Mil­i­tary fam­ily re­ceives spe­cial gift

Ce­ment piece fea­tures Marine Corps em­blem

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Chad Fel­ton cfel­ton@news-her­ald.com @be­lievethatcfnh on Twit­ter

When Wendy But­ler saw the item in the store, she knew she had to take it to the regis­ter as quickly as she could since it was the only one avail­able.

“I knew I may not have the chance again to find some­thing that fit so well with what sud­denly came to me, for what I knew would make a last­ing im­pres­sion for my son-in-law, Joe,” she said.

The funny thing was But­ler wasn’t look­ing for any­thing spe­cific for Joe at all. But be­ing an

ac­tive ser­vice­man, sta­tioned in Ok­i­nawa, she re­al­ized he’d ap­pre­ci­ate it more than any­one.

The cov­eted item was a ce­ment piece with the United States Marine Corps em­blem en­graved in it. The 40-pound “rock,” as But­ler de­scribes it, would be per­fect for her to adorn in her ceramics class at the Willowick Se­nior Cen­ter.

But­ler, who’s been a mem­ber of the cen­ter since April, joined her fel­low mem­bers on a trip to Bur­bank, where the store, Lots of Knots Ceramics, is lo­cated in the Ohio Sta­tion Out­lets shop­ping cen­ter.

With scar­let and gold acrylics wait­ing back at the cen­ter, But­ler knew she’d paint the rock and save it as a sur­prise gift for “Sergeant Joe Blum,” a mem­ber of a spe­cial re­ac­tion team, a unit equiv­a­lent to SWAT, serv­ing as spe­cial­ized mil­i­tary law en­force­ment.

“It will be even more spe­cial when he comes home with his wife, Halle, who’s lucky enough to be work­ing as a school teacher in Ok­i­nawa, too,” said But­ler, who lives in East­lake with her hus­band, Joes’ fa­ther, Steve.

“Joe’s grand­fa­ther was a Marine and that’s why Joe wanted to sign up,” she said. “He would be proud of Joe, I know it, and so would Joe’s mother.”

But­ler ad­mit­ted it took sev­eral weeks to trans­form the ster­ile-col­ored rock into the eye-catch­ing Sem­per Fi im­age, the ea­gle atop the Earth with an an­chor through it.

De­scrib­ing the process as pain­stak­ing, But­ler re­fused to de­vi­ate in any way.

“I kept re­turn­ing to the logo on Google, and it had to be pre­cise,” she said. “From the tex­ture to the ex­act col­or­ing, it had to be per­fect. I used dry brush tech­niques and sev­eral dif­fer­ent color com­bi­na­tions, and then ap­plied sealant, for a metic­u­lous out­come. As much as they do for us, the least I could do was stay true to them.”

More than just paint­ing, the ef­forts are also ther­a­peu­tic and cre­atively in­spi­ra­tional, she added.

But­ler’s even had an of­fer from an in­ter­ested party to buy the rock, but she’s re­spect­fully de­clined. With the 243rd an­niver­sary fall­ing on Nov. 10, she’s got other plans for her work.

“This project, one of many we en­gage in at the cen­ter, I re­ally en­joyed,” she said. Creat­ing a keep­sake for loved ones, which a lot of our mem­bers do here in this class, means the world to me.

“Steve and I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they come home. That’s what we’ve de­cided to do, sur­prise them. They’re 14 hours ahead of us so we’re wait­ing, but when they come home, see­ing it in per­son will have the most im­pact, we think.”

CHAD FEL­TON — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Wendy But­ler with her “rock” at the Willowick Se­nior Cen­ter on Nov. 9. The East­lake res­i­dent painted the con­crete piece to honor her son-in-law, Sgt. Joe Blum, who is sta­tioned in Ok­i­nawa, and plans to give it to him when he re­turns home in 2020.

CHAD FEL­TON — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Wendy But­ler of East­lake trans­formed an an­ti­sep­tic chunk of con­crete into a pa­tri­otic piece of art.

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