Pam Fries paints at the Landing Artist Studio in Port Angeles last week. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Pam Fries paints at the Landing Artist Studio in Port Angeles last week. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles artist creates portrait to comfort grieving mother

PORT ANGELES — When a Port Angeles artist learned about two children who died in a flash flood in Arkansas, she decided to use her painting talents to bring comfort to the family.

Pam Fries, who paints Port Angeles Rocks and specializes in painting pet memorial rocks, painted a portrait of the kids together to send to their mother.

A flash flood in Madison County, Ark., on April 29 swept away 18-month-old Krystal Wiggins and her 4-year-old brother, Damien Wiggins.

The mother’s cousin, Suzanne Abbitt, was familiar with the Port Angeles Rocks group and reached out to the group asking if anyone could paint a rock of the kids.

Abbitt said Sunday she was in tears when she received the rock in the mail.

“It was so realistic, she did a very great job on it,” she said. “It was so heartbreaking to have those kids taken away; I’m still praying.”

Now she is preparing to send the rock to her cousin in Arkansas as a surprise to help with the heartbreak of losing two of her children.

“She can use some lifting up right now,” she said. “My cousin can still use some prayers.”

When Fries first saw Abbitt’s post asking someone to paint the rock, she scrolled past it, but she felt she needed to let Abbitt know she was willing to paint the rock, she said.

“I just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Fries said. “Somebody was hurting [and] I wanted to make some of the pain go away.

“As a parent I cannot imagine what it would be like.”

For Fries it was the first time she had ever done portrait work.

She specializes in painting animals and often paints dogs and other animals that are being put down for health reasons.

Painting a portrait was a bit harder, she said, and not just because she had never painted a person before.

“There were times it was hard, knowing those kids aren’t there anymore,” Fries said. “You have to struggle with those emotions, but I try to separate myself out and get into the actual painting process.”

She said she has those emotions too when she paints other memorial stones.

She worked on the painting between her commissioned projects and said she wanted to take her time on it.

Abbitt was in disbelief that it was Fries’ first portrait because of how good it was.

Making it a little extra realistic, Fries sculpted the noses and made them three dimensional.

“That’s amazing work for doing it for the first time,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how great it was.”

Fries said her goal in painting the rock was to bring happiness to someone in pain, something she believes everyone would want to do.

But the Port Angeles Rocks group isn’t the only rock-painting group Abbitt contacted. In other groups she didn’t really get much of a response, Abbitt said.

“You want to do what’s right in God’s eyes and helping somebody else out and making somebody feel happy is the only way you should be,” Fries said. “I think if it was anybody else, [they] would do something to make somebody else happy.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Pam Fries painted this memorial rock of 18-month-old Krystal Wiggins and 4-year-old Damien Wiggins after the two were killed in a flash flood in northeastern Arkansas on April 29.

Pam Fries painted this memorial rock of 18-month-old Krystal Wiggins and 4-year-old Damien Wiggins after the two were killed in a flash flood in northeastern Arkansas on April 29.

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