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  • Writer's pictureAmyanne rigby

Max Dickson Weaver- an Unconventional Love Story



Max Dickson Weaver’s life was a love story although an unconventional one. If you were to have asked Max to rank God, family, country and art in order of importance, it would be a difficult task. For the majority of Max’s life, the four have been almost inseparable.


Max was an artist and the world was his studio. He was also a retired art professor. Although Max spent the majority of his career at Brigham Young University, he also taught school at Helper, Cypress and Logan High schools and at the College of Southern Utah (SUU). To say that Max loved the red rocks of Southern Utah, would be an understatement. He has been drawn to the red hues of Color Country since the ‘60’s. That was a five decade love affair.


On one of my most final visits with Max (grandpa), he sat close to the window observing the beauty of the freshly fallen snow on Cedar Mountain. He had sketch paper and pencil in hand and was working on a sketch of “Robber’s Roost,” Butch Cassidy’s hideout near Circleville. Nearby Max’s chair was a block of wood which will soon become a wood cut of his sketch. Max not only was a landscape artist (mediums include mosaics, oils, watercolor, monoliths, etchings, and woodcuts), but a ceramist, and a jewelry maker. He was a pioneer in art by establishing the “64 Monoliths Arches and Bridges” in Utah.



Paintings by Max Dickson Weaver part of the permanent collection of Southern Utah University.



Max’s love affair with the beauty of God’s world was only part of this love story, and even it revolves around Kay. Kay supported, loved and exercised patience in behalf of Max and his art for 72 years. Her home was literally an art studio/museum. Together they danced, sang, played, and painted their way through life as their love expanded to six children, 37 grandchildren, 97 great grandchildren, and now many many, great grandchildren.


It was a bet with a fraternity brother that brought the two of them together. Max, handsome with twinkling blue eyes was dared by one of his fraternity brothers to kiss Ruth Mabel Stoddard Kimball Weaver, or Kay as he called her. With confident arrogance Max placed the wager. After all, he had traded a few dances with Kay, and he was sure she was interested in him. But Kay was not a kiss on the first date girl. No, she made Max wait. So after a walk up the Logan River with Kay, he reluctantly placed 50 cents in his fraternity buddy’s hand.


Max lost the bet, but he won the girl. Dancing with Kay led to the bet, the bet led to a courtship and then an engagement. Max courted Kay during his poorest of poor days at Utah State. It was the 30’s, and the great depression hit Utah hard. Max was a farm boy from Layton, son of David and Sophia Weaver with roots dating back to early Utah settlement days. Max was determined to get his education and put his farming days behind him.


Kay was the daughter of Leo and Marie Kimball and granddaughter to the beloved Thomas X. Smith- a prominent Logan citizen in the early days. Kay carried herself with confidence, wore a smile and dazzled Max with her sparkling blue eyes. She in turn was quickly mesmerized by this darling farm boy.


Max walked 32 blocks to and from his apartment to court Kay. This had to be a mark of true love. Max and Kay had both grown up dancing, and together they quickly found a rhythm. Max remembered with fondness dancing with Kay at the fraternity and sorority dances at USU. He even seemed to hum his favorite songs while we visited “… I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places…” and “… She kissed me once, she kissed me twice, she kissed me once again.” The two were married on December 28, 1939 in the Logan LDS temple on a very cold morning.


Max took his first job at Helper High School teaching art. This was the beginning of his sharing many of the various art mediums with his students. Then he transferred to Cypress High School where he was teaching when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The following day a special assembly was held as the entire student body listened to President Franklin D. Roosevelt issue a declaration of war against Japan. This was a sober and reflective gathering. Many of the students were frightened. It was a given that many of the senior boys would be called to service sooner than later. Max’s call to serve his country came shortly thereafter. His love for his country was etched further into his heart. Whenever Max saw “Old Glory” flying chills ran down his back. He left behind his darling Kay and two young boys, Kimball and Kurt. The youngest of which would only come to know his father by his photograph. Max served for two years in the 1629 Engineer Corp where his unit earned two bronze stars as they served in the Liberation of the Philippines and the Occupation of Japan Campaigns.


Not only was Max committed to his religion, but to Kay. During his time in the Philippines, many of his fellow soldiers went to enjoy some time with the local ladies during periods of leave, but Max remained in the barracks alone and missing Ruth. Their two children Kimball and Kurt were growing up without their father present and Kay… she was growing more beautiful.


Max’s days aboard ship were crowded and noisy. He slept below the deck in a 7 hammock deep arrangement. Unfortunately for Max, his hammock was at the top of this formation. Night time was noisy with snoring soldiers and frequent nightmares from his shipmates. Max often sought solitude aboard deck. It was there he witnessed the great majesty of the sun rising and setting across the Pacific Ocean sky. It is a scene that has stayed with him his entire life.


Upon Max’s return from the War, he and Kay added four more to their growing brood. Max took teaching positions at Logan high School, CSU, University of Hawaii at Honolulu, and Brigham University. At each institution, he expanded the art program and increased the number of those enrolled in each art department. Max also furthered his own education in art as he received his Masters in Art from Utah State University and took two different sabbaticals to the University of Southern California and Long Beach College.


In 1982, after 21 years at Brigham Young University Max retired and served a mission to Nauvoo, Illinois for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with Kay and thus fulfilled a life long goal. The Great Depression had made it impossible for Max to serve God as a missionary in his earlier years. Life along the Mississippi for Max and Kay as missionaries deepened their love of God. They enjoyed working at the many historic sites, and Max enjoyed sharing his craft with the visitors. Just imagine, an artist along the Mississippi River as the sun is setting, fireflies are chirping, steam boats are roaring and echoes of Nauvoo’s past settlers linger… heaven on earth.


Service to his Church did not end with the mission to Nauvoo. During his lifetime he has served as a Stake Missionary for two years, and he worked in the Provo and Mount Timpanogas Temples for 20 years.


Following his retirement and his mission, Max took part in countless art exhibits both as part of a group and as the featured artist throughout the state of Utah. He continued to pursue his love of art as he continued to paint and “throw” pots. In his final years, he may have slowed down a little, but he never stopped.


Max chose to share his vast collection of art from his 40 years of teaching and creating with the state of Utah. He donated paintings, prints and pots to every school of higher learning in the state including among others: Utah State University, University of Utah, Utah Technical University, Brigham Young University, Southern Utah University and Utah Valley University. His paintings can also be viewed at the Huntsman Cancer Institute as well as hospitals, museums and government buildings throughout the state of Utah. Max concurred with the Indians who referred to this great state as the land of the sleeping rainbow. He believed that it offered much to the budding artist. It was through sharing his art that he hoped to fuel the dreams of novice artists everywhere.



I found Max the carbon paper needed to complete his woodcut in his final days. We also finished his memoirs. Max was my grandfather. He shared with me his love of art since I was a tot. He showed me the beauty of mustard and mayo on a bologna sandwich, taught me how to make designs with my cheerios in my cereal bowl, showed me the beauty of a bare tree on a cold winter’s day, colored Easter Eggs with me (his were unimaginable master pieces), and took me on numerous drives discovering God’s beauty. An artist can’t seem to help but notice God’s beauty. For Max a thing of beauty was indeed a joy forever. And for my Grandfather Max, that love transcended to his love for God, Country, and Family.


In the end, Max was happy to be here, but I knew that he wished he was with Kay. You don’t just stop missing someone like that… not when your hearts learned to speak without words. I know he missed Kay “always.” I believe when Max returned home he was met by Kay’s sparkling blue eyes and bright smile and together they made their home on “Artist Street.”


Epilogue:


I held my grandfather’s hand the week before he died.  The sun was setting and its beams were streaming through the windowpane.  The music “Blue Moon”  was being played. “This was my wife’s favorite song,” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks.  Tears fell from my eyes too. Once again their love story sung to me.

I happened to stop by to see him just hours before he passed.  He did not know me:  He always knew me.  It seemed his spirit was trapped in his body and trying to go home.  The only sensible thing he said was, “Do Good.”  And so at age 38 I said good bye to one of the “constants”  in my life, my grandfather.  We buried him next to her in the shadows of the mountains he loved.

I stick a memory in my heart that warms me:  It is a beautiful winter’s morn.  I am walking with the both of them.  I am young again.  My hands hold each of theirs and grandpa is pointing out how the freshly fallen snow dances upon the bare branches.  The world is beautiful as it glistens and sparkles.  It hums the melody of their love story.  It is recorded forever in my heart.


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