After longtime Puyallup painter and cowboy Fred Oldfield passed away last month, it was both easy and difficult for his daughter, Joella Oldfield, to follow through with his 99th Birthday Breakfast Celebration scheduled for Friday (March 17).
It was hard, because Joella and many others were mourning his loss. But it was also an easy decision, because Fred wanted it.
“It was one of the last things he said to me: ‘You make sure you take care of that for the kids,’” said Joella, who is also the executive director of the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage & Art Center.
It was one of the last things he said to me: ‘You make sure you take care of that for the kids.’
Joella Oldfield, Fred Oldfield’s daughter and executive director of the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage & Art Center
The annual celebration acts as a fundraiser for the center, which is located at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup. Throughout the year, the center provides art classes for kids, and hosts art camps in the summer.
“Arts help children get grounded,” Joella said. “It’s the only subject they can’t fail at. Art is interpretive. (Kids) learn confidence and skills. They learn perspectives. The arts are amazing for children.”
Fred shared the same views of art and its impact on children, Joella said. Some of his landscape and mural paintings are on display at the center now, surrounding the children who paint there.
“It’s very hard, but (the center) was his passion, so it makes it really easy on the other side because it’s what he wanted,” Joella said about his upcoming fundraiser.
Fred painted more than 1,000 paintings in his lifetime, Joella said, but no one will ever know for sure how many, exactly. She’s currently tracking them all in a database.
Born in 1918, Fred started painting at 17, drawing inspiration from his life, where he grew up traveling the West. At 40, he started painting full-time after retiring from the Army.
While his family is still unsure of the cause of his death, a mass had been found on his kidneys. It didn’t hinder his craft.
“He painted the day before he went to the hospital,” Joella said. “It happened very fast.”
He painted the day before he went to the hospital.
Around 200 people are expected to attend the fundraiser on Friday, including some of the center’s students. Frank Ordway, the Washington State assistant director for the Department of Early Learning, is the guest speaker at the event.
“It’s really just a quick, one-hour breakfast explaining the center and our goals and what we’ve been doing,” Joella said.
There is no fee to attend the celebration, but donations are encouraged. Donations fund the center’s art classes and student scholarships.
Peggy Rowe worked at the center for 12 years and is now a volunteer. She saw children grow up in the classes and knew how much art meant to them.
“The reason I like teaching is that not everybody is good at science or sports. Some kids don’t think they’re good at anything,” she said. “This boosts their confidence — being successful at something.”
She also knew how much Fred enjoyed spending time with the students — and how much they enjoyed spending time with him.
He made it a point to see (the kids) ... they simply adore Cowboy Fred.
Peggy Rowe, volunteer at Fred Oldfield Western Heritage & Art Center
“He made it a point to see them,” Rowe said. “They simply adore Cowboy Fred.”
Fred’s Birthday Breakfast Celebration is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday (March 17) at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage & Art Center at 9th Ave SW and 4th St SW in Puyallup.
Fred’s Celebration of Life is set for at 11 a.m. June 11 at the Washington State Fairgrounds’ Agriplex.