Courageous living is an art
Local woman expresses God’s love through paper
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE-Last Friday, a very touching, impromptu,
rededication ceremony took place at St. Peter Lutheran Church.
Longtime Cedar Creek Lake resident Shirley Roper wanted to show
her youngest daughter where one of her intricate art works was
So she stopped by the church in Gun Barrel City and presented a
framed plaque expressing her feelings during the creation of a
paper tole crucifixion scene that hangs on a wall in the church.
Pastor Scott Schaller thanked her again for her gift and spoke a
simple prayer. Church secretary Mary Foster said the
meaning-filled visit brought her to tears.
“We had a caring conversation,” Schaller said to describe the
meeting. “The picture has become a real treasure and expression
of faith. It’s a blessing to the members and those who come to
visit and worship here,” he said.
“When I was there at the church, I had such a sense of peace
knowing that a piece of my mother will live on and express her
love and faith,” daughter Connie Kerr of Fort Worth said. “I was
surprised she felt like getting out. It’s God helping us show
the world who she is.”
Roper is putting her affairs in order and insuring that her five
adult children are left with a legacy of optimism. Just last
week, doctors told her she has three months to live, while a
tumor grows in her abdomen. Roper has decided to refuse
treatment for the cancer.
“I hope my art will touch hearts, (of those) who don’t know the
Lord and will cause them to turn around,” she told The Monitor.
Roper, 81, is an amateur artist and sharp as a tack; she learned
paper tole, a three-dimensional decoupage using exacting cuts
and layering to create a lifelike scene, about seven years ago.
It took her three months of daily work (five to six hours) to
complete the crucifixion scene three years ago, she said.
She thought of this completed project every time she drove by
the church and read its sign: “We believe in Christ crucified,”
“Bob and I had hung it in the living room, but every time we
looked at it, it would tear us apart,” she said of their
realization that Jesus suffered for them and were they living
lives worthy of such a sacrifice. “I determined that it should
hang in a church,” she said. So she gave it to St. Peter
Shortly afterwards, her husband was to undergo a triple heart
bypass. Schaller visited with the couple in the hospital and
developed a caring relationship with them. “He was so sweet and
so kind. I was deeply impressed by him,” Roper said.
Schaller learned that Bob was the youngest child of his father,
who was 80 when Bob was born. Bob’s father had been a lawman on
the Oklahoma frontier, among other things, had married a native
woman, and had reared three families over his lifetime. “His
story is probably one of the most memorable ones I have heard,”
A few years ago, Roper’s husband became incapacitated after
suffering a stroke. She has been his caretaker shortly after the
couple sold their farm and moved to Peach Tree Road near Gun
Over the past seven years, Roper estimates she has completed 25
to 30 paper tole portraits of animals and wildlife scenery, and
has given most of them away over the years.
“I just love to see the look on people’s faces when I present
one of these,” she said. “It’s been so inspiring to see how
people react,” she said.
Once she did one of a freightliner for a truck driver friend.
“He was just floored by detail in it,” she said. After that, she
started getting requests, one after another.
The Tyler doctor that did a knee replacement for her also raised
thoroughbred horses. She had recently completed a scene with a
bay horse standing on a cliff overlooking a meadow.
“I thought, you know what, I’m going to give this to Dr. Godfry,”
she told her husband. On the next follow up appointment after
the surgery, she brought the large, framed art work into the
hospital with everyone having to have an explanation for her
having it before she could arrive at her destination.
“When I got there, the office clerk told me that today was his
birthday. I was so excited to give it to him. He absolutely had
a fit. He told me later that he had hung it over his fireplace
in his living room and looked at it every day with wonder.”
Daughter Connie said, “She just keeps going and giving. If you
can’t see the presence of God in her and her art work, you’re
just not seeing her.”
Roper and husband Bob came to the lake area from Arlington where
he worked as an aircraft welder; and she worked for Skaggs, a
grocery store which was bought by Albertson after Roper retired.
The couple bought 21 acres of property off U.S. Highway 175 on
CR 2921 between Gun Barrel City and Eustace called Berry Lake
There they grew watermelon, peas, thornless blackberries, nearly
200 peach trees and a large garden. The property also had two
tanks stocked with fish and where they watered cattle.
“We had a life that was so rewarding,” she said.
Kerr remembers one time, when the couple had a bumper crop of
peas and no way to get them in.
“My mother called the Payne Springs Fire Department and told
them they could have whatever they picked to use in their
fundraising efforts. They brought over a truckload of people to
pick peas,” she said.
In the first few years of their relocation, husband Bob
continued to commute to Arlington. After seeing him off early in
the morning, Roper got hooked on watching an early-morning
painting class on television.
She thought, “I can do that.” So, she did. She started with
acrylics and then oils. “It became an obsession for me,” she
said. “It gave me a mental release, so the Lord and I would
paint together every morning.”
“She would paint a picture on just about anything from an
ostrich egg, pottery and even on an old saw blade,” Kerr said.
After a few years, a friend told Roper about a woman in Denton
who did paper tole, an art form new to Texas, so she looked into
it and took a class.
Her first piece was a beautiful grouping of pansies, which
included all the basic techniques and used most of the tools
available to paper tole artists. It still hangs in a deep silver
frame in her hallway.
Besides the crucifixion scene, Roper created a set of praying
hands for each one of her children to encourage them to pray,
Roper worships with the Payne Springs Baptist Church now. And
this past June, her congregation helped give her a wonderful
Pastor Danny Dennie described Roper as a caring and
compassionate person. “It’s just so obvious that she loves her
husband and her children and is devoted to the Lord and living
in the center of his will,” he said.
“I’ve done what I’ve done (art works) with the love and energy
God gave me and not for any notoriety, you understand,” were her
parting words to The Monitor. “But if just one person would come
to know God’s love through anything I’ve done or said, then it
will have all been worth it,” she said.