August 25, 2013

‘Her whole face told the story’

Drawings capture moment of reconnection

Rachel Brown

— The pencil drawings easily capture the joy in the soldier’s eyes and the look of uncertainty and confusion as the daughter he is holding in his arms gazes a little warily at the man who to her is mostly a stranger.

Artist Jeannie Habermehl said she presented the drawings to a friend whose Army son recently came home from a nine-month tour in Afghanistan. That man, Spencer Tipton, had left at home his wife Tisha, a daughter, Addisyn, who is not yet school age, and a son, Avery, 5.

Habermehl, a local artist who recently moved to Dalton from Texas, said Tipton’s mother, Kim, is one of her friends. Kim showed her the cellphone pictures someone had taken of the reunion when Spencer Tipton saw his family again in Washington state where they now live. Kim asked if she could draw the photos, and Habermehl said she was glad to do so.

Addisyn’s expression caught Habermehl’s attention. In it, Habermehl saw what it means to sacrifice in war, both for the soldiers and for their families.

“The little girl was looking at him like her whole face told the story, like she didn’t really know him because she was just a few weeks old when he left,” Habermehl explained.

Kim Tipton said her son graduated from Southeast Whitfield High School in 2006 and had always wanted to join the military. He is debating whether to extend his enlistment, she said. He has one-and-a-half years left. The good news is that it doesn’t look like he’ll have to deploy out again.

“The little girl, he’s not seen her a lot between training and stuff like that,” Kim Tipton explained. “She’s 2 years old, and he’s probably seen her a total of five months of her life.”

Kim Tipton praised Habermehl’s work, saying she is a “very, very good” artist. The emotion captured in the drawings, she said, is “identical” to what the cellphone pictures showed.

Spencer Tipton still has several family members in the Dalton area including parents Kim and Michael Tipton. His grandparents are Marvin and Diane Bell and the late Charles and Tootsie Tipton.