Valoy Eaton

Painter Of Truth + Light

Sunlight softly filters through the branches of a mulberry tree, creating mesmerizing shapes of light and shadow. A young Valoy Eaton stands below the tree captivated by all he sees. Now, at age 82, that fascination with light, shapes, and shadows continues to be an integral part of him. He says that when it comes to being an artist, “The seeing is really important.” His ability to see and appreciate his surroundings, along with good old-fashioned hard work, has earned him his livelihood and a 50-year career as an artist.

Beginnings

Born into a family of musicians, Valoy didn’t get much encouragement in the visual arts as a youngster. However, he did enjoy drawing as a young boy. He recalls what a treat it was to get out of months of school during the 5th grade to create an art piece for the roof of the school featuring Santa and his reindeer. It won 1st place in a community Christmas contest.

Art certainly wasn’t Valoy’s main focus in his youth. The Eaton family lived in Vernal, and money was tight. Valoy recalls, “We were on the edge of poverty, and I felt my best chance at going to college was to get a scholarship to play basketball.” The sport became his driving force, but something else also caught his attention — a beautiful girl in one of his classes named Ellie. Ellie was a cheerleader and the student body president. Valoy told his mother that when he got married, he wanted it to be to a girl just like Ellie. Both of Valoy’s high school plans worked. Several colleges offered him scholarships to play for them. And following high school, he got to marry his dream girl, Ellie.

A Call For Change

The newlyweds headed to BYU, where Valoy played basketball for Coach Stan Watts. At the same time, he majored in art and minored in PE. After four years playing ball and earning a bachelor’s degree, Valoy secured a job at Cyprus High School in Magna, Utah, where he taught and coached. Life was good. The Eaton family was growing and now had a couple children in tow. Valoy was spending much of his spare time playing golf and basketball with his buddies. Everything seemed to be going just fine. However, one person wasn’t satisfied with the situation.
In Valoy’s words, “Ellie got fed up.”
In a moment of brutal honesty, Ellie told Valoy that she didn’t know if she could be married to someone with so much artistic talent who only wanted to have fun. Initially, Valoy was shocked, but as the shock wore off, he ultimately knew Ellie was right. Valoy took this truth Ellie shared with him and used it for motivation to start “painting truth” as he calls it.

He started working harder at painting than he ever had. He would occasionally even work through the night on his art, only to shave, brush his teeth, and head back to his teaching job. The Eatons decided together that Valoy would quit teaching just as soon as he was making as much money with his art as he did with his day job. That day came in 1972. The Eatons packed up and made the move from Granger to Midway, where they bought a little fixer-upper on the corner. Valoy had spent a lot of time painting on the river in Heber Valley and knew he would love living in the area. Ellie was Valoy’s right-hand gal, a true business partner, helping him any way she could. He made art. She sold the art. She also was a model in many of his paintings and became a great art critic. Valoy credits Ellie with doing as much, if not more than himself, to create the success he has enjoyed as an artist.

Crowning Achievements

As he looks back at a career that spans over 50 years and 3,000 paintings sent out into the world, Valoy considers his crowning achievements. Without pause, he lovingly mentions his family. He and Ellie are proud parents of five children, grandparents, and now great grandparents. When it comes to his art, though, the single thing he’s most proud of: “That I stuck with it.” He never gave up even when it wasn’t easy. He also considers getting into the National Academy of Western Art in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City a significant milestone that pushed him to the next level in his career and gave him national recognition. Valoy feels he may be remembered most for the, almost sixty, works of art he has displayed across the world in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Valoy and Ellie, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wanted to donate paintings to various temples. With this goal in place, the couple spent their summer vacations traveling all over the U.S. going to temple sites so that Valoy could paint a local scene for each temple. In six years, the Eaton’s donated twenty-four paintings to the church’s temples. Valoy now looks at this time with his beloved Ellie as some of their most precious memories together. Ellie has since passed away, but her influence lives on, continuing to inspire Valoy.

A Bit of Advice

Valoy has plenty of his own inspiration to share. For those wondering how to take the leap from hobby to career, he offers a no-frills approach with straight-forward advice: “Work hard and start selling.” If you really want to make a living with art, Valoy shares the formula that’s worked for him: “Paint to please yourself to the maximum. There are always going to be people who don’t like your work, but make sure that you do.” And when it comes to those creative slumps that we all occasionally find ourselves in, Valoy says, “Make time to think. Realize you’re in a slump. Keep working at it. Throw some paintings away if needed. Compare where you’re at now with where you used to be.”

Valoy can no longer put in the same amount of hours painting that he used to, but he paints for at least an hour each day. Valoy’s walls are covered in many beautiful finished canvases, but they also hold many paintings that hang unfinished. He says starting is the easy part, but it’s the finishing that remains the real challenge: adding those delicate touches that give his work life. Those walls serve as a reminder of the starting and finishing that each of us must do: the goals recognized and completed, the dreams that remain unrealized, and the work yet to be done. In art and in life, “The seeing is really important.”

You can see more of Valoy Eaton’s artwork on display at Edelweiss Gallery in Midway and online at valoyeaton.com

By Noni Henderson

Driving along Casperville Road, you may notice the eye-catching memorabilia on display and wonder what exactly you are seeing. On this back road is a unique treasure trove of antiques, each with a story full of memories, history, and knowledge of our incredible valley, you likely won’t find anywhere else.

It was a gusty, freezing spring morning when I stopped at John Besendorfer’s Casperville Road Museum, as he calls it. I had dressed warmly, knowing that once we started the tour, there would be so much to see and talk about that I wouldn’t want to be distracted by the chill. In the few hours I was there, I heard a lot of fascinating details; I would have needed days to hear all the stories and history John is so generous to share.

John was born and raised on this family farm established in 1889 by his pioneer grandparents, who built the barn when the area was nothing but sagebrush. The farm was one of the many dairies located within Wasatch County, until 2018 when, after 130 plus years, they closed the doors. Now there are only two active dairies left in the valley. John remembers no running water, no inside bathroom, or electricity growing up as a young boy, but there was plenty of hard work to keep everyone busy. John and his wife Jane raised seven children on the farm and had been harmoniously married for 52 years until Jane’s passing two years ago.

John and Jane ran the farm together with Jane taking over while he taught school during the day. Over his 30-year teaching career in Midway and Heber, John taught 1,000 students and knew every person in the valley, which would have been 3,000 people at the time. With John’s knowledge of the valley’s residents and the couple’s love of history, it was only natural that their farm soon filled with antique artifacts. It was inevitable that John and Jane would heed the call to preserve history, and that is precisely what they have done. Although Jane no longer accompanies John while he leads the tour, one can’t help but feel her presence, as if she might suddenly appear to tell you the stories that only she knew of certain items.

The museum’s collection began with wooden wagon wheels from a family inheritance. Fifty years later, there are enough artifacts to fill eight to ten buildings. One of their more significant projects was a pioneer home that was carefully transported from Charleston using railroad jacks and a semi-trailer. Their collections are impressive and have been added to by way of yard sales, estate sales, and anything for sale that caught their attention, along with various generous donations.

As we walked and talked, John happily told the stories behind each item. There were stories of guns and swords found locally, swans, sleds and bottles, and a replica of a fire engine that he helped build. Stories about a “hair loomed” heirloom made from real hair, horse bones, and a collection of over 100 wrenches. If only the stamp collection and compilation of Heber high school graduating class pictures (probably the only one in the valley) could talk — what stories would they tell? You’ll find both in the “School House” building.

The list of artifacts goes on and on, with many holding special meaning. John’s favorite is his great grandfather’s Mormon Battalion uniform, sword, and cane that he inherited. Having come through both the Mexican War and the Black Hawk war, the artifacts are close to John’s heart and too valuable to be displayed publicly, but he still loves talking about their stories.

John’s family lives close by; his son lives next to him, and two other children live in the valley. His older brother lives on the other side of him with his own smaller collection of buildings and memorabilia.

Since the dairy is no longer there to draw in weekly visitors, John keeps busy every day and has had time to expand the museum by adding a few more themed rooms. Though they are a constant work in progress, he hopes to have the rooms ready for visitors this summer.

One of the most incredible things about John, besides his amazing memory, is his peaceful and sharing spirit. The museum came to be because he and Jane “felt the spirit of preservation, felt a spiritual prompting and power of guidance to do so.”

If you are fortunate to know someone from John’s generation, you know it’s always so interesting to talk about the experiences of their lifetime. John says it’s a privilege for him to have all this history for others to enjoy. To have them look at something and remember simpler times of their childhood and the sheer happiness it brings them. “This museum is to share, and if it can be an education, answer a question, enlighten about the past, then it has served its purpose — it’s multi-purpose.”

People like John and his family are our connections to the past. Their wealth of information keeps our community’s stories alive in our hearts. We need these connections, especially as the world changes with each passing day, and new residents move in and wonder about our rich history. Wasatch County is lucky to have the Casperville museum — go for a drive and take a tour. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as passionate or as knowledgeable about our entire valley’s history, families, and roots as John Besendorfer on Casperville Road.

Local’s Tip: Please call ahead for reservations 435-654-1459. Although not asked for, the museum would not decline donations.