Wednesday, June 29, 2011

People Behind the Posts: Colonel (Retired) Carol Zieres

Independence Day is a celebration of who we are and what we have been through as Americans. It’s a time to reflect on the sacrifices made by generations of brave men and women in the name of freedom, and a time to allow ourselves to feel proud of our nation’s accomplishments. Our communities contain diverse examples of the talent and skills represented by our military personnel, both past and present, and three of our freshly-painted posts represent a fine example of this.

Colonel (Retired) Carol Zieres grew up in Deansboro, a small town in Upstate New York and completed her undergraduate studies in Biology and Art at the State University of New York at Oswego. After several years of study, she was eager to travel, so when her college roommate suggested they sign up for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), Carol thought this might be her ticket to see the world. Soon after earning her bachelor's degree and simultaneous commission as a Second Lieutenant, her wish for adventure came true. Carol was assigned overseas to an Army Combat Arms, Armored Division, stationed first in Garlstedt, Germany and then in Brunssum, The Netherlands, to serve in Army medical support units.

"The days were long and tiring during field training exercises and the work was physically exhausting as we were always placed on alert and had to be ready to roll out our convoy of ambulances to support live firing exercises, sometimes very early in the morning," she said. Carol had little time to take up new hobbies, but she sometimes found time in between her hectic schedule to use her camera and paint brush. “During my three years living in Europe, I traveled extensively on military duty and for recreation, taking photographs of scenic landscapes along the way,” she said.

She used those photographs as inspiration during quiet moments at home when she sketched her own compositions, mixing scenes and piecing together several of her favorite photos. ”I developed a knack for landscape art,” Carol said. “There was so much history: castles, windmills, fortresses ... it was like a fairy land.”

As it is for most soldiers though, there were times when Carol felt homesick and longed for her familiar surroundings back home in the States. Her day-to-day routine didn’t allow for her imagination to wander. The beautiful scenery would have to wait for her favorite camelhair paintbrush and pallet for another day. “In an Active Duty Army unit, you live a very structured lifestyle-–you live by the training schedule and everyone wears the same uniform. We all looked the same; especially when we wore a camouflaged helmet.” But during her off-duty hours, her artwork centered her and allowed time for relaxation. “I worked in a very stressful environment. In northern Germany, it was somewhat difficult to mingle with the locals outside our base, as few Germans spoke English. It was a very solitary lifestyle,” she said. “It was expensive to call home back then and we didn’t have the luxury of the Internet and the technology that soldiers have available to them today. My artwork was a way for me to escape into a hobby for which I had a great passion.”

After thirty years of moving from one duty station to the next, Carol hung up her uniform and retired in March 2011. Her last post was at the CW Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park as the Inspector General for the Army Reserve Medical Command (AR-MEDCOM).
Carol has since made Safety Harbor her retirement home. Now, only months into retirement, Carol has immersed herself in her art once again and also enjoys serving the community as a volunteer. She serves on the Safety Harbor Public Art Committee, was recently appointed Secretary for the Exhibiting Society of Artists (TESA), and she volunteers at the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Carol is also an active member of O’Gosh, a group of Safety Harbor residents who fill volunteer needs for local non-profit organizations. She is registered as a professional artist at the Morean Art Center in St. Petersburg and is an associate member of the Florida Craftsmen, Inc. Several of Carol Zieres’ paintings have been made into prints and postcards that are currently for sale at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. You can also find her postcard “Harbor” series in gift shops in downtown Safety Harbor.

This year, as Independence Day brings flashes of colorful lights and booming sounds to Safety Harbor’s clear July skies, retired Colonel Carol Zieres will spend her first summer in over thirty years without a uniform nearby.

Her posts? They depict colorful fish, manatees and turtles, peacefully swimming under water.

If you are a one of many of our painters, I'd love to write about you. Everyone was an artist on Sunday and we want to know all the "People behind the posts." Please e-mail Laura at LEKSINK@GMAIL.COM if you were one of our participants. There are many stories to follow!

1 comment:

OHpink2 said...

I saw Carol start her project in the pouring rain huddled under the canvas. She was a trooper working all day and getting everything just perfect. I had to leave just after noon and am so happy you posted the finished project. We had a lot of beautiful people come out that day to support SHAMc. Jan Stiffler