Before she died, Everett artist Elizabeth Webber told one of her nine siblings that she hoped her fanciful work would be remembered.
“She was afraid her art would be forgotten,” said Rich Webber, one of her six brothers and three sisters.
Elizabeth Webber was 65 when she died in 2015. More than art, she left a legacy of courage and kindness.
The eldest child of the late Bernie Webber, a well-known local artist who died in 2006, and his wife, Joy, Elizabeth was 17 when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Suffering most of her adult life, she spent years in a wheelchair and unable to walk.
Through pain and surgeries, the 1968 Everett High School graduate carried on. She completed her education at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. Her whimsical paintings, many with Christmas or Halloween themes, were exhibited locally. She earned devoted fans.
“In spite of her infirmity she had a meaningful life and career,” said Mary Elmore, whose Everett shop Christmas Gifts on Broadway is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Elizabeth Webber sold her holiday paintings at Christmas Gifts on Broadway and also at J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen & Gourmet, another Everett shop whose owner was her close friend.
Today, her holiday artwork — vintage-looking Santas, snowmen, wreaths and more — can be found on Christmas cards at those shops and at Wild Birds Unlimited, another Everett store. The artist’s work is ensuring support for another generation of local artists.
Proceeds from card sales will help fund the Elizabeth Webber Memorial Scholarship, established through the Everett Public Schools Foundation. The scholarship, designated for an Everett High student, was first awarded in 2016.
Kira Walters, 19, was the scholarship’s recipient this year. The 2018 Everett High graduate, whose collage “On the Road” was among recent regional winners in Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, is a Western Washington University student.
The $1,000 award “helped me pay for tuition this quarter, which was very helpful,” said Walters, whose work includes watercolors and collage. “The scholarship was definitely an affirmation of my art skills.”
Kendall Berry, a counselor at Everett High, said students apply for the scholarship, and include samples of their work, an essay and biographical information. The Webber family decides on recipients. “It’s very personal to them,” Berry said.
Berry didn’t know Elizabeth Webber, but said “I’m touched that everybody at Everett High had a story about her.” She noted that artwork by Bernie Webber and his uncle, Northwest painter Arne Jensen, is on display at the school.
At Christmas Gifts on Broadway, a lovely little shop in a 1902 Victorian house, Elmore said her seasonal store also sells art by the youngest Webber sibling. Katherine Webber makes figures from papier-mache, some of them Halloween creations, others for winter or Easter decor.
Elmore, who lives in the Bellevue area, opened her shop the day after Thanksgiving 1978. “What’s kept me going are the people who come here,” said Elmore, who now sees her first customers’ children in her store.
To enter the shop is to step back in time. Vintage-looking glass ornaments from the Christopher Radko collection, foil tinsel, holiday figurines, wreaths, books, dolls and toys we knew in bygone times, it’s all on display.
“I came in with my mom as a kid,” said Lovena Laycock, 43, who helps Elmore at the shop.
“Mary is the merry in Merry Christmas,” Annette Tupper, a longtime customer at Christmas Gifts on Broadway, said Tuesday.
At J. Matheson Gifts, owner Judy Matheson is happy to sell cards that showcase her friend’s artwork. “She was a wonderful, dear, dear friend,” said Matheson, who for years featured Elizabeth Webber’s holiday art at her store.
Telling how Webber struggled as her condition progressed, Matheson said the artist would put a brush or pencil into a tennis ball. She couldn’t hold the brush, but could move the ball. “It was amazing,” Matheson said.
And those magical pictures?
“What she drew, it was her personality,” Matheson said. “She wanted people to be happy. She’d draw whimsical things to bring out happiness in the world.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cards support art scholarship
Proceeds from sales of holiday cards with artwork by the late Elizabeth Webber support the Elizabeth Webber Memorial Scholarship, awarded to Everett High School students. Cards, in packages of eight for $10, are at these Everett shops: Christmas Gifts on Broadway, 3224 Broadway; J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen & Gourmet, 2615 Colby Ave.; and Wild Birds Unlimited, 4821 Evergreen Way.