Kalamazoo woman creates ArtPrize piece honoring father killed in Korean War

KALAMAZOO, Mich.-- This Memorial Day really hits home for a woman in Kalamazoo whose father died in the Korean War on this very day 67 years ago. She's created a special tribute to her father and plans to submit it in this year's ArtPrize.

Sharron Ansell doesn't really remember her father; he died when she was only three years old. Through making this piece she's learned more about him and says it's therapeutic in a way: making her feel closer to the man who lost his life back in 1951.

"The last letter my mom sent him was dated May 31 and he never got it," said Ansell. "This one was was dated May 25 and of course they were all sent back."

Small pieces like these letters fill the two wood panels created by Sharron Ansell. They're all part of a tribute to her father, Master Sergeant James Lee Becker. The Marine was killed in a plane crash during the Korean War on Memorial Day in 1951. Sharron was only a toddler.

"We just didn't ever know him," said Ansell. "We knew everything about him from people in the family and friends. We just kind of grew up hearing stories and looking at pictures and things like that."

Sharron was inspired to make the piece titled, "The Forgotten War" a few months ago and has been adding small pieces to it over time.

"This is my favorite picture of my dad," said Ansell. "Maybe it was therapeutic to make this."

Half of it is dedicated to all the Michigan service members killed in the Korean War.

"1,456 people gave their lives in Michigan for this country to be free," said Ansell.

Ansell is still looking for an ArtPrize venue, but hopes those who see it will stop and remember the fallen from all those years ago.

"People should really think about it," said Ansell. "I'm just doing this to honor our county and our people."

The exhibit is also going to be interactive, Ansell is going to have service men and women from all branches sign the back of it and write messages. She's also inviting people who have family members killed in the Korean War to contact her with pictures or other things to add to the exhibit.

Letters and photos can be addressed to: The Forgotten War, P.O. Box 269, Richland, MI, 49083.

ArtPrize is scheduled for September 19 through October 7.

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