Artist and inspiration

In many ways, children's book artist and illustrator Ted Rand, who died March 12, represented the very best of Mercer Island.

For many children, learning to read comes from a love of a special book. A book with Ted Rand's art spins wonder and adventure that children can hold in their own hands. Pages rich with color hold tiny details and secrets that only children can see. They are books to hold, delight in and read many times over.

Rand's books are doubtless on the bookshelves of many Island homes.

He was called an illustrator, but he was much more. His wife of nearly 60 years and his collaborator on a dozen children's books, Gloria Rand, said that her husband was serious in his work.

``You're no longer a painter of pictures,'' he liked to say of his work with books, ``you're a visual storyteller.''

The artist, 89, died at his north-end Island home, not far from where he was born, just hours before he and Gloria were to receive yet another honor for their work. He was born at a much simpler home on the Island just after Christmas, 1915, during one of the worst snowstorms of the century. It was too dangerous for his mother to cross Lake Washington by boat to get to a hospital.

His father was the headmaster and his mother a teacher, at the Luther Burbank School for troubled youth. Rand eventually traveled the world, became a well- known illustrator, and taught his craft for many years at the UW. He grew up as the Island did, changing, but always proud of his Mercer Island roots.

At 65, when most are beginning a life away from work, Rand became a children's' book illustrator, his art appearing in 79 books. The Rands traveled from Alaska to California to Chile to research stories and create their own adventures to share. His son Martin said last year, ``Dad kind of instilled this adventurous spirit in us.''

His life leaves both a lesson and legacy for Islanders. He was always growing, always changing. And his work will live on to delight readers of all ages.

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