Edward Arnold Reep

May 10, 1918 – February 27, 2013

Edward Reep was born May 10, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York to Joseph and Elsie Reep, immigrants from Odessa, Russia and Lithuania. His first adventure was getting lost on the Brooklyn Bridge in his baby buggy, to the great distress of his mother, during the excitement of the World War I armistice. In his early years the family moved to Huntington Park, California where Buster, as he came to be known, grew up. He always knew he wanted to be an artist. Growing up during the Great Depression was difficult, however, and Ed worked at any job he could get to help pitch in with the family. He played basketball at Huntington Park High School and his team lost only two games in three years, winning the Los Angeles city-wide championship consecutively. Despite his size he excelled as a guard, saying, “I was hell-bent to win. By the time I finished school, my nose was broken five times.”

Ed went to college at Art Center School of Design, taking the streetcar to and from school, often carrying large, heavy stones used in making lithographs, sleeping on benches, doing whatever it took to work, earn money, and get his education. He often said he loved to work and woke up each morning bursting with enthusiasm for whatever the day would bring.

When World War II began, Ed enlisted in the Army. He came to be stationed at Ford Ord in Monterey where he met Karen Patricia Stevens at a USO dance. From that moment on, he knew he had met the love of his life and they were married nearly 70 years until he lost her almost two years ago. Ed went to OCS, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, certified by the Higgins Eureka Motor Boat Operators School of New Orleans, and taught navigation on Lake Ponchatrain. The Higgins school closed, he was sent back to Fort Ord to ship out to Alaska when providentially an order arrived out of the blue naming him an Official War Artist Correspondent and Official War Photographer. He was the officer in charge of official war artists in the Mediterranean theater.

Ed fought in the battles and campaigns of Rome, Arno, Naples, Foggia, North Apennines and the Po Valley, and produced a body of work that resides in the Pentagon and the Army Art Archives. He received the Bronze Star Medal for Bravery and the European African Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal with four bronze battle stars. He concluded his military career with the rank of captain and supervised the design and publication of the Official Fifth Army History.

After the war, Ed returned to civilian life and like so many of his generation, never spoke of the war, but went on to raise a family and become a working member of society. He chose the path of an artist, his true destiny, and was supported in this difficult choice one hundred percent by his wife. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Painting to record his impressions of war during the first year of his return. He taught at the prestigious Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, taught night classes in his home studio, built his family home himself, and never stopped working. He could build anything and fix anything except motors. He worked for Goldwyn-Mayer Film Studios, 20th Century Fox, Selznick International Films and others, designed swimming pools for celebrities, and did many watercolors and covers for the Ford Times Magazine and other publications. He was the official courtroom artist for the infamous Confidential trial in Los Angeles. In 1956 LIFE Magazine sent him around the world to record his impressions of international airports in watercolor for their special June 18, 1956 Air Age Issue. In the early 1970s the Army temporarily commissioned him a Brigadier General and sent him to Berlin to document the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall.

Ed has been cited in publications too numerous to mention and authored two books, The Content of Watercolor and A Combat Artist in World War II. He is featured in the PBS documentary They Drew Fire, produced by Brian Lanker, and in the book of the same name.

His paintings have been exhibited in shows too numerous to recount and by invitation to three Whitney annuals, the National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Biennial, National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum and others. His paintings reside in the permanent collections of major museums, universities, corporations, and private collectors all over the country including the Smithsonian. He has lectured widely and juried innumerable shows, received numerous honors from the National and American Watercolor Societies and served as president of the National Watercolor Society.

Edward Reep the war hero, artist, teacher and painter was an impressive human being. But he was also our dad, an imperfect man who came home from the terrible conflict of WWII determined to meld the creative spirit of an artist with the traditional role of the family man – breadwinner, husband and father. To us, that made him even more impressive. No one tried harder, worked harder, gave more with more heart, loved more, or felt more deeply. He didn’t always do it right, but he did it. He orchestrated his life more perfectly than he realized right up until the end, which he met with perfect grace and courage. We recognize our impossible good fortune to have had our father for so long, but we will miss him so much.

He is survived by his children and their spouses Susan Reep and Mark Smith of Bakersfield; Cris Reep and Bill McDougle of Bakersfield; Janine Reep and Jay Hubbard of Juneau, Alaska; Mitchell Reep of Salem, Oregon; grandchildren and their spouses Jennifer and Matt Constantine of Bakersfield; Karen and Steve Davies of Sheridan, Wyoming; Kim and Steven Van Metre, Carrie and Jeff Stephens, Daniel and Clarice Seidler, all of Bakersfield; Taylor Hubbard and Lars Hubbard of Juneau, Alaska; and great-grandchildren Sarah, Sophia and Joseph Constantine, Alexandra Smith, Daxton and Xavier Castellanos, Annabelle, Jackson, Cooper, and Samuel Davies; and soon-to-be-welcomed Silas Edward Seidler. He was preceded in death by his wife of almost 70 years, Karen Patricia Reep.

We want to give special thanks to Dr. Tommy Lee, whose care over the years and special attention and conversation with Dad in the hospital made his passing so peaceful, and to Kim Sandoval, RN, 5th floor at Memorial Hospital who made all the difference, along with the other 5th floor nurses, and Dwight, RN in the Memorial ER. A special word of thanks to Sue Benham for going above and beyond.

The family asks for donations in lieu of flowers either to the Edward Reep Painting Scholarship at East Carolina University; checks made out to ECU Foundation, attn N. Ball, Office of University Development, 2200 So. Charles Blvd., Greenville, NC 27858; or National Museum of the United States Army which is where Dad’s war art will reside. Checks payable to National Museum of the U.S. Army, in memo section write Ed Reep Memorial; send to National Museum of US Army, 2425 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA, 22201.

A military ceremony will be held at Bakersfield National Cemetery Thursday, March 7 at 1:15 p.m. and a Celebration of Life will follow at Metro Galleries, 1604 19th Street, Bakersfield, from 2:30 – 5:30.