Harry Felder (1910-2003) may be
gone but the legendary Christmas-themed prints he created for
31 years will live on forever in the hands of those fortunate
enough to have saved them.
One such Felder art fan is Bernard Boe of rural Sheridan
who shared his complete 31 piece collection, all framed, with
me this past week.
I found out about his collection through a mutual friend,
Jim Gerlick of Somonauk, and at the same time talked with a new
resident at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, Willard
Dobbeck, who was a friend of Felder. Dobbeck worked with him
at Leich Electric, later called GTE Automatic Electric in Genoa.
After they both retired the two men kept in touch and Dobbeck
even has two heretofore unpublished prints that Harry gave him.
Bernard Boe, owner of the complete collection of 31 annual
holiday sketches by Harry Felder, shows one of the framed illustrations.
Boe has lent the sketches to the Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement
Center, 2944 Greenwood Acres Drive, for a public display, which
starts Saturday. (Schrader Photo)
Dobbeck told me Harry at first used to hide a rabbit in each
pencil or pen-and-ink drawing, sort of a trademark of the illustrator/artist.
Dobbeck especially liked rabbits and told him the company
would not let him use their blueprint copy machine to run off
as many as 5,000 copies each holiday season if he didnt
keep that rabbit in each one, so the idea caught on with Harry.
His Christmas scenes, sort of a flashback to his childhood
with a touch of humor, were not only distributed to employees
but mailed worldwide, going as far as Canada, Europe and even
He received hundreds of thank-you notes from grateful recipients
and even entire grade school classes that got to see his artwork.
Dobbeck, now 99, retired from the telephone manufacturer
where he was factory superintendent in 1977.
Harry had retired two years earlier but kept creating those
annual holiday scenes with pen and ink at home and sending them
to his old employer to be copied and given out for another seven
years, submitting the final one for the 1982 holiday season.
Many of them were also published in the Leich Electric
News by its editor Eleanor Sprague.
I remember them because I owned the Genoa Republican weekly
newspaper and printing business where that paper was produced
for many years.
I also recall that backshop foreman Bert Alsup supervised
the printing and saw many of those full-page Christmas drawings
run through the Little Giant press in our shop.
Before that my father Vernon worked at Leich for nearly
10 years and used to bring those drawings home when I was still
in high school.
But we did not have the foresight to save them for posterity.
At different times some of the prints were produced in
a looseleaf book form and given out to employees, but, as far
as I know, not one includes the complete set of 31.
Now that this framed collection has been found, the Boes
family has agreed to loan it to Oak Crest for display during
part of December.
Dobbeck will talk about his old friend Harry and share
other anecdotes about working at Leich and GTE Automatic Electric
for 31 years at the artwork exhibit opening at 1 p.m. Saturday.
I will provide some historical background on the artist
based on newspaper stories and his obituary at the same time
and the public is invited.
It is the same weekend as the Oak Crest annual Christmas
Tree Walk, which will be Sunday afternoon, so attendees on Saturday
will get a preview of the 25 decorated trees throughout the complex.
It should be a fun time reminiscing with retired Leich
and GTE employees who still live around the area.
Harrys sister Arlene Hampa and her husband, Emil,
plan to attend, as well as the collection owner Bernard Boe.