much to engage people in something different, if they’re presented with it,” Pat said.
Art for them both has become a healing, therapeutic experience. “Sometimes we’re happier in a world of our own making. Pat said, “There is more comfort in things that cannot be explained,”
They both giggled when they shared about their love of J.R.Tolkien’s,”The Lord of The Rings.”
“We saw the first Lord of the Rings 41 times in the theater; we just kept going to wherever it was playing and couldn’t get enough.” Pat said.
Jerry thought that their indulgence may have been unusual, until he met a philosophy teacher who has seen “The Matrix” more than 300 times.
After living in various Army communities around the country, their final post was at Fort Lee. They moved to Chester three years ago where they live with their five cats, two Mini Coopers, a garden that is itself a work of art, and a 105-year-old Wurlitzer harp (played by Pat).
Anyone looking to add some youth and playfulness into their personality could take a page from the Harvey’s book: keep learning, spark imagination, and let yourself be vulnerable and brave enough to take a risk on doing something you love.
You can also get inspired by Pat and Jerry by visiting their gallery at Artworks by viewing select works in Chester at Alpha Wave Adventures center and pop-up gallery, or by joining the Central Virginia Arts League.