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Rawles exhibit on display

The Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society and Riddick’s Folly are determined to honor their friend and benefactor Henry Rawles Jr., even after his death.

“I knew Henry was really sick, and I really wanted to do something to honor him before he died,” said Sue Woodward, director of the historical society. However, Rawles died last month, before the exhibit could be set up.

“He was really generous to the historical society, monetarily and in research items he gave to us,” Woodward said. “We do it to honor our friend Henry.”

Rawles, a Suffolk native, received college degrees in aeronautics and history before serving in the U.S. Air Force. He eventually received a master’s degree in library science and began working as a librarian. In the 1970s, Woodward said, he checked out a book about painting from the library and taught himself to paint.

By 1983, Rawles had enough paintings to conduct a show at Riddick’s Folly. Rawles was the great-great-great-grandson of Mills Riddick, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the original owner of Riddick’s Folly, so called because many in town thought such a large house was silly.

Rawles also held shows of his work in Ohio and elsewhere, Woodward said, even though much of his work consisted of scenes from Suffolk — particularly buildings and landscapes.

Many of Rawles’ relatives also were accomplished artists, and some will have works on display in the exhibit. Anna Mary Riddick, granddaughter of Mills Riddick, produced many works with pencil, brush, and needle and thread. She lived to be 95 years old.

Gertrude Riddick Pruden, great-granddaughter of Mills Riddick, studied art in Philadelphia, Pa., and adorned the interior walls of her home on Main Street with murals. She also enjoyed sewing, weaving and carving, and whittled designs into several table and bedpost legs, which are on display in the exhibit.

George Paine Riddick, the great-great-grandson of Mills Riddick, also became a commercial artist without any formal training. He worked for an engraving company in Richmond for about 20 years, and his work appeared in publications like Better Homes and the Ladies Home Journal. During his retirement, he enjoyed painting oils and watercolors. Six pieces of his work are included in the exhibit.

John Brooke Pruden III, who still lives in Suffolk, is the great-great-great-grandson of Mills Riddick. He also began painting without any formal training, but he has taken courses from regional artists throughout the years.

Woodward said she found it unusual that so many talented artists came from one family.

“They’re just super-creative people, it seems to me,” Woodward said.

Woodward encouraged people to come view the exhibit.

“We think it’s really interesting, varied work,” Woodward said. “I think people would enjoy it.”

The exhibit runs through August at Riddick’s Folly, 510 N. Main St. For more information, call 934-0822.