Monday, July 19, 2010

David H. Jewell, 1974-2010

David H. Jewell, a fine young man who illustrated 5 of my books, passed away on Thursday, July 15, 2010.

David and I first met during the winter of 2003, and although the motivations for our subsequent meetings were professional, to say we only knew each other professionally doesn't really describe our relationship. We were friends. For over seven years, he and I shared our experiences of successes and setbacks through telephone calls and Emails, where he would downplay his episodes at the hospital to get his diabetes under control. A typical Email to me said, "I had a small setback because of a medical issue, but I'm back on track now." His was not an easy life, I often thought.

David was first diagnosed with diabetes when he was 14 and as he aged, the disease progressed to cause other problems, including  kidney damage. Although he recently assured me that his health was under control and he was eager to begin another project with me, his last trip to the hospital revealed that a lung was full of pneumonia. He passed away soon after that.

David had talent and imagination. I was lucky to find him just when I needed him. So how does an author meet an illustrator like David? Well, during the holiday season in 2002, Panera Bread Restaurants allowed local authors to display and sell their books in the small space near the entry. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet people, and even now, whenever I drive by or stop at a Panera Bread, I think how their actions demonstrated the company's bold support for local authors.

Of course, not all customers were interested in looking at my books, but others, especially those who had a connection to the farm, would visit with us for half an hour or more. On a good Saturday, we might sell 5 books. I think we hit double digit sales once or twice.

We met Roger and Carolyn Jewell at the Panera Bread in Woodbury in December of 2002. They were not farmers but had relatives who farmed, and when they found out I was looking for an illustrator, they quickly mentioned their son, David. David and I got in touch and planned a meeting at Panera Bread in Eagan.

At our first meeting, David immediately impressed me with his sample drawings and his polite manner.  He insisted on calling me "Mr. Fredrickson" during the entire meeting, a practice he continued for the next 3 years, while he illustrated pages for If I Were a Farmer, Adventure 2; If I Were a Farmer, Adventure 3; County Road Ball Game; and County Road First Day of School. During that time, the Eagan Panera Bread was our meeting place. David and I both liked the coffee.

I especially liked working with David because he would create sample characters according to my descriptions and show them to me for approval before he would proceed. After describing to him the characters of  Nancy and her kitty Dusty on our first meeting, he showed me three possible characterizations for them the next weekend. We agreed on a choice, and he began drawing the pages for If I Were a Farmer, Adventure 2, which eventually became If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure.

County Road Ball Game and County Road First Day of School each had over 10 characters. In both cases, I gave him descriptions and he drew samples before we proceeded.

David's polite and humble manner never curbed what I thought his most endearing trait, his almost child-like enthusiasm for his drawings. Whenever he showed me his new sketches, his face beamed with excitement as he hurriedly explained how the final drawings would be even better. In April of this year, he mailed pages of the final book he drew for me, and I mailed a check to him with a receipt for him to sign and return to me.

A few weeks ago, he ordered 3 copies of  If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure  along with award stickers. He was rightfully proud that the book had won a Reader Views Readers' Choice Award. I Emailed him back to say that my new book, If I Were a Farmer: Field Work, was due back from the printer in a week or so, and when it came in I would arrange a meeting and deliver copies of both titles to him at the same time. We were both eager for the meeting.

I picked  up If I Were a Farmer: Field Work at the warehouse last week and was planning to call him this week to set up a meeting at Panera Bread. As it turned out, his brother Chris called on Friday to inform me David had passed away.

In the last communications I had with him, he expressed how he felt he had his health and his career on the right track. In a June 15th Email to me, David said, "...and I want to thank you for the opportunity to illustrate for you. It has opened doors and allowed me to acquire the necessary equipment Thanks.." Then he added, "PS: I hope to illustrate for you again in the future."

I told him then and I repeat it now, "I am lucky to have found you, Dave. So Thank you."

I will remember David as a polite young man of courage and enthusiasm, beaming as he displayed his art to me. If I Were a Farmer: Tommy's Adventure, the fifth and final book David illustrated for me, will be published by Beaver's Pond Press, Inc. and dedicated to the Memory of David H. Jewell.

To read a short biography of David Jewell go to and click on the green tab "about us".

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