Everett muralist dies at age 83

EVERETT – Bernie Webber, an icon of the Snohomish County art scene, died Sunday in Everett.

Webber, 83, was an internationally known watercolorist who captured images of Everett, the city he loved, and its people, famous and not-so-famous. He drew historical-themed murals in more than 50 public buildings, including schools, the courthouse and hospitals.

Son Rich Webber called his father “the greatest graffitiist in Everett’s history.”

Rich Webber, one of 10 children of Bernie and Joy Webber, went on to say that his father had shared his love of the world around him with his family and with Everett, his native city.

“He would always point out the sky, the colors, the textures, and to this day I point those same things out to my family,” Rich Webber said. “We all have recognized his influence in our lives.”

Webber was named Artist of the Year in 2004 by the Arts Council of Snohomish County.

Most recently, a new scholarship in his honor, the Bernie Webber Scholarship Endowment Fund, was established by the Rotary Club of Everett, of which Webber was a member for 53 years. The scholarship will be offered to students who plan to pursue a career in art.

Over the years, Webber donated enough art to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Rotary-related auctions and other projects, said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.

“It’s a huge loss for our community,” Stephanson said Monday. “Besides being a gifted artist, he’s an incredible human being and a community treasure.”

During Wednesday’s Everett City Council meeting, the city is expected to pass a special resolution honoring Webber’s contribution to the city, the mayor said.

Inside the downtown Wall Street building that houses city offices hang 33 portraits of Everett’s past mayors, all drawn by Webber and set in historically appropriate backdrops. Stephanson sadly noted that his face will not be among those Webber portraits.

Stephanson was hopeful that a statue or some other prominent structure in Webber’s honor will be erected at the site of Artspace, a regional arts center where artists would live and work. Artspace is planned to open in downtown Everett in 2009.

Glass artist Stan Price and the Arts Council of Snohomish County brought together 35 diverse local artists for a group project involving fused and painted glass tiles that were assembled into a “glass quilt” that was sold earlier this year to help raise money for Artspace. One of the panels is a Bernie Webber image. It’s not an original drawing because Webber’s health had been deteriorating.

Webber had suffered from an inoperable brain tumor, his son said. Most recently, several strokes and the side effects of medication took their toll. Webber died at Providence Everett Medical Center’s Pacific Campus on Sunday.

Webber’s legacy is all over Everett. His murals can be found in the Snohomish County administration building and at the Boeing Co. and Paine Field. He illustrated annual reports for the Snohomish County PUD and Associated Sand and Gravel. One painting was even featured on a bank credit card.

Webber did work for the Port of Everett and for the U.S. Navy. He wound up doing the first drawings of Naval Station Everett. Today, every ship that uses Everett as its port has a Webber painting on board, Mayor Stephanson said.

Webber was a graduate of the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. His representational style and bright palette captured images of all aspects of life in the Northwest: warships, streetcars, venerable homes, old farmsteads, markets, mountains and Husky stadium.

Longtime friend and local historian Larry O’Donnell, who is retired from the Everett School District’s facilities department, worked with Webber on a goal: to get a Webber mural in every Everett school in the district.

There are 26 schools with murals; only four schools are without, O’Donnell said.

“He had a unique quality,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell called himself blessed to have worked with Webber on two history books, one on the Everett School District and a more recent one called “Snohomish County: An Illustrated History.” Webber illustrated the covers for both.

“I was so proud,” O’Donnell said Monday. “It was just another one of those things that brought us close together.”

Rich Webber said that if he could paint a portrait of his father, he’d need a large canvas to paint a man who was a hard worker, a family man who gave to his community – an Everett man through and through.

“That was my father,” Rich Webber said.

In addition to his 10 children, Webber leaves his wife, Joy, 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Plans for services have not been made public yet.

Arts writer Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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