MARTIN – When the United States Post Office was created in 1775, Post Offices began popping up nationwide and quickly became a gathering place for entire communities. Customers picked up their mail, neighbors visited neighbors and news was shared. The Martin Post Office is hoping to bring back some of that nostalgia by honoring the late Ralph “Waldo” Dingus and the artwork he painted featuring every aspect of the Martin business district.
What makes Dingus work even more special is he painted most of his work while battling Parkinson’s disease.
A reception to honor Dingus and his talent will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 in the Post Office Lobby, 11561 Main Street. Five Dingus paintings will remain on display during regular business hours at the Martin Post Office through the end of November.
“We are so honored the Dingus family is allowing us the privilege of sharing these works of art with the entire community,” said Martin Postmaster Donna Howell. “We’re hopeful the paintings will bring back many memories for customers and area residents.”
One painting depicts the old Martin High School with the Purple Flash Marching Band and Majorettes. Another painting is a scene from the annual Red White & Blue Days, featuring Chief of Police Hershel Lester as the parade grand marshal and Vernon Crisp who was known for playing Uncle Sam on stilts.
Two paintings feature storefronts on Main Street. On the north side: Dermont’s Grocery Store, Frazier’s Jewelry, Reid’s Pharmacy, Frazier’s Restaurant, Mountain Mission Thrift Store, H&R Block (old Allen’s Hardware Store) and June’s Dress Shop. On the south side: Rexall Drug Store, Hammonds and Hamilton Retail, Wright’s Jewelry Store and Country Village Style Shop.
Another painting is a montage of former landmarks: Our Lady of the Way Hospital, the Dinwood Tunnel, Lawrence Keathley Theater, the Martin Train Depot, the Twin Bridge over Beaver Creek, Martin Methodist Church, Martin High School Gym, Tina’s Triangle Drive-In and Beaver Valley Hospital.
Dingus’ lifelong passion was art. Besides a career as an educator and art teacher in Floyd County Schools, he also painted many of Martin’s local landmarks, including Messer’s Department Store, Fat Boys Pizza & Grill, and the Martin Post Office, all of which have their Waldo Dingus paintings prominently displayed.
“We actually had a small crowd gathered here inside the post office while we were hanging Waldo’s paintings last week,” said Howell. “One customer pointing to a store in one of the paintings said it was where she purchased her prom dress. Another customer remembered seeing ‘The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes’ at the old movie theater. Seeing these reactions and hearing so many memories certainly illustrate the impact of Waldo’s art.”
“He was a very respected and loveable guy,” she added. “His death was such a loss for the community, but his work helps keep his legacy alive among Martin residents.”
The Postal Service does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses; it relies entirely on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.