Place cards at last month's Hope Center Gala in Pratt featured the late Guy Elliott's "His Eye is on the Sparrow" painting; the story behind the inspirational picture is just as fascinating.
The painting, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” by a Stafford County pastor set the theme for the Hope Center’s Gala event last month in Pratt, bringing to light the life and work of the late Rev. Guy Elliott.
Elliott, who pastored the First Baptist Church in Stafford for 10-plus until his death on New Year’s Eve 2007, painted the ‘sparrow’ picture in 1991, according to his widow, Virginia Elliott, who is still serves with the church.
The painting, which has been reproduced in prints that were initially signed and numbered, came to the attention of Hope Center then-director Jeanette Gaider while she was just starting to make plans for the center’s late January event, according to Pamela Ford, who has succeeded Gaider as director.
“She said, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ when she saw it,” Ford said. “She said it would be a great theme for Hope Center Gala because the Lord takes care of sparrows and He has appointed the Hope Center to take care of the needy in our community.”
The picture was used on place cards and the theme was carried out with birdhouses as table decorations that were given as prizes as the celebration came to a close.
Who brought the picture to the Hope Center—or why—seems to be a mystery. After it had been at the Hope Center for awhile, someone came in and picked it up, Ford said.
And while there are several in the community who remember Pastor Elliott and his artwork, his wife, Virginia, knows the story best.
“He was an amazing artist, but he didn’t think in terms of dollars and cents. He did sell some, but he gave away a lot of his paintings,” she said. “He would be so pleased to know that it inspired the Hope Center director,” Virginia said. “He liked it when his art ministered to people. He liked it when it spoke to their hearts.”
Virginia is a Stafford County native who moved to Alaska in the 1950s to take a take a teaching post. It was there she met her future husband who was the camp artist for the Army base near Fairbanks.
“He drew maps, but he also painted a lot of generals,” Virginia said. “The generals liked to bear hunt and they would have him paint their picture from photographs showing them standing with a foot on the bear they had killed.”
After Guy Elliott left the military, the couple, who wed in 1963, lived an adventurous life, including when they moved to the old mining town of Victor, Colorado, where they plunked down $350 for an old house which they toiled to make liveable.
“It felt like The Lord shoved us out of the nest, but He always seemed to have plans for us,” Victoria said.
Guy was born in Kennedy, Texas, near San Antonio, and the family moved back to south Texas where daughter ,Cheyanne, and sons, Jim and Clint, have since settled.
Guy and Virginia moved to Stafford County in the early 1990s and Guy was appointed pastor of the First Baptist Church and continued to pursue his art.
Along with painting, Guy is remembered for his bronze sculptures, which Virginia still treasures.
Guy is also well-known in Stafford County as the director of the Great Plains Passion Play which was held in a field in the southeast corner of the county, six miles south of Zenith, where Virginia’s grandfather Sam McComb homesteaded in the late 1870s.
“He was instrumental in getting the railroad siding to Zenith so he could sell his crops,” Virginia said of her granddad. “He served as a Stafford County commissioner and went on to serve in the state house.”
The Elliotts had occasion to visit Topeka themselves a few years ago when Guy’s painting of Arizona’s Monument Valley was selected to be displayed in the Kansas State Capitol.
Late in his life, Guy suffered a stroke.
“After the stroke, he just couldn’t get his colors right when he was painting and it really frustrated him,” Virginia said.
But even after the stroke, Guy continued as pastor.
“He was in the pulpit right up to the time of his death,” Virginia said. “He was a good man, a good husband. I have lots of good memories and I plan on seeing him again.”