The Spark for Real Gentlemen

One afternoon as I strolled through the Brandywine River Museum, I came across this painting by Jamie Wyeth called “Lester.” The portrait haunted me. The next day, I started writing a story about what it might be like to hang out with this character one night.
From what I’ve read, Jamie Wyeth and Lester were friends and the painting was done in 1963. I have no idea if Lester is still alive or living in the Brandywine Valley. Of course, my story is fiction and has no real connection with the real person in the portrait. Since I was inspired by this local artist, I naturally wrote the story using local landmarks such as the Brandywine Creek and Hank’s Place, and a particular house that is located on Route 52 just south of West Chester.

The short story, Real Gentlemen, is included in the anthology Chester County Fiction.


11 responses to “The Spark for Real Gentlemen

  1. Jim, thanks for posting the portrait! I thought I would look for it the next time I was in the Brandywine River Museum, but I’m glad to see it now. It is a stunning picture, and I can see why it grabbed you. Loved your story, and really appreciate knowing its starting point.

  2. Good to see you on here Jim. Very cool.

  3. I know much about Lester. He worked for my family….and often would stay ith us. Sandy Musante

    • Hi Sandy – thanks for the note. Very interesting. I know nothing about Lester and I hope he is well. That portrait in the Brandywine River Museum was inspiring.

      • Sandra MUSANTE

        Lester told my family he was walking and Jamie stopped to give him a ride. Jaimie asked to paint him and from then on Lester referred to Jaimie as his friend. Lester told us he was always welcome at Jaimie’s . Lester’s facial bone structure and complexion were purely beautiful. He had an air of innocence about him. In reality, he was an uncomplicated human being.
        Lester Stanley has passed on. He and a brother,John, both were raised In extreme poverty. As young boys growing up on a farm…their parents were so poor they would cover Lester and John with newspapers to keep them warm at night .
        They were basically homeless and uneducated. In the early sixties, my Mother met them . .i believe John Stanley came to her for work. She owned a small restaurant on Conchester Highway….Wolfe’s Pantry…. and both John and Lester would eventually work off and on for my her as dishwashers. At that time ,their elderly patents lived on Green Street, Marcus Hooke.
        Personality wise,John thought he was a cowboy and always dressed western. Lester was very sweet, gentle ,soft spoken and loved to wear women’s clothing. He would often come to work with nylons on under his trousers ..he had to show us….and smudged lipstick from the night before. Often ,he would ask if I had any extra clothes he might have. Both Stanley boys would stay either with their folks or with my folks or with others who took them in. They both had aversions to bath water.
        Although they lived what some would say we’re tragic lives , they were truly happy fellas ! I’m all the better for knowing them! Sandy


    • I appreciate hearing Lester’s story. That portrait captures something unique about Lester. It’s interesting to learn about his life and how he came to be the subject of the painting. I read a portion of the story last month at Chester County Book Company, and in the middle of the reading it struck me that Lester could be sitting in the audience and I wouldn’t know it. I’m sorry to hear he has passed on. Thanks for sharing your personal connection with him. And thanks for your kind words about the story.

  5. Hi Jim. Do you think anyone else might be interested in knowing about Lester ? You have my permission to share. Talking to family….I could confirm John Stanley died from alcohol in a Linwood ,Pa. I couldn’t 100 % confirm Lester’s death among my family. Perhaps Jamie would know.

    I’m interested in this Chester County group…..if it’s an open to anyone group. I’m a West Chester University Writing Fellow…..and from what I could see….looks exhilarating ! Thanking you for this exchange….the older I become the more nostalgic and enjoy connecting about it. Sandy M.

    • Hi Sandy – Several of the writers are members of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group (as am I.) It is an open group and you can find us on Meetup or Facebook and connect. Join us! Our next meeting is Tuesday, February 19th at Ryan’s Pub. Our sister group, the Main Line Writers Group, is putting an anthology together. Feel free to send me an email or friend me on Facebook if you want to learn more.

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