BELLEVILLE - A mystery has surfaced at the Burnham Goodwill store in the form of a painting that was missing for more than 75 years.
That painting, signed "John Mc," just may be the work of John McGonegal Yoder, a Belleville farmer who died in 1996, still lamenting the artwork he entered as a teen in a county fair. He won a prize, but the artwork disappeared.
"He always longed to see that picture again," said his widow, Mary B. Yoder.
Sentinel photos by BARBARA HARMON
This painting, depicting a mountain and woods setting, is believed to be the work of the late John McGonegal Yoder, of Belleville.
Elaine Mercer, left, and Mary Yoder hold the painting that may be the work of Mary’s late husband, John McGonegal Yoder, of Belleville, from many years ago.
A family friend happened upon a picture at the Goodwill store on April 15 that was signed "John Mc." Elaine Mercer said her eye was drawn to the picture, a pastel drawing of rugged mountains and lake.
"I noticed this one, because it was original and it was really good," Mercer said.
Then she noticed the signature and began to wonder. She recalled talking with Mary about how John had drawn as a child, but that his art wasn't encouraged. He was 77 when he died, and Mary, now 88, said her late husband had talked about that missing painting.
He entered it in the Mifflin County Fair, but did not get it back, Mary told her.
"He thought that maybe someone liked it and they got it," she said. "But he did yearn for it, that he did, even later in life."
For $3.97, the Goodwill painting is now in Mary's hands and the rest of the solution is up to those who are reading. Does anyone recognize this Goodwill donation? Can they tell Mary where it came from, and does anyone remember a Mifflin County fair that included competition in art?
The painting is home, but missing its story.
"What I would like to know is where it's been all this time," Mary said.
Because Mary never saw her husband's artwork, she cannot be 100 percent sure that this picture is her late husband's. But, she says she has a hunch that it is, particularly because of the subject.
"Nobody loved mountains more than he did," Mary said.
Mercer also is inclined to think it might be John's work, because the painting, when discovered, had some odd crayon numbers on the glass-the type that might have been used to identify art in a fair.
The signature looks like that of a younger person, Mercer noted.
Mary said John used his middle name mostly later in life to help the mailman distinguish between the John Yoders of Big Valley, and a McYoder street sign, heading toward his former farm, can still be seen near the Brookmere Winery.
McGonegal comes from his great-grandmother, the central character of "Rosanna of the Amish," which is the tale of an Irish orphan taken in by the Amish and raised in Big Valley. The book, by Joseph W. Yoder, was published in 1941.
The Goodwill clerk told Mercer they had just put the painting out for sale the day before she spotted it. The plain wooden frame, cardboard mat, and backing provided little clues.
If the painting was by John McGonegal Yoder, Mercer said it is a shame that he wasn't encouraged to develop his talent.
"He should have drawn and painted throughout his life," Mercer said.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words, and in this case, a good many remain unspoken.
Readers with clues to the painting's history may contact Barbara Harmon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 483-9988.