Random Memories of Cedric Duryee Guion – Rusty Huerlin

After my Uncle Dan passed away, I realized that if I was going to record the memories of his siblings, I’d better get busy. Aunt Biss was the first. She joined my late husband Don and me on a cruise on the Erie Canal and I spent three days recording her stories. I was able to interview my father (Lad) and Uncle Ced on two occasions each and Uncle Dick and Uncle Dave, once each. This is the fourth installment of Uncle Ced’s memories.

The final installment of the Random Memories of Cedric Duryee Guion is all about a very close family friend who became a rather famous painter of Alaskan Life. Colcord (Rusty) Heurlin was brought into the family fold by Fred Stanley, another artist who had married Anne Peabody, sister of Grandpa’s wife Arla and the Aunt Anne that Bissie lived with in St Petersburg. Rusty’s name has come up over and over throughout the random memories of the children and in grandpa’s letters. I believe it was Rusty who originally wanted to go to Alaska and convinced Dan and Ced that they ought to go there also and make their fortune. They all planned to go to Alaska in mid-1940, but unfortunately, when Dan and Ced were ready to go, Rusty didn’t have the money. I know that Uncle Ced was in Alaska for about six and a half years and he lived with Rusty for some of that time.

 

The Island belonged to the Heurlin’s and they let us use it. We used it long before we bought it. Through Rusty, we met his family. His mother and father came over from Sweden, his father spoke with a strong accent. He was a Custom’s Agent in Boston. They were a nice couple, they lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts in a nice house.

Rusty Heurlin gave my mother a painting – it was a rather famous one – he was very fond of her. He was younger than my mother and father by a little. We did a lot with him – we’d go hiking with him. He made quite a name for himself. All his life he lived by sponging. He was so charismatic that he could get away with it. He walked out of school, he took art lessons, he was a hobo for a while. The only thing that really interested him was painting. He spent all his life painting beautiful pictures. He was a good artist but he didn’t make any money at it. He knew all the artists in Westport – Red Heurlin – they knew Red Heurlin and they loved him. He loved dogs, oh, he loved dogs with a passion. There are a lot of his paintings around Fairbanks, Alaska, at the University of Alaska, in banks, in hospitals, they’re mostly outdoor scenes, some have to do with the early settlers, the Russians. Colcord Heurlin – he always signed C. Heurlin.

One painting did more to make him famous than anything else he did. Rusty made friends, he lived with me for a time in Anchorage. He made pictures. He made a mural, he

Cedric (Ced) Duryee Guion

Cedric (Ced) Duryee Guion

filled the whole wall with it, for one of the bars in town, a whole Hawaiian scene. He used to drink quite heavily at times. I come home at three or four o’clock in the morning and he’d be painting. We lived with an old Norwegian guy, he slept in the upstairs bedroom, you had to climb up a ladder. I worked for the airline there, mostly Bush piloting – scheduled passenger service came later – but most of the time I was there, it was all Bush pilot. Rusty and I would go down to George’s living room, George was a bachelor. Rusty would paint in that living room until three or four in the morning. During the day he’d go out partying up and down the street. They called it the longest bar in Alaska – that was Main Street in Anchorage.

About 1940-41, things were getting red-hot. Major Marston was up there in charge of the Alaskan defense command. He was based in Anchorage. Rusty made friends with him – he made friends with everyone he talked to. He met the Governor of Alaska through Major Marston. Rusty came home one night and he said, “Know what they’re going to do? Major Marston says that the Governor wants to go around the whole perimeter of Alaska and try to develop a reasonable defense system for Alaska. I guess it was Major Marston’s idea. Major Marston said, ’None of us know anything about Alaska, the Eskimos, the Indians. We should go around and meet these native people. They know the land and if any problems develop with the days coming, we’d be lost. We wouldn’t know what to do.’ He said, ‘We want to get an Alaskan defense going with native people.’ Governor Gruening says, ’Well you know what? I don’t know any. I’m the Governor of this territory and I’d like to go around with you and meet these people that I’m supposed to be Governor of.’ “ So, Rusty sat and listened to all this talk and he said, ”You wouldn’t want to take me along, would you? I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years, that I would like to do a series of pictures on the discovery of Alaska.” His whole goal, idea and the love of his life was Alaska. He said, ”I’d like to have a chance to go around to all those places, and make sketches.” “OK, come on along.” they said. That’s where he got this series of 18 pictures, starting with the fellow who came from Russia, sailed to Alaska and took it for the Russians. That was the first painting, he did the Gold Rush and 16 others. This was after he moved to Fairbanks.

Rusty moved to Fairbanks and got married. He was probably in his sixties, and he married a girl from the Fairbanks News. At this point he decided that he would teach art so he got a job teaching art at the University. He did that for quite a while. After he got these pictures done, the University said to him ”Why don’t we set up ta building for you and fix it with the huge rotating platform and you could put these 18 pictures all the way around the building.” They talked it over and they got the Poet Laureate of Alaska to narrate the story. He did a beautiful job and that’s up there. If you ever get to Alaska, you should see it in Fairbanks. Alaska is different than any other state. They have a huge boat there that they have on display, probably like the boats they used up there. This one building is all Rusty’s pictures. They also have a Museum and other historic stuff.

Rusty was an amazing person. He did posters during the war with ”Uncle Sam Needs You!” on them. My wife and I planned a trip to Alaska to visit Rusty and I called him a few weeks before we left. He said,”I hope I’ll see you when you get here.” He passed away a week later. We went to the University of Alaska, we told them what we were looking for and they took us down to the basement and showed us some of his work.

Tomorrow, I’ll start posting a few letters written during 1940, the first year that Dan and Ced are in Alaska.

Judy Guion

13 thoughts on “Random Memories of Cedric Duryee Guion – Rusty Huerlin

  1. Ken Perkins says:

    Rusty was a good friend and he gave me one of his paintings when I was a teenager back in the forties.I still have it hanging in our dining room.We were living in Ester then, near UAF.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Ken – I grew up with one of his paintings hanging in my bedroom and another in my grandfather’s apartment. I have dozens of letters written by Rusty to Ced and numerous mentions in my Grandfather’s letters about Rusty, who was a great friend of his. Mt Grandfather also bought the Heurlin’s island on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and we still own it. I would love to chat with you about Rusty and hear some of your stories about hum. Please email me at jagghdesigns@sbcglobal.net and I’ll send you my phone number or you can send me yours and I’ll call you. Looking forward to talking.

    • Bob says:

      Hi Ken;

      Rusty was a life long friend of two of my wife’s relatives. Charlie La Salle (Lassell) and Aiden Lassell Ripley. I’ve sent a photo of Rusty and Charlie on a texas ranch when Rusty was 17 years old….

      I hope this book comes to be. I’d love it. I have research here as well if would be of any help.

      Also – Rusty was working on his autobiography and it was nearly complete when he died. Hopefully the transcription of the tapes is in his personal papers. What a find that would be.

      Do you recall him ever talking about Charlie or Aiden?

  2. Mrs. P says:

    As you mentioned there is a lot on the Internet about Rusty’s paintings. He is still in high demand. I copied this one section from a private dealer’s website:

    “A keen observer of Alaskan life, natives, and wildlife, Heurlin was known for his pastel palette and fall color backgrounds. Paintings are normally signed C. Heurlin. They are rarely titled or dated. Braarud Fine Art is interested in any Alaskan works by C. Heurlin.”

    I’m sure that the University would also like a book about the private life of Rusty.

    • Judy Guion says:

      We had one of his paintings hanging on the wall in my bedroom. I know that one very well and somewhere in the family is a second painting of his. I’m especially fond of his palette.

  3. gpcox says:

    Such a shame about Rusty, so close to being reunited and then … We all never know, do we?

    • Judy Guion says:

      No, we really don’t. One thing I would like to do is write a book about my families experiences with Rusty. I’d call it something like “The Other Side of Rusty Huerlin”, since there is plenty about the Artist C. Huerlin on the internet, but not much about his early years and the real person my family knew.

      • gpcox says:

        That sounds like an excellent idea. Have you queried it to any publishing houses?

        • Judy Guion says:

          gpcox – I think I need to make sure I can have access to his work and papers before I begin. I think my first step is to contact the University of Alaska and see what that gets me. It won’t be a run-away best seller, but definitely interesting to all those familiar with his work. Thanks for the encouragement.

      • Bob says:

        judy; my files are in some disarray after a basement flood. If your idea of the book continues – please let me know…. I can pass this information along to his surviving family (assuming I can find th info again…)

        I have some info on his early days in westport and new york as well and have begun a family history of Rusty Charlie and Aiden

        best of luck… thanks so much for sharing!

        • jaggh53163 says:

          This is so exciting. Looking forward to sharing information.

          • Bob says:

            Yes me too. By all accounts Rusty was quite a character – but a very nice guy. My father in law grew up constantly hearing stories about Rusty… but as is often the case with children…. you don’t really realize the history that is passing you by until it is too late….

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