Graceful, intelligent and hard-working, Delores Pander generally stayed behind the scenes of Portland’s arts world, where she had a habit of making sure the scenes were working precisely the way they ought to. Born on Aug. 16, 1938, she died of cancer on Thursday, June 24, 2010. For many years she was the wife and partner of the Dutch-born Portland painter Henk Pander, one of our best and most important artists, whose work has fused the long tradition of Dutch art with the frontier edge of the Pacific Northwest and a keen outsider’s feeling for the American psyche. Art Scatter senior correspondent Martha Ullman West, a longtime friend of Delores, offers this personal tribute.
By Martha Ullman West
Delores Pander died early Thursday morning after a long, hard, painful battle with cancer. Her accomplishments were many, her passion for knowledge profound, the reach of her love and loyalty and friendship broad and deep.
Henk Pander’s extraordinary portrait above of his beautiful wife, made in December of last year, says it all: she is surrounded by images representing the things that were most important to her — a ceramic made by her granddaughter Mary-Alice; the house she shared with Henk and Mary-Alice and several dogs for a number of years; a pile of books; and in her hand a book by Ursula Le Guin, another artist whom she helped with the practical details of work. Her favorite color was the deep, dark red that saturates the painting, and the lighter red shoes she’s wearing are emblematic of her love of pretty clothes.
Delores was years away from becoming an artist’s wife when I first met her in the fall of 1973 at David Nero and Associates, where I was an incompetent technical writer and she was the highly competent secretary for an educational research project to study Follow Through, a shortlived offshoot of Head Start. With her dark hair and sparkling eyes, her clear intelligence, her love of laughter, and the incredible speed, organization and efficiency with which she ran the office and kept our motley crew in line, she reminded me at once of my mother, who put all those attributes, including the dark-haired beauty, to work in the caring and feeding of my artist father.
Delores’s refusal to put up with any guff from those of us who were above her in the pecking order also reminded me of my mother. I’m ashamed to say I was a bit uppity with her at some point, and for Christmas she gave me an engagement calendar inscribed “to the writer from the typer-writer.”