Dozens of her former students are young enough to remember Esther Painter Hagstrom, and many of them live in the San Diego area. Because Esther would be 108 years old if she were alive today, there are very few retired teachers who can reminisce about her.
Elaine Jenne Eckels Landacre, 93, a retired elementary school teacher, is among the few individuals who can talk about Esther as a colleague. Elaine worked as a third-grade teacher at Coronado Elementary School from 1943 through 1949.
Elaine, who now lives in San Diego, stepped forward with her testimony after reading a news story about “Art through the Generations” in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“I don’t take the paper, but my son does. He brings it every Sunday.”
On reading The U-T’s Arts and Culture section Sunday March 3, 2013, Elaine noticed a visual art feature accompanied by numerous color photographs on Page E9. The vintage black and white studio photograph of Esther caught Elaine’s attention.
“I recognized the name immediately. I read it, and I realized, ‘Oh my goodness! This lady was my supervisor.’ She used to come to my classroom to see how I was teaching art.” As director of art curriculum for the Coronado School District, Esther visited the elementary and junior high schools to provide art lessons to students and teachers alike. She served in this capacity while teaching art at Coronado High School from 1939 to 1951.
After reading about “Art through the Generations” -- the Coronado Public Library’s exhibit showcasing the paintings of Esther and her former students -- Elaine spent a month trying to contact Esther’s granddaughter. Suzy Hagstrom serves as curator of the display, which runs through May 31.
Elaine thought it was important to inform Suzy that not only she knew Esther but also that she owns one of Esther’s paintings. “This painting has been hanging here for more than 50 years,” Elaine said. The signed oil of a still life decorates Elaine’s kitchen. “It was so long ago, I can’t even remember how I got this painting.”
Although she is not an artist, Elaine highly values art. Her late brother-in-law, Paul Landacre, was a famous wood engraver and printmaker. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, owns many of his wood block prints.