Painter Steve Wetzel brings works capturing nature’s moods to Homeland


Artist Steve Wetzel was hanging his works in the Homeland gallery when a resident stopped to watch.

“This is the first show they’ve hung at Homeland since the pandemic,” Wetzel said. “He was happy to see new art going on the wall.”

Wetzel installed his “plein air” nature paintings exhibit in Homeland’s cheery Florida room gallery. The show stems from Homeland’s longstanding partnership with the Art Association of Harrisburg, which organizes exhibits of its members’ works at public spaces throughout the area.

“I like hanging works in places where people might not have the opportunity to get out and see a little art show,” he said. “They have it right in their home.”

Wetzel is a member of Harrisburg’s legendary Seven Lively Artists, an invitation-only group founded in 1956 by seven distinguished artists (although membership usually hovers around 15). Quality of work is a hallmark of The Seven Lively Artists, who exhibit together and separately around the region.

A retired state official who always knew that he would pursue a second career as an artist, Wetzel smiles as he recollects his first piece: a drawing of Santa Claus made on a brown paper bag when he was 3 years old.

“My mother hung onto that drawing for all of her life,” he said. “When she gave it to me, I thought if it meant so much to her, I wasn’t going to throw it away.”

Wetzel specializes in the “plein air” style of painting – French for “open air.” He started learning the craft in the early 2000s when he took an Art Association of Harrisburg class. The result is a series of paintings capturing nature’s moods, from sunny to stormy.

There are hazards to plein air painting. Wetzel has held an umbrella over his easel while painting during a torrential downpour. He remembers a December excursion to Cooperstown, NY when temperatures dropped into the single digits, and he layered on every item of clothing he had packed.

One of the pieces displayed at Homeland, a striking rendition of a rugged Maine coastline, tells a harrowing tale. To get the right vantage point, Wetzel clambered down some rocks. He was carrying his easel, a 10-pound plein air painting kit, and another 10-pound bag of supplies. His foot slipped, and he came down hard, badly bruising his hip.

Then he set up his equipment and painted the scene.

Some of the paintings at Homeland depict familiar local scenes, including the Harrisburg skyline along the Susquehanna River and the famous Rockville Bridge. Others are products of travels with Wetzel’s plein air-painting friends to places of rugged beauty, including Maine and Rhode Island’s Beavertail Lighthouse.

All reflect Wetzel’s talent for depicting dynamic atmospheres. They also testify to the skill of plein air painters to capture nature’s rapidly changing moods quickly and methodically.

“You try to get the feel of what’s going on,” said Wetzel. “They normally say that you have a two-hour window to paint before things really change, and a lot of times, you don’t even have that, especially if you’re trying to capture a sunset. Those things change by the moment.”

In those fleeting circumstances, he will try to frame out the permanent fixtures of the scene – landscape, structures, horizon – and save the details of the sky and reflections in the water for last.

“They call it chasing the sky,” he said. “If you keep trying to chase the changes, it just looks messy.”

Wetzel loves that several of his works have made their way to London, purchased by a visitor who saw a show at a Harrisburg bed and breakfast.

“Maybe he’ll hang one in the front window, and when the queen walks her dogs, she’ll see it,” Wetzel jokes.

Wetzel and his wife live in the Chambers Hill area of Harrisburg. They have three grown children and five grandchildren, ages 4 to 21.

He likes to think that his works will boost the residents.

“There might be some former art teachers here, or some artists. It might jog some memories,’’ Wetzel said. “It might be someone who’s been to Maine or who’s familiar with the Rockville Bridge. It might bring something back.”

Homeland Board of Managers member Sandra Daily: Giving back on behalf of her family


Sandra Daily is a busy woman.

She’s a grandmother involved in the Daughters of the American Revolution and a supporter of anti-bullying campaigns. So, the first time Homeland asked her to serve on its Board of Managers, she declined.

But when the opportunity next arose, Sandy decided it was time. She knew the quality care Homeland Center provides from her frequent visits with her mother and brother, Peggy and Rusty Keiser.

“I figured I have two people here and that I should give back,” she said. “Everybody’s been so nice and kind to them. I felt it was my turn to step up to the plate.”

The Board of Managers is a tradition unique to Homeland Center. In 1867, 18 women from nine Harrisburg churches gathered to advocate creating a home for Harrisburg’s widows and orphans of the Civil War.

While a Board of Trustees oversees financial and policy issues, the Board of Managers hearkens to those 18 women determined to avoid giving their initiative an institutional feel. The Board of Managers, still an all-female group, is responsible for sustaining Homeland’s home-like environment and quality of life.

Sandy Daily joined the Board of Managers in September 2021. She helps decorate for the holidays and arrange flowers for Homeland’s dining room tables, making sure every table has a vase fresh with blossoms each week.

She welcomes the opportunity to be a friend to the residents – especially those whose families aren’t close enough to visit.

“They’re all so happy to see somebody,’’ said Sandy, who also serves on the board’s House and Grounds Committee. “I chat with the residents and ask about how they’re doing. People need that.”

She worked with fellow board members to help the Homeland Activities Department host a fun day with the first Fall Fest in October 2021. The COVID-weary residents and staff enjoyed a day of outdoor activities, with a wacky photo booth and the chance to “bob” for apples using long-handled grabbers.

Sandy’s membership in the Harrisburg Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution came after researching her mother’s family tree by her mother’s maiden name, Hummel. As her maiden name suggests, Peggy is descended from the founder of the Hershey-area town of Hummelstown, and a Hummel connection was a Revolutionary War patriot.

After joining the DAR, Sandy spearheaded the creation of an essay contest and scholarship awards for high school seniors. Today, she serves on the chapter’s Historical Committee, helping preserve the National Register-listed Dr. William Henderson House in Hummelstown, considered an excellently preserved example of a Federal-style townhouse.

Sandy is a retired elementary school teacher who combined her knowledge of knitting and teaching into support for the national Hat Not Hate anti-bullying campaign.

Participants knit blue hats that are donated to schools and distributed to students as symbols of anti-bullying initiatives. Sandy was pleasantly shocked the day that campaign founder Shira Blumenthal went live on Facebook to open a box of knitted hats from “Sandy D,” of New Cumberland, PA.

Blumenthal read the letter from Sandy that talked of bullying, which she witnessed first-hand as a teacher, and its negative impact on young lives.

“Your Hat Not Hate program is so important in today’s world,” Sandy wrote. “I wish this program had been around when I was teaching.”

Like her mother, who knits sweater vests for children in need, Sandy loves knitting for a cause.

“If you can make someone’s life a little better because you show you care, that’s a help,” Sandy said. “Shira Blumenthal always said to consider it a hug. I told my neighbor kids, ‘You’re getting a hug.’”

Homeland resident Peggy Keiser: Knitting for giving


In the skilled hands of Peggy Keiser, yarn transforms into colorful gestures of love for a child in need. It’s the latest measure of a lifetime of generosity – one that life at Homeland Center helps her continue.

Peggy and her son, Rusty, came to Homeland in 2018 and quickly joined in their new home’s life and daily activities. Most days, you can find her in either the Gathering Room or her airy personal care suite, lovingly knitting sweater vests for 3- and 4-year-old children.

All the expertly knitted vests – more than 50 since 2019 – are donated to social service agencies, which distribute them to families in need of warm clothing.

For Peggy – who served as secretary for 10 Susquehanna Township School District superintendents over her 65-year career – knitting has been part of her life since childhood. She learned from her mother and taught her daughter, Sandra Daily. After retiring from Susquehanna School District in 2011, she joined her church knitting group, where she began making the tiny vests for children in need.

She has a talent for unique color combinations, whether highlighting a vest in teal shades with a crisp white collar or using a contrast of blue to turn a self-striping red and white yarn into an American flag.

“She combines colors from odds and ends of yarn in her closet,” said her daughter, who serves on the Homeland Board of Managers. “To me, that is amazing.”

Every vest that Peggy knits always comes together so well. Peggy knits most days of the week, but takes a break on Sunday’s.

“She’s always told me because that’s the way it was in her family,” says Sandra. “They don’t do anything on Sunday.”

Peggy is motivated by a lifetime of service which continues uninterrupted at Homeland.

“She likes the fact that she’s giving to somebody else,” said Sandra, who finds social service agencies to distribute the vests. “Mother has always been that way.”

“Oh, yes!” Peggy chimed in. “I do that. People, people, people.”

Here’s one example: In November 2021, a pack of handmade Thanksgiving cards arrived for Peggy showing turkeys drawn by outlining small hands made by Susquehanna schoolchildren. Peggy wanted to thank the sender, so Sandra tracked down the senders’ teacher, and Peggy emailed to thank her for “adding something special to a 94-year-old senior citizen’s day.”

The teacher responded with a heartfelt note and a story about Peggy’s unforgettable kindness. It was 1990, and the teacher had just moved to the area to work in the school district. The superintendent spent a day helping the teacher find an apartment during the holiday break. Peggy sold the teacher her grandmother’s living room furniture, and the superintendent allowed a district custodian to deliver the pieces. On the second day of the New Year, Peggy invited the teacher to enjoy the traditional central Pennsylvania meal of pork and sauerkraut.

“Your mom was so embarrassed to be serving leftovers,” the teacher wrote. “Little did she know that kindness would help mold me into the teacher that I am today.”

In addition to knitting, Peggy fills her days at Homeland with exercise class and bingo and enjoys doing Sudoku and word puzzles in the newspaper.

“The staff is wonderful here,” Sandra said. “Many of them have been here for a long time. That longevity says a lot about the care they receive.”