A Shelton Celebration
March 13, 2012
By ST. CLAIRE DONAGHY
Greenwood, SC - Friends, family and special guests turned out Monday to wish artist-in-residence Skip Shelton a happy 89th birthday during a celebration at the Arts Center at the Federal Building in Greenwood.
Shelton planned the event, a "roast" of sorts, with plenty of humor, skits, music and entertainment.
With his love for living life to the fullest, Shelton endears all who know him to his art and his endless tales.
The evening included political spoofs of Sarah Palin by Taylor Wilson Tucker, of Thayer's in Uptown Greenwood, and Arts Center executive director Anne Craig singing in French, along with state Sen. Floyd Nicholson singing to Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World."
The Arts Center's Jennifer Smith wowed the crowd with her singing, and Niki Hutto also had fun with her skit. Additionally, the spirit of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" was brought to life by Kristen Summey, Mary Anderson and Kara Summey.
There were also card trick magicians, tap dancers and folks playing along with the big band sounds of Glenn Miller.
Kristen Summey, far left, Mary Anderson, background, and Kara Summey, foreground, perform a tap dance routine during artist Skip Shelton’s 89th birthday celebration at the Arts Center in Greenwood. (St. Claire Donaghy | Index-Journal)
"I love everybody in this room," Shelton told a capacity crowd in the Arts Center's Calhoun Mays Reception Hall.
While in the U.S. Air Corps, Shelton's artistic skill got noticed. He painted "nose art" on the B-24 bomber he flew, dubbed "Frisco Frisky," with his rendition of a calendar girl.
Shelton, a World War II veteran and bomber pilot, paints daily.
He teaches classes at his Arts Center studio, where his wife, Shirley, also creates. Skip is known for driving his motorcycle and his Jeep that's painted to look like one a commanding officer gave him at the end of World War II.
Shelton served as a member of the 448th bomb group in the United States Air Corps, enlisting to become an aviation cadet.
Of Shelton's nine-man crew, two are still living in addition to Shelton, and all three keep in touch. Len Roecker, who served as Shelton's bombardier, along with Roecker's wife, Pat, came from Wisconsin for the festivities.
"Skip and I bonded immediately," Roecker recalled. "I was 19. He was 21. We were in Europe to held end the war (World War II). We were assigned to bomb (Adolf) Hitler's last hideout - Bechesgarten. It was the last raid of the war, and we had been informed peace would be declared the next day."
Like Roecker, Shelton felt the call to patriotic duty and enlisted in the Armed Forces.
Shelton recalled he had to down a big lunch and as many bananas as he could eat to make the weight requirement, because he was three pounds below it when he went for his physical.
Something of a Renaissance man, Shelton is a former newspaper cartoonist and columnist. He is also a former disc jockey, a former motorcycle police officer and a former corporate pilot for Milliken and Co. and Greenwood Mills. He flew some 50 years after his military service, often flying former U.S. presidents and other famous folks.
A published author, too, Shelton wrote of his adventures in "Into the Wild Blue Humor."
Shelton's artwork graces local gift shops, eateries, a Greenville dental office, numerous churches and more.
As a child growing up near Greenville, Shelton said he could "sort of draw" and was called upon in school to draw a picture of a frog in biology class on the chalkboard and helped with drawings in math class, too, before graduating and heading to college.
Upon college graduation, Shelton flew fighter planes in the United States and then went to England for bomber pilot training. Then, it was off to the European Theater to defend the Allies against the Axis powers.