Jim Stucko recalls when he was going to bed at night and his father would head for the kitchen. The elder Stucko was going to prepare a few batches of his winning rye bread recipe so he could bake it and take to some friends in the morning.
Not only was Stucko, a former Elba resident, a talented sculptor and artist, but he was also “an amazing cook,” his son said.
“I miss the guy a lot. Every time I cook something I think of the conversations we had in the kitchen,” Jim said during an interview Tuesday with The Batavian. “My parents rocked this world.”
Art pieces from John and wife Sophie Stucko’s collections will be on display with late artists Patricia Burr and Eunice Hare Murphy for a first-ever Mother’s Day Craft Sale and Basket Raffle 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Elba Firemen's Recreation Hall, Route 98, Elba. The event is being organized and hosted by Elba Betterment Committee.
“The whole thing is part of the grant we received from GO Art! for our project: Elba Betterment Committee presents Art Around Town. The idea for including our local artists actually came from one of our members, Kelly Dudley, who has always wanted to do this sort of thing at The Mill in Elba,” EBC President Pauli Miano said. “After contacting families, three were willing and excited to share their loved ones’ talent with us.”
The artist pieces will be on display in the Rec Hall. Burr and Murphy were art teachers at Elba Central School, and all three artists shared their work in the community by donating pieces to the school, churches and other organizations, Miano said.
The Stucko couple collaborated on a lot of projects, Jim said. John would make wood cabinets and Sophie’s handmade stained glass would adorn the doors. She was from Batavia and John from Albion, and after they married they purchased a home in Elba, Jim said. His parents were avid outdoors lovers, and his dad memorialized various species of birds and fish in a painstaking fashion.
“The birds were carved, the feathers were burnt into the wood for texture, and then he painted them. I bet he’s got 100 hours into the painting,” Jim said. “It wasn’t a job; it was a labor of love. He would stay in his shop painting, and if he didn’t like it, he would paint it again.”
He remembers his dad scouring books for just the right species of bird, and fine-tuning the colors and textures of each piece. His work grew so popular that people would offer to commission him for particular projects, though John rebuffed them. He preferred to create exactly what he wanted, and not necessarily what others had in mind, Jim said. Quite possibly the artist was a perfectionist, and it showed in his work.
One of his last pieces was a pileated woodpecker for someone he connected with over a love of the outdoors and birds.
“It was absolutely mind-blowing,” Jim said. “He was highly skilled in many venues, and he was a people person. Until we started to go through photos, I never realized how much my dad smiled.”
Jim chuckled as the thought about his folks’ resolve to remain strong — or strong-willed in some cases — throughout their busy lives. John Stucko was active with his craft, which included gourd carvings, until he died in 2019 at 89. Sophie died a few years prior in 2017 and was 83.
There will be 25 vendor tables featuring hand-crafted items and food. The committee wanted to ensure there wouldn’t be a lot of duplicated items, so each vendor is to be selling a particular craft. They range from wood signs and handmade purses to floral arrangements, ornaments and, for the sweet tooth, a bakery section with cookies, cakes and cannolis, Miano said.
The committee will also be serving food to purchase, and the first 50 Moms will receive a free carnation. Genesee County Sheriff’s Office staff will also be on hand with photo and fingerprint equipment for families that request it for their children.
Eunice Hare Murphy was a 1948 Elba Central School graduate. She then completed her degree in Art Education at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. She completed her MS in Elementary Education from SUNY Brockport. Her first teaching job was for the West Bloomfield School District. Her family shared that she drove her small Chevy with a standard transmission back and forth from Genesee County every day.
Over the years, “Eunie”, as she was known to her friends and family, taught art at Byron Bergen Central School, and finished her distinguished career as an educator at Elba Central. She taught classes in Art, Crafts and Photography. Eunice was a member of the Writer’s Guild in the 1970s and even tried her hand at poetry.
Eunice loved gardening, and with the help of a variety of rocks and different plants, enjoyed making clever and, at times, eccentric gardens. While teaching at Elba she was the yearbook advisor, and helped to develop the Variety Show which ran for years afterward as a fundraiser for the yearbook. Eunice lost her four-year battle with cancer in 1988 at the age of 57.
Patricia Burr’s enthusiasm for painting is evident in a collection of 14 sketchbooks, each with memories of the places and people she visited during vacations, workshops, and even in study hall at Elba Central School. Along with pencil and ink sketches is a drawing rendered in brown eyebrow pencil while in the dark at Kleinhans Music Hall without a pen.
Her minivan didn’t leave her home without “the art stuff,” just in case she would find an interesting scene. This could be while waiting for the doctor or dentist, or even during time-outs during jury duty; that was the time for her sketchbook.
Burr’s philosophy was to “make a drawing because you gain much more information by observing the subject than you do when you simply snap a photo.” Scribble a few color notes, date and time of day, weather alongside the sketch to help when planning to paint later in the studio, she said.
Burr was inspired by fellow painters Margaret M. Martin, Franklin Jones and Don Getz. Her education included Albright Art School, Buffalo State College, University of Buffalo and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Active all of her life, Burr died at age 96 in 2014.
For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/elbabetterment/
Top photo: A duck sculpture by the late artist John Stucko, and several artworks by Stucko and artists Patricia Burr and Eunice Hare Murphy to be on display at the Mother's Day Craft Show and Basket Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Elba Firemen's Recreation Hall on Route 98, Elba. Photos by Howard Owens.