When artist, Ted Conrath, was a young man, he was a familiar name in the papers of North Dakota. At the age of nine his talent blossomed and soon the papers brought accolades for his busts of governors, saw him rise to the rank of Life-Scout, and followed him off to war. They tracked his family as they became ensnared in Germany at the outbreak of World War II, unable to get out. The Tribune followed the family's attempts to get home and the unfortunate news that Ted's father was put into a Nazi work camp, then finally their reunion back in North Dakota in 1946. When Ted moved to New York, articles were few and far between: an award here, a showing there, and the "remember when" articles that recorded twenty five, then fifty years since his famous busts.
A feisty sister, Caroline, extremely active in the art community in Mandan, kept the Conrath name afloat. There was the old house she and her mother purchased from New Salem then had moved to a prairie, the story of the plane landing in her yard, and the dramatic gallery that she ran, always full of cats and always showing her brother Ted's work. When she passed away in 2013, the art and life of one of America's most intriguing families all but vanished. But if the past weekend proved anything, it was that they were not forgotten.
Maybe, it is something that we are all destined for, but there is no reason to go willingly. Certainly, when you come upon a story as moving as the Conrath's, you have to fight.
Word that Ted Conrath's art will have a solo exhibition at the prestigious National Arts Club in New York, reached the front pages of the Mandan News on Saturday and the Bismarck Tribune on Sunday. And then, calls came in from Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, and North Dakota, all with stories about the Conraths. Ted's regiment in WWII, the mighty 164th, reached out through Facebook and suddenly, the story of the Conrath family is more alive than ever.
Sometimes, remembering is all we need to do; and it can be the greatest gift.