In a bittersweet role reversal as caregiver, author Joseph Schickel, a Loveland resident and longtime Cincinnati Firefighter, documents the last two years of prominent artist William Schickel’s life in a new book, FACE TO FACE: Conversations with my Father. He’ll discuss the memoir billed as, “a balance between loving and admiring my father and, at the same time, giving an honest portrayal,” Tuesday, March 12 at the Kenwood Woman’s Club.
Free and open to the public, the program begins at 12:30 at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 8221 Miami Rd., Madeira. “In keeping abreast of things in the local community, the 45-year-old organization looks forward to hearing about Joseph’s experience with his father and his father’s art,” according to Bea Goodman, second vice president for programming.
William Schickel, 1919-2009, and his wife, Mary, raised 11 children on a farm outside of Loveland where Joseph enjoyed conversing, reading and pondering big concepts in his father’s barn studio. “It was a remarkable and unusual childhood that, no question, shaped who I am and stirred my urge to write.”
The author – with history and law degrees, a mix of experience and owner of Loveland’s William Schickel Gallery – plans to swap his fire helmet for a pen and a literary career when he retires. Currently, he’s writing a firefighting novel and promoting FACE TO FACE. He speaks to neighborhood book clubs and organizations with a slide presentation and has signed books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Anderson Township Senior Center and Mercy Healthplex.
The memoir of father-son friendship also addresses eldercare and one family’s solution.
“Caretaking is unique to the circumstance, however we found reading, walking, scripture, painting and engaging with his circle of family and friends worked well for my dad largely because we could accommodate him in his community with the help of family members.”
FACE TO FACE gives readers a rare glimpse of multi-generational living: the intensity, spirituality and levity as the entire family pitched in. “We all experienced a lot of day-to-day, very practical changes. Our meals and work schedule were shifted pretty dramatically, but we have no regrets.”
William Schickel’s life was radically transformed after his wife of 60 years died suddenly. “He never got over losing her,” according to Joseph. “They had a sweet home life that was hard to match.”
He describes his father as “an artist, family man, man of faith, wonderful friend and mentor, my greatest teacher, a conversationalist, opinionated, hard-working and humorous.”
The humor lightened strained moments and punctuates Face to Face. Readers report “they enjoy the humor and find the book well-written, which gives me great satisfaction.”
Museum exhibits of William Schickel’s work, in the planning stages before his death, spurred Joseph to begin writing. The book took form when he invested in online mentoring, sending a chapter at a time for critique. “Writing is a long and slow process, but dad taught me to work on several things at once. I hit my productive stride when I took two or three chapters at the same time.”
After researching the options, Joseph self-published online, designed his own pages, linked to Amazon and produced an e-book for Kindle to facilitate speedier publication. He’d relish being picked up by a traditional publisher.
Ben Kaufman of CityBeat describes the book as “funny and tightly, smartly written. In a sense it’s a love story, but I’m wary of calling it that because that could be interpreted as sappy. It isn’t.”
Schickel biographer Gregory Wolfe concurs. “The book opens a window not only on his father’s wit and wisdom but on Joseph’s own family life.”
Since 1984 the William Schickel Gallery, formerly the Maritain Gallery, has been the home of the artist’s work, writings and papers. Joseph perpetuates his father’s legacy by photographing his works, including serving as chief photographer for the second edition of Wolfe’s Sacred Passion: The Art of William Schickel. Published by the University of Notre Dame Press, Sacred Passion was a finalist for Forward Review’s Book of the Year in 2010.
William Schickel “holds a unique place in the art world as one of the most prolific, commissioned artists in the Midwest in his era,” his son says. “Being both a modern artist and deeply religious person wasn’t easy. Dad used to say ‘religious people don’t trust me because I’m a modern artist, and the art world doesn’t trust me because I’m religious.’”
FACE TO FACE: Conversations with my Father is available at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, the Grailville Bookstore, Loveland Historical Society, college and niche bookstores, Amazon.com and on Kindle. For more information, to arrange a talk or book signing, contact Joseph at 513-673-9864.