Esther Frye’s art to come to life one more time

By William Duffield Staff writer

December 19, 2013

XENIA — It is said that Christmas is a time for miracles. For one local art teacher, there is now definite proof.

Many people may remember the wonderfully spiritual chalk drawings by Xenia resident Esther Frye. The chalk artist would tell stories while drawing a picture with chalk. When the story, and drawing, were done, she’d show it in black light to bring the art to life and reveal a hidden picture that would go with the story.

She took her art to others, appearing at churches to share her gift. Frye traveled to Australia and, at the age of 92, to Ukraine for Music Mission Kiev.

Frye died in 2011 at the age of 97 after 74 years of chalk art ministry. In a hometown Christmas miracle for Xenia, however, Esther’s artwork will again come to life with the help of Sue Norrod, an art teacher and Jamestown resident.

“After Esther passed away, I received a phone call from her son, John, asking me if I would like some extra paper and chalk that he would like to give me,” Sue Norrod, a member of Dayton Avenue Baptist Church and art teacher at Dayton Christian School in Miamisburg, said. “I had the utmost respect for Esther and loved her ministry, hoping some day I could draw for children and adults with chalk as she did.

“I said ‘Yes’ and drove my van over to Esther’s house, where John was cleaning out,” Norrod continued. “He loaded me up with paper and chalk.”

Norrod said she had mixed feelings as she pulled away from Esther’s house.

“With a feeling of sadness, I drove off after thanking him, grateful for the gift,” she said. “But I was so sad that Esther was no longer with us to draw her beautiful drawings.”

Norrod said she put the paper aside without taking a closer look, until later that year.

“Several months went by,” she said. “One day as I was moving rolls of paper to storage, I saw something that caught my eye. It was newspaper sticking out from inside the paper rolls.

“That could only mean one thing — Esther had saved a drawing and protected it with newspapers before rolling it up.”

Norrod said she carefully unrolled the roll of white paper and newspaper. She noticed that Esther had written “Christmas Angels” on the outside of the roll.

“I went to a dark room and turned on my portable black light and shut the door. I turned off the overhead light to see if I really did have one of Esther’s black light drawings, and there it was — a beautiful drawing of a heavenly host of angels appearing as the clouds were rolled back,” Norrod said. “I cried. I had in my hands a precious drawing that still existed of Esther’s beautiful work.”

Norrod said she knew she had to let those at the church know of her find.

“I told Pastor Jon (Young) at Dayton Avenue Baptist Church and he asked me if I would draw for a morning service while he gave his sermon,” Norrod said. “I could draw the other visual art of the shepherds with their sheep looking up at the night sky then at the end of the singing, when the lights had been turned off in the church, turn on the black light to reveal this gift of ‘Esther’s Angels’ on the drawing before the congregation once again.

“It’s almost like a little sign from Heaven,” Norrod said. “It’s a hometown Christmas Miracle for all the people who miss Esther’s beautiful gospel chalk drawings.”

Norrod will be drawing her story this Sunday, Dec. 22.

“I wanted to get the word out for people who would like to see Esther’s work one last time,” she said. “She drew here in Xenia, Dayton and Springfield.”

Contact William Duffield at bduffield@civitasmedia.com or 372-4444 ext. 133.