Artistry, tenacity run in family

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By Sandy Bond

Heather Palmer

Heather Palmer

Like legendary South Dakota artist and “mouth painter” Jack Reich mixed his paints to achieve the right consistency and depth of color, his daughter, Heather Palmer, folds the eggs and mayonnaise, achieving the right consistency for the dressing for her potato salad until it’s just right.
“It is difficult to describe,” she said, “you just know!”
Heather, her husband John and baby daughter, Faith Carol, recently moved to Bowdle and she’s been volunteering at her cousin DeeAnn Surma’s café, D & D Delights in Java.
The youngest of three girls born to Faith and Jack Reich, Heather and her older sisters Kathy and Melody, grew up in Isabel, where the family owned the Fay and Jay Motel. Their days were spent climbing trees, gathering eggs, and fishing for walleye. Traversing country roads, acting as photographer’s assistant, Heather took the pictures that were later immortalized by her dad on canvas.
“Dad was born with birth defects challenging the use of his limbs,” she said. “But we never, thought of him as being disabled.”
And Jack never let himself think of himself as being disabled, she said. Even as a child he learned to ride horseback with some modifications. He wasn’t going to let a little inconvenience stifle his God-given talent; if he couldn’t paint with his hands, he learned to paint with his mouth, teeth and lips firmly gripping the paint brush, and earning a degree from South Dakota State University.
Sometimes he needed assistance, but mostly he was quite independent, she said.
The family became fixtures at many art shows throughout the Midwest and appeared in a South Dakota Public Television special on Jack and his art.
“To this day I meet many people, who think they know me,” she said. “But we never have formally met.”
Her favorite painting was, “Best Friends,” she said, which features a girl in a swing with her cats and dogs in the foreground.
Her mom was an artist in the kitchen, she said, “absolutely the best cook and baker in the world.”
Standing on her tiptoes perched on the kitchen chair, but barely reaching the kitchen counter, Heather learned to stir the batter for her favorite chocolate chip cookies.
She soloed at an early age, she said.
“My sister was supposed to be babysitting me, but was upstairs doing homework,” she said. “I was hungry and nobody was there to prepare my favorite meal, macaroni and cheese. So, I found a boxed macaroni and cheese dinner and cooked at all by myself-just for me!”
Later she entered, what she calls, her “garlic period.”
“Mom always seasoned French toast with salt and pepper,” she said, “why not garlic powder?”
Thinking it added just the right nuances to plain old French toast, she was soon enhancing nearly all the family dishes with the pungent herb.
“My sisters were, surprisingly, not appreciative,” she said.
The family wasn’t plagued by vampires, she conceded, and probably not popular at many social events.
And later, she said, there was her memorable “lemon pepper” phase.
“A chicken recipe called for lemon pepper, she said, “but none to be found. I wondered, a little lemon juice with a bit of black pepper might suffice in a pinch? The lemon pepper vegetables were a bit tart but yummy!”
After leaving Isabel for Sioux Falls, she was employed in fast food and managed a McDonald’s. Soon, her heartstrings tugged her back to her roots. She fell in love and married a country boy, and Faith Carol was born. Physicians discovered a small hole in Faith’s heart at birth. Consuming sufficient calories was difficult for the infant because she was expending so many calories just eating. A tube was implanted in her stomach to augment her diet with a highly enriched formula, intimidating for most parents. Today, after open-heart surgery, she’s a happy, healthy 16-month-old.
Their second child is due in June, and this has been a very different pregnancy, she said.
“With Faith I just craved fruits and veggies,” she said. “With this pregnancy, I crave all the bad foods like chocolates, and BBQ chips.”
With John or grandparents babysitting, volunteering at the café gets her out of the house.
“I grew up with books and magazines everywhere,” she said. “virtually every copy of Louis L’Amour novels and every South Dakota Magazine Bernie Hunhoff ever published. As a backlash, I can’t stand clutter of any kind!”

HEATHER PALMER’S RECIPES

Zucchini Bake
4 cups zucchini (chopped)
12 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 pkg. of bacon
6 Club crackers
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheese
Fry bacon and set aside. Fry zucchini in bacon fat. Then combine in a cake pan, crumbling crackers on top with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

No Alarm Chili
1 lb. ground beef
1 15 oz. can Manwich
1 can tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 tsp. chili powder
Cook beef in skillet for 7 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sloppy Joes
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion (chopped)
1/2 cup celery (chopped)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. salt
Brown hamburger and onion in skillet. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes or longer. Serve on your favorite hamburger buns or rolls.

Macaroni Salad
2 cups macaroni
2 qts. water
2 tsp. salt
1 to 2 cucumbers (peeled and sliced)
1 small onion (sliced or diced))
3 to 4 tomatoes (sliced and diced)
Cook macaroni in water with salt added to water. Drain and chill. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion. Toss with dressing.

Dressing:
1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip or mayo
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. mustard (prepared)
Mix together. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving.

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