Backyard Artist

He created a fence mural to honor his late wife

By Peter Anderson
May 2018

People grieve and mourn in many different ways. Tahoe Park resident Carl Schumacher found a way that is at once healing, artistic and inspirational.

When his wife of 50 years, Cathy, passed away in her sleep in early 2017, he was left in endless tears and deep shock. He would sit for hours on the backyard patio where he and Cathy had shared so many afternoon cocktails and laughs, and he would stare himself into numbness, his eyes fixated on the 50-yard-wide blankness of the back fence.

Barely visible, ghostlike, diaphanous images would tease his eyes, dancing on the fence like alluring angels. The longtime amateur artist, whose late wife loved his paintings, believed Cathy was urging him to decorate the fence.

 

Schumacher, a longtime Tower Records employee who helped pioneer the store at its famous Broadway location, had left Sacramento for Hawaii with his wife in 1967, and they lived there for 20 years, soaking up the culture, the sun and the leisurely lifestyle. Cathy had spent many years working for the California State Auditor, so she was ready for an early, sandy retirement. Schumacher dabbled in the music business, trying to parlay his Tower Records experience into something more substantial. Cathy set up a small business, sewing muumuus and creating Hawaiian floral pins for children’s hair. They blended well into the community and struck up friendships with “Magnum, P.I.” stars Tom Selleck, Larry Manetti and the late John Hillerman. Sacramentans by birth and at heart, they were now honorary Hawaiians.

Between them, the couple had four children (Carl had one from a previous marriage), but two died tragically young. With Cathy’s recent death, the remaining two adult children grew alarmed at Carl’s increasing descent into sorrow and depression.

But, with a jolt one day that woke him from a nap, Schumacher leapt into furious activity, buying outdoor paint, brushes, dropcloths and a stepladder. Then, like a horizontal Michelangelo, he began the work of his life: a fence-long tribute to his wife, their years in Hawaii and a brave first step from grief to closure.

With an almost uncanny similarity to the current hip muralization of Midtown, Schumacher’s backyard is now a splashy, vibrant, deeply evocative tribute to Cathy and a gorgeous “mahalo” to the couple’s beloved islands.

The scenery is downright beautiful, illuminating and, depending on the fickle Sacramento light, ever changing. One section of wall depicts the couple’s favorite beach view from The Royal Hawaiian hotel looking toward Diamond Head; two other wide panels show secluded coves with hula dancers, serene birds and gentle waves caressing the placid shores.

“These were Cathy’s favorite Hawaiian haunts,” says Schumacher with a sad smile. “Now I can return to them every time I step out my back door. She was a beautiful, peaceful woman who gave me so many years of happiness. She was a deeply religious person, and our little paradise on the Pacific Ocean was her own private church.”

Carl Schumacher — a Navy veteran with his own love of the ocean — says he needed to do the painting “out of love, a need for catharsis, and an urgent attempt to bring Cathy back.” Now, he hopes to convince other Sacramentans to perform similar acts of self-therapy.

“I am a huge supporter of Sacramento’s public art program,” he explains, “but I urge even the most amateurish artist to create their own form of backyard art. It is a most gratifying and beautifying experience. And it has brought me great peace.”

 

For a tour of Carl Schumacher’s backyard or more information about creating your own backyard art, contact Schumacher at myislandart@yahoo.com.

 

Peter Anderson can be reached at 49peteranderson@gmail.com.

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