What is your favorite hometown memory? There are so many, yet a few stand out in our hearts forever.
Donald Mong, a Greenville native, now residing in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, uses muted watercolors, soft brush strokes, and pen and ink to suggest that perhaps some of these memories are beginning to fade.
After losing his mother Phyllis to COVID in April 2020 and finding an old family album of snapshots taken around Greenville, Don was inspired to preserve his hometown memories through his art. Some of the places and traditions are no longer here — Schumeth’s for pizza, Gershuch’s for cream pie, and Engelken Field for airplane rides with his dad Ted — but others continue on with younger generations. To Don, sledding on Memorial Hill allowed him to escape to the Alps after a big snow, walking across the trestle was scary, and playing Little League on Dick Brown’s “Bats” team hit a homerun of summer fun at the Sater Street ball diamonds. There was always time to stop by the Palace and visit his mom before getting a burger at the Hamburger Shop. And, of course, the Great Darke County Fair seemed like the World’s Fair to a boy 8 or 9 years old.
His portfolio contains some of Greenville’s most iconic sites (including the Garst Museum!), New England lighthouses, helicopters, and other military paintings. His favorite painting is one he did about 15 years ago at the request of a young Coast Guard sailor when he asked him to paint the boat he was serving on. Don offered the piece to the young Coastie as a gift for his service, but the young man insisted on paying for it, believing every man should receive fair pay for his work. A final price of $75, far below the market value, was reached, and the young man said that he could pay him in installments over three months. Each month, to the day, $25 came in the mail. There was a note with the last payment that read:
Dear Mr. Mong,
Thank you for this painting, it means a lot to me. I was raised in a poor section of Alabama and our family didn’t have much money. My mommie and daddy hung this in their living room and think of me all the time and how good I turned out. If you ever get to Alabama, look me up.
Yes, it was the passion behind this print that made it the artist’s favorite.
Don captures so many of our mutual memories in his prints, and Garst Museum is privileged to feature them. Garst Museum became the recipient of Don’s generosity thanks to the help of the museum’s Board President Dr. Steve Gruber.
“From the moment I first saw Don’s paintings on Facebook, I knew we needed to collaborate with Don to bring his ‘Greenville My Hometown’ images to the public,” said Gruber. He contacted Don and the relationship with Garst Museum began. Don has graciously provided exclusive rights to his “Greenville My Hometown” portfolio to Garst Museum free of charge.
“This is an amazing and unique contribution that we hope will provide a revenue stream for the museum for years to come,” stated Gruber.
Several prints, postcards, and memory boxes are now available at The Museum Store, and other publications from Don Mong are in progress. The museum’s online store will have the growing “Greenville My Hometown” portfolio in the upcoming month. To add to the excitement, Don will be at the Gathering in July so come and meet the artist who has come home again to visit. Perhaps the Gathering at Garst will be a new shared memory.