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09-15-09, 12:14 AM #1
Have you ever wondered if there was a real trooper behind that Rockwell painting "The Runaway"?
Rockwell cover makes trooper an icon in blue | Delawareonline.com | The News Journal
Rockwell cover makes trooper an icon in blue
Man who posed for painter makes stop at Delaware police museum
BY J.L. MILLER • THE NEWS JOURNAL • SEPTEMBER 11, 2009
DOVER — You probably wouldn’t recognize Richard J. Clemens’ face, but if he turns his back to you – as he did to a group of state troopers Friday – you just might.
Clemens, a retired Massachusetts state trooper, appears in Norman Rockwell’s 1958 Saturday Evening Post cover illustration of a police officer sitting on a diner stool alongside a young runaway boy.
“The Runaway” has become almost an icon in the law-enforcement community, a status the unassuming Clemens would never claim for himself.
“I feel like an antique. Is that the same thing? How about a fossil?” Clemens said with a grin as he signed copies of the print for admiring officers at the Delaware State Police Museum.
“I always thought this guy was fictional,” Sgt. Walter Newton said as Clemens signed a print for him. The two shook hands and Newton said, “It’s a real honor, I tell you that.”
Actually, all three people in Rockwell’s painting are real. Clemens, who retired as a sergeant, lived three doors from Rockwell in Stockbridge, Mass. The runaway is Eddie Locke, a Stockbridge youth who’s now a landscaper, and the man behind the counter is Don Johnson, a former Rockwell employee.
There’s something about the illustration that speaks to members of the law-enforcement community: the kindly police officer keeping an eye on the young boy who’s run away from home, his supplies wrapped in a hobo’s bindle on the floor next to him.
“When you look at Sarge looking at the little Eddie, you can see the compassion,” said Col. Robert M. Coupe, state police superintendent. “He’s probably going to get him a doughnut and a glass of milk and then give him a ride home.”
It’s that sort of reaction that has won “The Runaway” a place in police stations around the country and in the hearts of many an officer.
On Thursday, Delaware State Police hosted the National Troopers Coalition Picnic, and Lt. Jason Sapp knew that Clemens sometimes attends law-enforcement functions. Sapp invited Clemens to attend, and he accepted.
Clemens also keeps in touch with Locke, who played the runaway. As a matter of fact, the two will get together today at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, where the painting hangs.
Locke has another claim to fame: In Rockwell’s “Before the Shot,” he’s the boy who’s standing on a chair, his britches partway down, examining the doctor’s medical diploma. That painting has become as much an icon to doctors as “The Runaway” has to police.
Clemens, now 90, never set out to become an icon. As a young man his dream was to become a Massachusetts state trooper, a dream he realized in 1953 after two years as a highway patrolman for the Arlington County (Va.) Police Department.
He got to know Rockwell through the artist’s dog, a basset hound that periodically found its way through the neighbors’ yards and into his own. He would walk the dog home, and during a chat with Rockwell he mentioned that he was a state trooper.
In April 1958, Rockwell told Clemens that he had an idea for a painting and asked if he would be willing to pose in uniform. Clemens asked his superiors – “I’m just a lowly trooper. Lowly troopers don’t make those decisions,” he said – and they gave their permission.
Clemens and young Locke were dispatched to a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Pittsfield, Mass., for a photo shoot. A young man named Clarence Barrett initially played the man behind the counter. They were posed in various positions, and Rockwell used the photographs to do the painting.
Rockwell produced an early version, which he didn’t finish, that included Howard Johnson’s wall – with the names of the 28 flavors of ice cream etched into the mirror. That painting also is on display in the Norman Rockwell Museum.
For the final version he decided to substitute Barrett, the man behind the counter, with the older Johnson to emphasize the age difference between the men and the runaway. He also replaced the back wall with a more rustic backdrop: Howard Johnson’s seemed too urban, Rockwell thought, and he wanted to indicate that the boy had gotten farther from home.
Art critics often derided Rockwell for themes that seemed corny to them, but many now respect his work.
His “Four Freedoms” series, produced during World War II, bolstered the spirits of Americans fighting the evils of fascism.
In his 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With,” he took on the struggle for integration by showing white federal marshals escorting a young black girl to school past a wall defaced with racist graffiti.
Clemens has become as much of a symbol as that little girl or the Americans in the “Four Freedoms” or the little boy who’s about to get a shot.
And after 24 years in law enforcement, Clemens understand why Rockwell’s “The Runaway” has made him a symbol for his fellow officers.
“I think he had the ability to paint things not necessarily the way they were, but the way people would like them to be,” Clemens said.CHIRP! CHIRP!
09-15-09, 12:35 AM #2
That painting is an exact representation of Clemens in those days.....and that is the cop I wanted to be.....and tried to be.
God bless you, Norman Rockwell.
Car 4I would like my country back. I used to believe that one man could never destroy this country. Not so sure anymore!
09-15-09, 01:40 AM #3
I always thought it was a fictional character myself. That was a great story to read.
09-15-09, 01:27 PM #4
09-16-09, 01:08 AM #5
WOW! Who would have known?
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In memory of Sgt. Howard K. Stevenson 1965 - 2005. Ceres Police Dept.
In memory of Robert N. Panos 1955 - 2008 Ceres Police Dept.
09-16-09, 02:31 AM #6
Awesome. I'd like his autograph myself.Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
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09-16-09, 10:30 AM #7
I'd like to see an 'updated' painting, or even a series, first with them shaking hands and the young man as a rookie cop, and the second with the older cop, now in his golden years, sitting at the counter with the middle aged cop in full uniform. I know Rockwell is dead, but I'm sure there's someone who could manage it.\\` ` ` ` < ` )___/\
`` ` ` ` (3--(____)
"...but to forget your duck, of course, means you're really screwed." - Gary Larson
09-21-09, 11:26 PM #8
Definitely a cool article out of my home state.Calm Like A Bomb...
“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
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