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WQED Working To Reunite WWII Vets & Families With Personal Sketches

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - During World War II, a Pittsburgh artist sketched hundreds of portraits of servicemen and women.

The drawings helped to connect United States troops overseas with their loved ones back home.

However, not all of the works of art made it to their destination, but that's where WQED comes in.

Elizabeth Black joined the Red Cross during World War II.

In just under two years, she traveled all over Europe sketching more than 1,000 portraits of soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

A few years ago, Black's son stumbled upon something incredible.

"Elizabeth's son, John, found her memorabilia in a trunk that had been in another family's garage for 30 years and it was on the west coast in a garage. It was shipped to him, he opened it up, took one look at it and said, wow, what a treasure we have here," WQED Executive Producer David Solomon said.

Inside the trunk, were copies of some of Black's portraits from the war.

John contacted WQED. Solomon stepped in and decided to track down the veterans or their families.

"I knew that the portraits meant a lot to people, but until I actually called them and actually spoke to them and they would say, 'I've been looking at that portrait on my wall for 70 years. I've always wondered who was Elizabeth Black and now I know the story,'" Solomon said.

Some families had the original portrait, while others didn't. Some of the portraits never made it to their destinations.

Thanks to Solomon and his crew, they are being delivered now, all these years later.

Frank Clark, a veteran living in Beaver County, recently received his sketch.

"His reaction was 'Aw, I remember it. I remember how kind she was to us. I remember that she had us laughing and joking and it was a difficult time for these men so they were quite charmed by this woman from Pittsburgh who was during these portraits,'" Solomon said.

Although many families have been contacted, there is still a lot of mystery.

Solomon hopes the public will help. There is a photo gallery of the sketches on WQED's website, which you can see here:

A documentary called "Portraits for the Home Front" airs tonight on WQED.


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