LET’S COOK: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” The Rugby community knew such a giver and that was Deb Jenkins. The recent passing of Deb has brought to mind the many gifts that she bestowed upon the arts in North Dakota.
While operating Strand Studio, we took many pictures during Village Arts Theater productions. One in particular that comes to mind is that of Deb playing Golde and her husband, Bob, playing Tevye in the 1990 production of Fiddler on the Roof. This image shows them in full character against a beautifully painted background; and even at a glance, you know this moment was upon both of them. It’s fitting that Deb and Bob are immortalized this way because they brought to the Rugby stage, along with matriarch of theater in Rugby – Glory Monson – a passion that cultivated many exciting productions.
Deb was forever encouraging folks to become connected to the arts. She believed in her heart that everyone had something to offer. In Hook’s Christmas Box published at the end of the 18th Century came Dub a dub, dub and now known as Rub a dub dub. In this rhyme, the Butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker were all pushed out to sea. Well, Deb’s version of Hook’s rhyme not only included the butcher and the baker, but it also included the hairdresser, the teacher, the veterinarian, the insurance man, the farmers, the children, the grandmother, the florist’s daughter, the nurse, the pastor, the photographer, the cook, the mother, the veteran, the attorney and so many more. She, along with Monson, did not push these souls out to sea but rather on to the stage for all the community to see. This encouragement impacted many lives and established for many a deep appreciation of the stage.
In our home we witnessed this first hand when Lydia was invited to audition for Hee-Haw Hayride – a children’s musical that Village Arts presented at the Pioneer Village in Rugby. Lydia was encouraged by both Deb and Glory to practice, sing, smile, and have fun. One afternoon I visited with Deb and questioned how the practice was going. She said, they had talked about theater in practice that day and where theater can take you in life. Our Lydia added to that conversation by saying, “my dad and I recently watched the Tony Awards and maybe some of those people started with Hee Haw Hayride!” It was one of those moments that you will always remember. Each day Lydia would come home excited -not only about theater – but about life lessons as well.
Deb’s talent went well beyond that stage. She started the Village Arts String Orchestra that once again gathered people from all across the community. She had a special devotion to teaching children and had a fine combination of girls and boys playing string instruments. Many of these students have gone on to have music careers, but even more importantly, a love of string music that they can appreciate for a lifetime.
Deb along with her husband, Bob, made theater a family affair. Their children Abigail, Benjamin, Jacob, Adam and Josiah all graced the Rugby stage. Her Fiddler on the Roof program featured a photo that was signed by cast members. I had to smile as I noticed Josiah’s signature was spelled with a back word “s.” He and other young children were invited to participate in many musicals. Through the years, their family enjoyed reconnecting with many former Village Arts actors and actresses.
Deb took a special interest to ask often how Lydia was enjoying the arts in Minot. What a joy it was for both of them to be on the KMOT Noon Show the same day; Deb was promoting the production of My Fair Lady for Village Arts, and Lydia was representing Minot State Summer Theater as Alice in the production of Alice in Wonderland. The hugs, smiles, and pure joy that Deb expressed in Lydia playing this role warmed all of our hearts. It was encouragement that invited Lydia to the stage. This reconnecting brings forth the larger picture of Village Arts Theater in Rugby. The actors and actresses are forever family after being in one of the productions.
Deb’s lifelong interest in learning was amazing. She had recently completed studies at the University of North Dakota with a PhD in Instructional Design and Technology. She shared her interest in art, theater and music well beyond Rugby. The Rinat Mouzafarov’s Institute of Dance and Ballet Theater recently paid tribute to Deb for her outreach by dedicating in her memory, “The Lord’s Prayer” which featured lovely dancers in white gowns with red sashes and lighted hair wreaths.
Like many, I will miss Deb and the conversations we shared about color, design, Rugby, and cakes! Deb liked cake and one summer when she was living near us, I invited her to stop after a late evening of play practice. It was near midnight, but the rule was “if the porch lights are on, stop” and she did. It was a new recipe and much to my delight it became a favorite of Deb’s. I made it several summers for her, and she always stopped. We naturally visited, and we came to realize that our mother’s both were graduates of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis. Another connection and one that allow us to express and appreciate the Christian education that our mothers had received there.
Deb had a glass fish collection which her children have now creatively started to give away to friends of Deb. You will see in this image our fish which will forever remind us that riding the waves of music, theater and art help to connect the community in a great way.
One of Deb’s favorite songs was “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” How very fitting that the Village Arts Orchestra played this at her funeral. She will always be somewhere over the rainbow in our hearts. When we see a beautiful flower, a homemade cake, a musical, or a child starting to play the violin, we will be reminded of just some of the gifts we are to forever enjoy.
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