KOREAN WAR VET­ERAN BE­CAME CANADA’S LAST OFFICIAL WAR ARTIST

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - OBITUARIES - GLORIA GALLOWAY

He be­gan paint­ing what he had wit­nessed dur­ing his mil­i­tary ser­vice as a way to deal with his haunting mem­o­ries, and he was later sent to paint scenes of mil­i­tary ac­tion dur­ing the Gulf War, as well as in Kosovo and Bos­nia

On a cold day in Jan­uary, 1952, on the Korean Penin­sula, Ted Zuber peered a few hun­dred me­tres away at a snow-cov­ered hill where en­emy Chi­nese sol­diers were crouched in a trench. Two men sud­denly popped into view and Mr. Zuber fired, felling both in a mat­ter of sec­onds.

A few min­utes later, an­other Chi­nese sol­dier ap­peared, fran­ti­cally wav­ing a white flag. Mr. Zuber took his fin­ger from the trig­ger. Then two more men scur­ried along the trench with a stretcher, picked up one of the ca­su­al­ties, and all three ran back to safety.

The man with the flag “must have been ter­ri­fied be­cause he’s been told to go out there and ex­pose him­self to that Cana­dian sniper and wave the flag hop­ing I will obey it,” Mr. Zuber told re­searchers from the Cana­dian War Mu­seum this past sum­mer. But “I had a chance, for a few mo­ments, to be an hon­ourable – I’m go­ing to cry – to be an hon­ourable hu­man be­ing. And I never would have shot any of th­ese peo­ple un­der a white flag, ever.”

Mr. Zuber knew how to tell a story with words. But he was even bet­ter with paint.

The im­age of what hap­pened on that hill 66 years ago was com­mit­ted to can­vas by Mr. Zuber long af­ter he re­turned from the war. He called the paint­ing Redemp­tion.

Thir­teen oth­ers de­pict­ing scenes from the Korean War hang on the walls of the Cana­dian War Mu­seum in Ot­tawa, along with more than 130 ad­di­tional pieces of his art.

He died on Oct. 30 at the age of 86 in the stu­dio in his home in Kingston. He chose to have a med­i­cally as­sisted death af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal can­cer.

Mr. Zuber, who stud­ied art at the École des Beaux-Arts de Mon­tréal and fine art at Queen’s Univer­sity in Kingston, was Canada’s last official war artist. He was named a Cana­dian Her­itage Painter for the im­ages he cre­ated as a way of deal­ing with the haunting mem­o­ries of war. He was also a pho­tog­ra­pher, a teacher, a gui­tar player, and, in younger years, a fre­quent sky­diver.

“He was def­i­nitely out of the norm, in a most won­der­ful way,” his wife, Monika Zuber, says. “He was very charm­ing. He was in­tense. He was pas­sion­ate about the things he did. It was just won­der­ful to be in his com­pany.”

Edward (Ted) Fen­wick Zuber was born on May 7, 1932, in Mon­treal to Fred Zuber, a worker at Canadair, and his wife, the for­mer Ina Foster. He was one of five broth­ers.

When he was 12, his mother gave him a lit­tle set of oil paints, some lin­seed oil, and some brushes. He was an artist from that mo­ment on. But he was also an ad­ven­turer.

While still in his early teens, he ran away to Kingston where he met a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher who taught him how to take pic­tures and run a photo stu­dio.

Then, at 17, he mar­ried his first wife, Muriel Wills, and signed up to join the Cana­dian Army.

“He was ini­tially turned down be­cause he didn’t weigh enough,” his youngest daugh­ter, Linda Zuber, says. “In his own words, he said: ‘Well surely you can put a few pounds on me.’ So they de­cided to let him go ahead and en­list.”

In 1951, Mr. Zuber was sent to fight in the Korean War, as a parachutist with the 1st Bat­tal­ion of The Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment. He opted to be a para­trooper be­cause it paid more money, Linda says.

He was also a sniper. He told the re­searchers that he ini­tially felt proud when he made his first kill. And then re­al­ity set in. “I had just shot a per­son and I felt pride and that scared the hell out of me,” he said. “I re­al­ized hu­man be­ings don’t do this to each other.”

Dur­ing the con­flict, he sketched scenes in his note­book and on scraps of pa­per – snap­shots of life on the front line: The trenches, the fire­fights, the down time be­tween en­gage­ments. And he re­al­ized that all of the sol­diers he was draw­ing had the same blank ex­pres­sion. “Their bod­ies are func­tion­ing,” he told the re­searchers. “But [on] the faces, noth­ing is al­lowed to be shown. We learned within [a]week, emo­tion is a lux­ury.”

On New Year’s Eve at the end of 1952, Mr. Zuber was in a bunker with other Cana­di­ans when some­one ac­ci­den­tally set off a grenade. One man was killed and Mr. Zuber got a back­side full of shrap­nel. The doc­tors at the MASH unit were able to re­move most of it. But some could not be taken out and it caused him pain for the rest

I had just shot a per­son and I felt pride and that scared the hell out of me. I re­al­ized hu­man be­ings don’t do this to each other. TED ZUBER KOREAN WAR VET­ERAN

of his life.

Mr. Zuber re­turned to Mon­treal with­out the sketches, which were lost when he was wounded, and he be­came a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher. He and his wife had their first son, Rick, in that city, and then moved fre­quently through­out On­tario where they had Carol, Tom and Linda.

For sev­eral years, Mr. Zuber was con­sid­ered one of the premier com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phers in Toronto. He was re­spon­si­ble for the Eaton’s cat­a­logues, some of which fea­tured his chil­dren on the cover.

Then his mar­riage fell apart in the early 1960s and he moved back to Kingston where he opened an­other pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio.

But “even­tu­ally he said to hell with it, I am go­ing to com­mit my­self to be­com­ing a full-time artist,” Linda says. He built a house in See­ley’s Bay, north­west of Kingston, and be­gan to paint. And, al­though his first love was land­scapes, his wartime mem­o­ries kept cloud­ing his thoughts.

His daugh­ter says he never dis­cussed the war with his chil­dren. When he started paint­ing scenes from the re­cesses of his own pho­to­graphic mem­ory and from some of his sketches that he found in the care of a fel­low sol­dier, he would not al­low any­one to see them.

“He said at that time that it would be like ex­pos­ing some­one’s per­sonal di­ary,” Linda says.

But his agent, an art dealer, was given a chance to look at them, and ar­ranged for the en­tire col­lec­tion to be sold to a pri­vate buyer who then do­nated them to the war mu­seum.

In the mean­time, his “amaz­ing” land­scapes had been no­ticed in his store win­dow in Kingston by a young woman named Monika Wales Erne. “I just fell in love with them,” she says. She was also in­trigued that the artist’s name was Zuber, which is com­mon in Switzer­land, where she was born.

She raved about the paint­ings to her mother, but when the two women re­turned to the shop to see in­side, it was closed.

Then her mother went through a round of can­cer treat­ments. And on the day it was an­nounced that she had gone into re­mis­sion, Ms. Erne and her son, Christo­pher, went out to lunch to cel­e­brate across the street from the art shop.

“And we were just so happy to be spend­ing the day to­gether in­stead of go­ing to the can­cer cen­tre with my mother,” she says. And, when they left, “a man ran af­ter us and he said ‘I have been watch­ing you from across the street in the restau­rant and the two of you have such a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship, you seem so happy, you are al­most not touch­ing the side­walk.’ He said: ‘Would you al­low me to por­tray this re­la­tion­ship?’ And I said: ‘Is your name Zuber?’ ”

That was in 1977. Ted Zuber and Monika Erne be­came friends, and then fell in love, and were mar­ried in 2001 af­ter Mr. Zuber was di­ag­nosed with can­cer for the first time.

In the mean­time, he con­tin­ued paint­ing.

When the Gulf War broke out, he was asked to go as Canada’s official war artist.

“He ini­tially wasn’t ea­ger to re­turn to a the­atre of war,” Linda says. “But he had an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence when he was there. He was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Scud mis­sile at­tacks. He has a dark paint­ing of him­self, along with the other sol­diers, evac­u­at­ing into a bunker where they had to put on masks and cov­er­alls to pro­tect them­selves from in­com­ing Scud mis­sile at­tacks.”

Mr. Zuber drew sketches and took videos and re­turned home to paint. Some of those pic­tures are now also in the war mu­seum.

A few years later, he went over­seas again as Canada’s official war artist in Kosovo and Bos­nia.

Fol­low­ing the ter­ror at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was asked to go to Afghanistan, but he turned down the re­quest. And that was the end of the official war artist po­si­tion in Canada.

In May of this year, Mr. Zuber and his two daugh­ters trav­elled to Ot­tawa for the 65th an­niver­sary of the end of the Korean War. A poster of one of his paint­ings com­mem­o­rated the event and flags of the same im­age were fly­ing through­out the city.

Few artists be­sides Mr. Zuber have de­picted the Korean con­flict, says Andrew Burtch, a mu­seum his­to­rian.

“What’s im­por­tant for us is that it’s a blend of the very per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, of fight­ing in the hills of Korea, or bom­bard­ments, of sniper op­er­a­tions, of night time pa­trols, the kinds of things he would be do­ing,” Mr. Burtch says. “But also it ex­tends also to the univer­sal” ex­pe­ri­ence of a Cana­dian sol­dier dur­ing the Korean War.

In July, Mr. Zuber was told that lung can­cer had spread to his brain and he did not have long to live.

He ac­ti­vated the Med­i­cal As­sis­tance in Dy­ing pro­to­col and went home to do more paint­ing – end­ing with a work that was in­tended to bring com­fort to his wife.

“He could only be at the easel for a few min­utes at a time and then he would have to lie down,” Monika says. “The paint­ing is of a younger Ted and a younger Monika out on White­fish Lake in our kayaks … And he called it For­ever.”

Mr. Zuber died on the date of his choos­ing, with his easel at his feet. He leaves his wife, Monika; chil­dren Carol, Tom and Linda; step­son, Christo­pher Wales; four broth­ers, Carl, Don, Ralph and John; his eight sur­viv­ing grand­chil­dren and three great-grand­chil­dren. He was pre­de­ceased by his son Rick and grand­son Justin Chislett.

“As we mourn his pass­ing and cel­e­brate his life,” said Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan, “we know his legacy will con­tinue to in­spire us and pay tribute to all men and women in uni­form who sac­ri­fice so much every day in the cause of peace and free­dom.”

BEAVERBROOK COL­LEC­TION OF WAR ART/CANA­DIAN WAR MU­SEUM

Cana­dian war artist Ted Zuber, whose work in­cludes this paint­ing called Freeze, was one of only a few artists to de­pict the Korean con­flict.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.