Retro Rewind | Hidden but Not Forgotten

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we learn the family history behind the 1932 painting of Edmond Meany soon to take its permanent residence for public viewing in Meany Lodge.
Tiffany Ban Tiffany Ban
Communications Associate
July 27, 2021

In 1953, George Rogers stood atop the stunning Mount Olympus with a group of fellow climbers from The Mountaineers. At the time George knew his family history was deeply intertwined with the club, but he had no idea just how much until, 67 years later, he saw a Retro Rewind piece in Mountaineer magazine entitled “An Olympic Summer, 100 Years Ago.” A sentence caught his eye – “The most summits by a single member was eight, completed by Phillip Rogers, Jr.” His first thought was, “Could that be my dad?”

He started digging.

He wanted to find out just how deep his family ties were to The Mountaineers. George reached out to Lowell Skoog, the Chair of The Mountaineers History Committee. Lowell mentioned The Mountaineers, A History by Jim Kjeldsen and sent him a link to The Mountaineer Annuals, released from 1907 through 1994. George was delighted with the wealth of information. As it turns out, the Phillip Jr. that stood on top of eight peaks in 1920 was George’s father. Not only that, his maternal grandfather George Wright was chairman of the outing, accompanied by his daughters Elizabeth and Annah, the latter of whom would one day be George’s mother. George’s paternal grandfather had also attended a summer outing in 1915, cementing a family legacy of Mountaineers involvement on both sides. How George’s father and paternal grandfather became involved with The Mountaineers is still a mystery, as both Phillip Jr. and Phillip Sr. were living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He may never know how his father’s side connected with the organization, but he likes to believe this fated trip led to his very existence. To put it another way, the climb was destiny.

A family of Mountaineers

Raised in Milwaukee, George’s dad Phillip Meinhardt Rogers (Phillip Jr.) attended the University of Wisconsin before continuing on to Yale Medical School. Following his academic success, he was ready for a new adventure – and he longed for it to be in the Pacific Northwest. Hoping to deter him, his father Phillip Sr. convinced the Dean at Yale to talk with his son. The Dean reported back that Philip Jr. “could have any position he wants on the east coast, but he is determined to go out to the ‘boonies of the northwest.’” He had fallen in love on that 1920 trip, and there was no going back.

Phillip Jr. made the move and soon officially joined The Mountaineers. He was a member of our 1922 annual trip, which was slated to go to Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the Goat Rocks region. Once again, he was able to convince his father Phillip Sr., as well as his sister, to join in the fun. Everyone had a grand time exploring the Pacific Northwest.

TreeGuy.jpgGeorge E. Wright, George Roger’s grandfather and namesake.


As fate would have it, George’s mother, Annah was also on the 1922 trip with her sister and father, George Wright. One can only imagine what happened next, but suffice to say Phillip Jr. met Annah again on that trip and they were married four years later, in 1926. Phillip Jr. continued to work as a doctor and satisfied his love for the outdoors as a ranger at the Dosewallips Ranger Station for several summers. Born and raised in Seattle, Annah was a gifted artist and graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, often painting and drawing as her children grew.

In 1932, Annah was presented with a unique opportunity to apply her creative talents. The Mountaineers hoped to have a portrait painted of long-time president, Edmund Meany, who was also an esteemed professor of botany and history at the University of Washington.

According to a 1936 Seattle Times article about the painting, Professor Meany didn’t have time to sit for a portrait, so Annah attended his classes at UW for two months to sketch him while he taught. “She was so taken by him,” George said of his mother’s admiration for Professor Meany.

Annah showed her sketches to the professor, who then agreed to sit for her so she could paint a proper portrait. She even wrote a poem about Professor Meany to accompany the portrait.

Edmund Meany died just a few years after the painting was completed in 1932. For many years the portrait of the white-bearded professor hung in The Mountaineers in Lower Queen Anne, quietly surveying the old clubhouse.

A lasting legacy

George never got to see his mother’s famous painting as a youth. However, he did have the joy of spending time at Mountaineers facilities. He skied at Meany lodge and frequently saw plays at the Kitsap Forest Theater. He went to Wisconsin in 1954 to finish high school before attending college and joining the Marine Air Corps. When he finished his military service in 1964 he became a pilot for Pan Am, spending the latter half of his career as a Boeing 747 Captain. He finally returned to the Northwest in 1995, and only then did George see his mother’s painting for the first time.

Several years ago, George and his wife were at The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center and he realized he didn’t see Professor Meany hanging anywhere. When he inquired about his whereabouts, he learned the painting was sitting in the basement in storage, where it had been since The Mountaineers moved from Lower Queen Anne to Magnuson Park. He thought it a shame that the painting wasn’t being displayed anywhere, so he asked The Mountaineers if he could try to find another home for it.

He contacted the University of Washington to see if they might like to hang it in Meany Hall, and searched for Meany’s kin. No one wanted it. The Mountaineers Meany Lodge also crossed George’s mind as a suitable place, as it‘s named after Professor Meany and because George had skied there in his formative years. He was, however, concerned that the temperature and humidity fluctuations at the lodge wouldn’t be good for the artwork.

Into a new home

That’s when George was contacted by our Meany Lodge historian and committee member Matt Simerson. Matt said he would build a protective box for the painting so it could be safely hung in the lodge.

“I think it’s a good solution, and I think it’ll hold up well,” George said. “I want it be up somewhere, and that’s a good place.” He emphasized his gratitude to Matt Simerson and Lowell Skoog for offering the resources that allowed him to research his family’s history in The Mountaineers, and for helping to place his mother’s painting back into the public view, where it belongs.

If you visit Meany Lodge after this summer, you will likely be able to see the portrait that Annah Wright Rogers lovingly painted of Professor Meany. George is grateful to The Mountaineers historians for helping him dig into his family’s past, but we are equally grateful to George for sharing this piece of his family’s history, and Mountaineers history, with our community.

Interested in discovering your own family history? Published from 1907-1994, The Mountaineer Annual is a yearly snapshot of our explorations and achievements. Learn more at: mountaineers.org/the-mountaineer-annuals 

Sources

Author Unknown. “Anna [sic] W. Rogers Tells of Making Meany Painting” The Seattle Times, 19 April 1936. (Sourced from the newly-released Seattle Times Archive, dating back to 1895)

Kjeldsen, Jim. The Mountaineers: A History, Mountaineers Books, 30 September 1998.


This article originally appeared in our Summer 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our  magazine archive.

Lead image of George Rogers picking up the portrait of Edmond Meany from our Program Center.

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