Artist David McBride brings the sea and mountains to Homeland art gallery

David McBride

Dave McBride – teacher, artist, traveler, family guy.

David McBride’s journey as an artist has brought him from scenic peninsulas to Homeland Center, where he is the artist on exhibit in the Florida Room gallery through September.

He loves the opportunity to bring beautiful scenes for Homeland residents, staff, and visitors to experience.

“I’m so happy to be here,” Dave says. “I want the pictures to be evocative. If you look at a beach scene, I want you to hear the waves.”

Year-round, Homeland’s Florida Room gallery is home to the works of artists made available through the Art Association of Harrisburg. The association works with organizations throughout the region to exhibit the work of member artists in offices and lobbies. Homeland is proud to be the only retirement community in the program.

By profession, Dave is a teacher. For 19 years, he taught special education in the East Pennsboro School District and now teaches physics and science.

The Harrisburg-born and raised McBride first picked up a paintbrush when his father, Wayne, took an art class with the Art Center School and Galleries in Mechanicsburg, PA.

“He left his paint box lying around,” Dave says. “Literally, I used dad’s paintbox. I still have some of his paints.”

Painting became a serious pursuit when Dave’s son and daughter – now 26 and 25 – got older. His “best critic and best supporter” was his mother, Lottie. She would make suggestions, requesting that he paint a bird or flowers.

“We’d sit at the table and paint with Q-tips,” he says. “We had fun. We laughed a lot. The paintings were horrible, and it didn’t matter.”

Dave first took classes at the Art Center School and Galleries with noted, and meticulous, landscape artist Ralph Hocker. Then he studied with the more impressionistic Jonathan Frazier, at Art Association of Harrisburg.

“Ralph said that if you want to learn how to paint a cow, paint 100 cows,” Dave says. He takes that approach to seascapes and mountains, including the series hanging at Homeland of the highest peaks on each continent that are known, collectively, as the Seven Summits.

Two vivid sunrise scenes in the exhibit – “Dawn’s Early Light” and “Corolla Dawn” – were painted at Bethany Beach, a favorite vacation spot. Dave doesn’t sleep in while on vacation, so he got outside with canvas and paints to capture the sun rising over the ocean. Because the scene changes so quickly, he captured what he could in broad outlines of blues and oranges and filled in the rest later.

Custom-selected frames from Smith Custom Framing & Fine Art Gallery in New Cumberland showcase each work’s unique qualities ( Dave has shown in group shows, including at the Art Association of Harrisburg. Solo shows are daunting, but he learned to embrace the challenge after Hocker told him it was time to display his work.

“The shows are nerve-wracking,’’ Dave says. “You open yourself up. Every painting that you paint reflects yourself.”

One work shown at Homeland resulted from another challenge accepted. A fellow AAH artist suggested that Dave complete a larger canvas. He picked up a 16-by-20 canvas and depicted a gull, complete with shadows cast under the water splashing onto the shore, and cleverly titled it “Gullable.”

Dave posts his work on his blog, Dave’s Eclectic Art, at His wife, Sandy, liked a turtle that he painted and suggested that he do another. He produced a similar work of a swimming dolphin, lit by streams of sunlight breaking through the water, and framed by colorful sea vegetation. As soon as he posted it on the blog, a viewer asked about buying it.

He and Sandy are active at the church where they married, Camp Hill Presbyterian Church. Every year, she takes a mission trip to a disadvantaged region of Maine, where “for 30 miles around, there’s nothing.”

Just after Dave hung the Homeland show, they took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State. Dave took photos, even as he noted in memory the tonal shades of the majestic scenery and “the muted greens of the mist.”

“There’s a canvas on my easel waiting for me,” he says. “We’ll see what comes out.”

Homeland unit secretary Ghidai Woldai: A telling story of survival and friendship

Ghidai Woldai

Ghidai Woldai, Homeland Center CNA and Personal Care unit secretary

Ghidai Woldai has a story to tell. It starts in Eritrea, the East African nation where her father was a governor. Family life was typical – going to church, going to school.

But in the turmoil of a violent government takeover, her father was killed and her mother imprisoned. She and her sister were smuggled through the Sahara Desert by night to reach Italy. There they stayed, stuck for a year while scattered and missing documents were collected.

She was 12 years old.

“My dad always wanted us to get an education,” she says now. “We had a good life, but it all went down the drain at that time.”

From Italy, Ghidai’s path took her to the United States and almost directly to Homeland, where she has built a career in health care, provided support for residents and staff, and found a supportive family. Today, she is a Homeland medication technician and personal care unit secretary.

“I have family here,” she says. “I’m very blessed.”

It’s a journey that dates to 1980. Ghidai and her sister were resettled to the U.S. by the United Nations. They were sponsored by a professor at Messiah College, the Brethren in Christ-associated institution in Grantham, PA. Her sponsor’s sister happened to be director of nursing at Homeland – a stroke of serendipity because Ghidai had always wanted to be a nurse. At home in Africa, her uncle had been a doctor, and she liked working alongside him.

“I just liked Band-aids, I guess,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t know what happened, but that’s what I wanted to be.”

She was 13 years old when she first came to Homeland with her sponsor’s sister. The administrator at the time was the indomitable Isabelle Smith, whose energy and drive laid the groundwork for the reputation of excellence and stability that Homeland carries to this day.

“She raised me like a daughter,” Ghidai says. “She was strong. She’s outspoken. She gave me good advice. I never had any problems here.”

Ghidai became a certified nurses’ assistant and was in charge of the evening shift for 10 years. A back injury waylaid her ability to provide direct care, but she has worked with “wonderful, wonderful nurses” over the years.

Her love for Homeland continues to this day. After Eritrea’s war ended in 1991, Ghidai and her siblings would travel to Africa to visit their mother. Before her mother died in 1998, Ghidai was given three weeks off to travel back to Africa to see her one last time. Once again this summer, Ghidai and family members – including a niece and her children now living in London – will travel to Africa.

She is eager to tell her story to introduce Americans to the struggles and triumphs of Africa.

“God created all of us, but Africa is different,” she says. “People will come and kill you, and nobody will say anything.” Her family didn’t even learn the truth of her father’s fate for two years, while they were led to believe he was in prison.

“All of a sudden, they gave out a list of the people they killed,” she says. Her father was on that list. There were times the family hid in the jungle, at risk of being eaten by wild animals or bitten by “so many snakes.” When they fled, it was by camel – “not very pleasant, but I thank God for what He’s done for us.”

Outside of work, she fills her time with family and friends. Her sister and a brother remain in the area, and they exchange hosting duties every week for dinner after church. Her boyfriend, who owns a business in Maryland, is also from Eritrea, with a tragic story to tell of the father he idolized, who died from a stroke in his early 50s after the government confiscated his extensive holdings.

“So many untold stories,” Ghidai says. “Now, we’re free, and God bless America. We’re happy to be here, and I think the U.S. is an excellent country.”

Homeland resident Patrick Ulmen reflects on a life with the Navy and IBM

Patrick Ulmen

Patrick Ulmen: resident, grandfather, painter, former Navy and IBMer.

Patrick Ulmen can tell you how to milk a cow or make a thermometer casing. He once operated a submarine engine. He can fix a broken-down car. And he can paint a beautiful seascape.

It’s all a product of a life lived on dairies, in towns, and working with the U.S. Navy and IBM.

Today, Patrick enjoys life as a resident in one of Homeland Center’s personal care suites. His roomy, bright space showcases family photos, the books on military history that Patrick likes to read, and his paintings.

First, about those cows.

Patrick grew up in Watertown, New York. His father was a World War I Navy veteran who made 17 Atlantic crossings on the USS George Washington, a troop transport. On that ship, Patrick’s father taught recuperating soldiers to sew and knit.

As a teenager, Patrick spent his summers working for local farmers. There, he learned to drive and to milk cows. At 6 a.m. every day, he would go to the barn and turn on a radio broadcast that played Khachaturian’s rhythmic “The Sabre Dance” to help workers keep time as they milked.

On a dry day, farm work was nice, he recalls, but “on a wet, rainy day, you were wet through.”

As for those thermometer casings — for many years, Patrick’s mother performed piecework at home for a thermometer company. A truck would deliver long glass tubes that his mother would file into precise lengths. She would then roll the tube over a flame and, at the precise moment, hit a pedal that delivered air from a compressor to make a bubble at the end of the tube. Then the tubes would go back to the factory, to be filled — in those days — with mercury.

In Patrick’s room, a sepia-toned photograph shows his mother in profile, wearing a long string of pearls. While raising six children and making those thermometer casings, she also found time for bowling. She held bowling records for 28 years.

After high school, Patrick followed his father into the U.S. Navy, where he served on a Nautilus submarine prototype during the Korean War. His job was keeping the small sub’s diesel engines running amid the roar and the heat.

“Sometimes, it might be 130 degrees in there,” he says. The submarine was performing “spy stuff,” he recalls, sailing from Groton, Connecticut, to Cuba and Puerto Rico while testing methods for identifying locations of other ships.

After four years of Navy service, Patrick enrolled in Broome County Technical Institute (now SUNY Broome Community College) to study mechanical engineering with an electrical sideline. That was also when he married his wife, Shirley, who had been introduced by a friend.

After working such jobs as printer’s apprentice and cable winder, he landed a job with IBM. He would spend the bulk of his career there – 20 years – as the company moved into the forefront of business computing. He worked his way up the ladder and into management, eager to soak up any learning offered. He spent his time in quality assurance, making sure that products sent from vendors met exacting specifications.

“I got really simpatico with the guys,” he says of the vendors whose work he scrutinized. “I might say, ‘You’ve got a rejection coming.’ They were great people to work with. You make friends with them.”

A tour of the artwork hanging on Patrick’s wall introduces some of the outdoor spots where Patrick has gone fishing, canoeing, or boating with his son, brother, and friends. His works show an expert eye for depth and focal point.

Patrick was always active in his parish and belonged to the Knights of Columbus. He stays close with his two granddaughters. At Homeland, he enjoys making friends and spending his time reading and making ship models.

“It’s a pleasure being here,” he says. “It’s the friendliness of the people. No one’s ever said a cross word here. The staff is always happy to help.’’