Great Portrait Drawing

My great grandfather, GRB Michie had been the president of the Bank of Charlottesville from 1913 to 1938. Some time during his reign the bank commissioned a portrait of him which hung in the bank. Eventually the bank was sold to Bank of America and they decided that after 100 years they no longer needed the very large oil painting. Through some personal connection my father was contacted about the portrait to see if the family would like it. Since GRB had six daughters there are many descendants today. Given some bad family history called “the great furniture wars” after the passing of GRB’s wife, my father wanted to make sure that deciding who got the portrait was done in the fairest possible way.
He devised a complicated set of rules to figure out who was even interested in getting the portrait. Once it was clear that there were as many as fifteen people who wanted it, my father went about planning a family reunion party at his house where the drawing would take place.
Cousins come from as far as Houston, Boston, New Hampshire and Charleston. The youngest cousin was nine months old, the oldest seventy-nine. It was an excellent gathering of thirty three Michie family members and their spouses.
After the drinks and hugs and conversations the official drawing began. I was the appointed videographer to document the entire drawing to prevent a recurrence of the “great furniture wars” to show those family members who could not be present what the outcome was.
Carter’s friend Jovi, who is visiting from Miami, was appointed the official name drawer because my father promised a person with had no interest in the painting would draw the winner. The names of the grand children of GRB were written a papers and put I individual envelopes. Every envelope was opened. The first one was the biggest loser, then the next, and so on until there were just two names still left in the drawing. One would win the copy of the portrait and the big winner would get the big painting.
It was down to Helen Lamberton, who was not present and to the offspring of Johnny Heyward, Mary and Haidee who were on the porch. Jovi read the second to last envelope, Helen. That meant that Haidee and Mary were the big winners. Cheers went up!
Mary stepped forward to stand beside her sister. “We talked about this before the drawing. We would like for Ed to keep the portrait as long as he is alive and after his passing Dana and I will fight it out.” It was a most touching moment. My father who usually never accepts a gift from anyone was almost speechless, but did not decline the lovely offer.
GBR Michie would be proud to know how these generations get along so well and love each other. After the drawing a fabulous dinner was served. The reunion was quite a big hit. It is not over yet, since we are gathering for breakfast in the morning.
Thanks to Mary and Haidee I think this is one of the most special nights in my father’s life. He has spent a year preparing for this event and had so much fun doing it. Now we need to stumble upon some long lost family heirloom so we can do it all again.

2 Comments on “Great Portrait Drawing”

  1. Dana,

    My sister and I both agree this is a wonderful ending for the portrait drawing. It is such a happy story. I spent quite a bit of time many months ago providing your Dad some historical information about George RB Michie and the portrait artist. (Mom was very helpful in both of these areas.) Margy and I wanted to come, but the final date was set during our annual week at the beach — set nearly a year earlier. It is hard to change these dates, once set at times. We also both knew we were not going to be participating in the drawing, so we left the final party date up to those who wanted the portrait. I would expect your Dad is delighted to have the portrait, at least for now. It sounds like a wonderful party and occasion, and gathering of Michies.


    • dana lange says:

      Ellen, we missed having you there. It was a grand party and now I feel like it is up to our generation to continue reunions. My father was so touched my Mary and Haidee’s gesture, but he was worn out by throwing this party. Love to you and Margy

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