Friends, family rally to keep artist’s memory alive with GMUHS scholarship


By Cynthia Prairie

Friends and family of the late Heath Gordon are establishing a memorial scholarship fund for Green Mountain Union High School seniors who are pursuing higher education in either art or music.

Heath Gordon was a self-taught rock guitarist. who loved music. Click photos to enlarge. Photos provided.

Heath Gordon was a self-taught rock guitarist who loved music. Click photos to enlarge. Photos provided.

Gordon, who grew up in Chester with his older sister Wendy and younger brother Sam, was a musician and artist who died in December of 2012 at the age of 44.

“Growing up, Heath was active in both art and music. If he wasn’t involved in art, he was involved in music,” remembers Sam. “He played the saxophone and was in chorus in high school. He learned to play the guitar on his own.”

In an interview Monday, Sam said that his older brother also taught himself to play the bass guitar and the harmonica. “Next thing you know, he was talking to other musicians in town. And before you know it, he was in a band” with John Yake, Scott Bemis and Charles “Fenner” Ball.

Heath Gordon may be best known as a visual artist. While at Green Mountain Union High, he and his best friend, Bryan “Breadwig” Ballinger, received scholarships to the Columbus School of Art in Ohio (now the Columbus College of Art and Design). While both attended the school, Ballinger graduated from there, while Gordon transferred to the Savannah College of Art.

His most celebrated work may just be the artistic shingling he created for one Chester homeowner.

His most celebrated work may just be the artistic shingling he created for one Chester homeowner.

Not only did he draw detailed pen and inks of nature as well as abstract paintings, he advanced the art of decorative shingle carving with his work on the exterior of a Smokeshire area home. That work graced the cover of a book on energy efficient homes.

On Monday, Ballinger in an email message, called Heath  “the single biggest influence on me artistically. His friendship is also the reason I became an artist.”

Sam Gordon said the scholarship idea began to take shape last summer when he and friends – among them Yake, Bemis and Ball – were getting together. The group wanted to keep Heath Gordon’s memory alive and thought a scholarship fund would not only do that but help local students as well, especially since it would also have a needs-based element to it.

“Things started moving in September,” Sam Gordon said. A scholarship board was formed, at first with the idea that each member would be the only donors to the fund. But soon it was decided to open up donations to everyone.

“We didn’t want (the scholarship) to be an afterthought. … We’re moving in the right direction. There are steps to be taken and we are knocking them out one by one,” Sam Gordon says, adding that both GMUHS and the Two Rivers Supervisory Union are on board. Currently the group is seeking its 501(c)3 charitable status. With almost $1,000 in the fund, Gordon said the group hopes to have $3,000 the first year, with the intent of giving out scholarships for the Class of 2014.

The board, made up of Ball, Yake, Bemis, Ballinger, Gordon, Roy Brown and Tracy Metcalf, is currently planning a large fundraiser for late March at the Chester American Legion Post 67. It would include live music, a 50-50 raffle and a live and a silent auction.

There are several ways to donate. You can make checks payable to the Heath Gordon Scholarship Fund and drop them off at TD Bank on Main Street in Chester or mail them in care of Sam Gordon 7180 W. Porpoise Drive, Homosassa, FL 34446. Or you can click on the PayPal button at the top of the Heath Gordon Scholarship Fund Facebook page. You can also donate items for the March fundraising event.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeEducation NewsFeaturedIn the Arts

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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