Ordinarily, to call someone a “pumpkinhead” may be construed as rude, but in the case of the Woo family it’s quite a compliment.
Located in various areas of Wauseon, Grandpa and Grandma Woo, granddaughter Nina, brother Ahinan, and several other relatives are dressing up the city for Halloween. Their creator, longtime watercolor artist Norma Thomas Herr, said it’s all in good fun – or as she puts it, “just silliness.”
Herr, 82, has been decorating pumpkins for the occasion the past several years, fashioning them with various hairstyles, acrylic paint, and even accoutrements such as earrings, all to make a splash in the Wauseon community. Members of the Woo family – this year’s theme – can be found at the city library, the Fulton County Senior Center, the county courthouse and museum, the Fulton County Health Center emergency room, and in several local physicians’ offices, among other locales.
They’re Herr’s whimsical nod to All Hallow’s Eve, and a way to thank the city that supported her professional art career over the past 50 years.
“Painting pumpkins and delivering them to businesses around Wauseon is all just for fun,” she said.
Herr pointed out that the pumpkins have definite personalities, some created by the texture of the particular pumpkin. “Poor Grandma Woo, she has warts all over her, but Grandpa Woo, he married her anyway,” she observed. Brother Ahinan wears a rakish hat, and Grandpa is comfortable in a baseball cap.
A Swanton native who moved to Wauseon two decades ago, Herr earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University. Between 1968 and 2018, when she retired, she painted over 2,000 watercolors, selling them at competitions and festivals throughout northwest Ohio – including the Wauseon Chili Fest, the Swanton Corn Fest, and the Delta Chicken Fest – and at shows held along Lake Michigan. A 30-year member of the Toledo Artist Club, her forte was architectural subjects, such as barns, lighthouses, and the Fulton County Courthouse. But Herr also crafted landscapes as a member of the Ohio Plain Aire Society.
“Selling at the outdoor art shows was mostly for the adventure,” she said.
Each fictional Woo family member has a backstory developed since they moved to northwest Ohio after emigrating to Half Moon Bay Calif., she said. “Artists have things that pop into their heads,” Herr added wryly. “At my age, I didn’t go the (popular) zombie way, so it’s just a bunch of silliness. This is just to give to the hospital, the library, the senior center. I wouldn’t take any money.”
She plans to add a couple more family members to the Woo clan, then call the project quits. “I’m tired,” she joked.
As for next Halloween, “I don’t look that far ahead,” Herr said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.