Thursday, September 19, 2013

Editorial Cartoonist Eldon Pletcher 1922-2013

Sad news. From The Times-Pacayune:

Eldon Pletcher, The Times-Pacayune's editorial cartoonist from 1966 to 1984, died Sunday of emphysema and congestive heart failure at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif. He was 91.

Eldon Pletcher started sending me emails some years back. And then we began to exchange Christmas cards. He chatted to me like an old friend -- some shop talk, some talk of cats or a nice comment about the garden, which he saw on the blog. He was one of those fellows who, if I ever got to the New Orleans area, I should stop by and shake his hand. He treated me like an old friend, even though we never met in person.

Before he was at The Times Pacayune, he was at the Sioux City Journal from 1949 to 1966. And before that, he was in the army (Eldon was in the Battle of the Bulge), and a contributor to Yank magazine.

He was a traveler -- studying in Chicago, and, after the war, at the University of Scotland in Aberdeen, as well as the John Heron Art School in Indianapolis.

The funny thing about Eldon, ot "Pletch," as he signed all of his emails and notes, was that he kept in the "now." He never mentioned his editorial cartoonist career to me at all. He sent me a long personal note of comfort when our beloved kitty died in 2012. He had been there too, losing his sweet cat Callie -- but now he had a new cat named Blitzen.

He thanked me for a blog entry I wrote about coloring.

He wrote, "I appreciate your tips on using color. I'm sure in my case it would be big help if I wasn't color blind."

Pletch would only email about his past life when it was relevant. Like this email I received in 2010, which was in response to my email to him about some great gag cartoonists I admire -- specifically: Don Orehek and George Booth. Here's Pletch, talking about his days at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts:

"Don Orehek and George Booth are certainly cartoon greats, all right. I also like and admire their work.

"Martin Garrrity, now deceased, who drew gag cartoons in the better period of magazine cartooning, the 50s and 60s, also taught gag cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and [George] Booth was a student of his. Marty was a good friend whom I knew well from my Chicago days. At an earlier time, when I studied at the Chicago Academy for awhile, I had Don Ulsh, for gag cartooning and Vaughn Shoemaker, for editorial cartooning. After Marty and his wife moved to Fair Oaks, California, he stopped doing magazine cartoons and did editorial cartoons for a paper in that area. He belonged to the AAEC and when the convention was in Orlando Florida, in 1985, he arranged for me to sit in a seat with George Booth on a bus trip. We had an interesting conversation, about Missouri, where he was from and my wife being, from Kansas City etc....and about our military life. I believe his first work was printed in Leatherneck magazine, the Marine publication. Booth gave a humorous talk at the convention."

A memorial service will be held on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Yoder-Culp Funeral Home, 1911 S. Main St., in his home town of Goshen, Indiana. Burial will be in Rock Run Cemetery in Goshen.

I'm thankful Pletch took the time to send emails and chat. I will miss seeing his name in my in-box. What a kind and talented soul.

But I would be remiss if I didn't pass along some samples of his work through the decades.

Here's some of his cartoon work, and more details about his life. The below is from a 2007 blog entry titled "The Three Cartoon Worlds of Eldon Pletcher." It's a terrific overview of his career.

I got a note in last month from Eldon Pletcher:

"My friend Dave Carpenter has told me of your conversation, in which you expressed an interest in possibly doing a blog on me ... going from editorial cartooning to 'gag' cartooning. While I haven't felt there was anything special in doing both types, if you would like to do a blog on the subject, it's OK with me."
So it is written, so shall it be blogged!
Cartoonist Eldon Pletcher was born in Goshen, Indiana on September 10, 1922. After his first year at the Chicago Academy of Art, he went overseas, to serve in World War 2.

Like a lot of cartoonists, he started by drawing some gag cartoons, which are reproduced here. But he didn't have to buy his art supplies. Art supplies found him. Here's Pletch:

"I was in Germany when World War 2 ended. At that time I found some art materials at a bombed out artists supply store and started sending some cartoons to the Continental edition of Yank magazine, published in Paris. It was some early efforts in 'gag' cartooning. 

"I've enclosed a few of those they used while I was in Germany and while at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland, while waiting for the number of 'points' I had (the Army had a point system in determining the order of when troops came home) to be enough to get me home."

When he got back to the States, Pletch attended the John Herron Art School in Indianapolis. He married Barbara Jeanne Jones in 1948. By the next year, he was the editorial cartoonist for the Sioux City Journal, a position he held for seventeen years.

The family moved to New Orleans in 1966, where he drew the editorial cartoons for the New Orleans Times Picayune for the next 19 years. Here is a selection of his editorial cartoons that he passed along for me to share:

There's Kennedy ...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There's Romney, Sr. in the line up!

The pendulum swings back and forth.

Remember Billy Beer?

Dick Nixon piloting the capsule? Now that's a NASA disaster waitin' to happen!

So, from gag cartoonist to editorial cartoonist and now ... back to gag cartoonist. Award winning cartoonist Eldon Pletcher continues to cartoon. Here are a few recent ones.

Thanks for sending these along, Eldon. I loved the story of finding those art supplies in the rubble of post-war Germany. Keep toonin'!

Hat tip to the Wichita State University Library for the biographical info.

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