Renowned Artist Mark Twain Noe Remembered
Renowned on a national level for his masterful wildlife paintings, acclaimed artist Mark Twain Noe was also known as a member of a small group of men only known locally as “The Diner Crew.” Meeting each morning at Johnnie’s Diner in McConnellsburg, the crew gathers to share good food, good laughs and good fellowship.
According to Dane “Butch” Seiders and Barry Shafer, with a little prompting from fellow crew member Roger Horton, Noe abandoned his usual seat in the back corner of the restaurant to join this elite group of retirees. Fast forward three years to 2012, Johnnie’s Diner had quickly become the first daily stop of many for Noe, whose new “routine” took him to Eddy’s Engraving & Gifts and Seiders’ home before heading to the residence of his closest companion, Carol Buterbaugh, to share a home-cooked meal.
“Once you met Mark, he was a friend. He was just that kind of guy,” reminisced Shafer, who went on to describe Noe as being a fun-loving, intelligent nonassuming and generous man with a sweet tooth.
“We turned each other’s worlds completely around ... It’s a shame people didn’t know him the way we did in the last three years. We were lucky to have him,” said Seiders and Shafer following Noe’s death on January 31. Noe was laid to rest last Tuesday, February 7, at Sideling Hill Christian Cemetery in Needmore buried in full, Southern Civil War garb as one of his interests was war re-enactments as part of a cannon crew.
A recluse of sorts for many years, the former industrial artist for Grove Manufacturing had fully immersed himself in his work since relocating in 1980 to “The Studio In the Pines” located off Little Egypt Road in Harrisonville. That same work had won him a multitude of awards and acclamations, including the painting “The Ancient Ones” that was selected by the National Arts for the Parks contest and eventually placed on display in the Smithsonian Institute as part of a country-wide tour.
Noe has been recognized by the National Wildlife Turkey Federation (NWTF) as Artist of the Year for “Nature’s Gold.” Years later, NWTF would use the print “Struttin’ Time” on a variety of promotional items ranging from coffee mugs to door mats. In addition, in 1991-92 he was named the New York State Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year for his work entitled “Cherished Moment.”
“People didn’t realize what a famous, nationally renowned artist he was,” said Seiders. “His prints are all over the United States and Canada. He was the biggest contributor to the NWTF in the last 20 years, and how many people from Fulton County can say they have had a painting in the Smithsonian? We were fortunate to have someone of his caliber in this county.”
The bond between Noe, 73, and Seiders likely grew from their shared interest in art. A modest artist dealing with the creation, painting and intricate carving of turkey calls from gobbler wing bones, Seiders and Noe had joined up to create only a handful of what are called “turkey call prints.” Each print carefully selected by Noe was paired with Seiders’ turkey call and tastefully matted and preserved in a shadow box.
During the February 2011 Mc- Connellsburg Lions Club Crab Feed, a turkey call print along with a second turkey call were auctioned off for $3,200. That amount was, coincidentally, the largest sum of money ever raised on a single auction item.
Since Noe’s passing, Seiders stated there will not be any more turkey call prints created aside from two that were already in the works. Those items will be sold at the upcoming Lions Club Crab Feed and auction scheduled for February 25 and on March 3 at the Safari Club dinner and auction at the Elks Club in Hagerstown, Md.
As an added touch, the duo “combined their crafts” with that of Greencastle resident and artist Melissa Ball, who was trained by Noe and will be including her own artwork on those particular calls.
“Mark and Melissa combined, that’ll be something really special,” noted Seiders.
“This is a sad year for me ending something that had been so much fun. No one else has ever been involved in the selection process except for Mark and myself,” said Seiders. “We don’t even have one. The only way would be to buy one of the few remaining turkey call prints.”
Some auction organizers are already planning to reserve a vacant chair to honor Noe for all of his contributions to local organizations and various fundraisers. “People don’t realize how much artwork he donated to every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. Even if you were having a fundraiser for homeless cats, he would donate,” recalled Seiders.
“Some years he would donate more prints than he would sell. All you had to do was ask ... ” Seiders added.
A true testament to the word “generous,” friends Wyn and Inez Eddy, of McConnellsburg, were often touched by Noe’s acts of kindness and giving. Inez indicated Noe had donated a print to the Breast Cancer Alliance and was a frequent contributor to the annual Sweetheart Ball. In fact, on the day of his passing, Noe was scheduled to deliver a print to the Eddys for use at this year’s Sweetheart Ball.
“He came in and had lunch with us pretty frequently. He was more than an artist, we lost a good friend that day,” said Inez, who noted Noe was always there to serve and often provided a chauffeur service to Wyn for various doctor appointments.
Perhaps having known Noe longer than any other Fulton County resident, local artist Brian Tucker said he became acquainted with Noe in the early 1970s while working at Grove Manufacturing. Noe served as his first supervisor and oddly enough, the duo taught one another a few tricks when it came to art.
“Our friendship grew over the years,” said Tucker. “He was a very talented man.”
Meanwhile, back at Johnnie’s Diner, Noe’s death has left a void that cannot be filled. His “Don Ho” Hawaiian shirts, his attempts at dressing down to fit in with his rural friends, his antics and tales of learning about nature and wildlife from his grandfather in Arkansas will certainly be fodder for “The Diner Crew” for many years to come as they remember their close friend and artist Mark Twain Noe.