Sunday, August 30, 2009



“Homestead HorseWoman”

Judy Bechtold

I met Judy Bechtold a few months ago while tending my booth at the farmers’ market in Roanoke. Judy told me that she had moved recently to Roanoke from Richmond. Before she moved to Richmond a few years ago, she had lived in Tallahassee, Florida for thirty years with her beloved husband, Steve. After she lost Steve to cancer, she joined her daughter’s family in their move to Virginia. She has already become a valued addition to the Roanoke community, working as a school speech therapist and as a therapeutic horse leader/side walker at Healing Strides of Virginia (

Judy, third from left, with her horse Tony

Judy grew up on Hoosier Homestead Farm, a pastoral piece of Indiana that has been in her family for eight generations. Her farmer father and grandfather encouraged a love of horses in Judy and her five sisters from an early age. Along with her mother, a mid-western farm wife who could cook or sew just about any item of food or clothing family members needed, they taught the girls the value of hard work and discipline. Those lessons undoubtedly helped provide Judy and her sisters with the values that enabled them all to graduate from Purdue University.

Judy, second from left, riding with the "All Girl Mounted Horse Patrol"

I’m finding Judy has a great sense of humor. She arrived at a drumming ceremony I had a month ago wearing a comical ‘bat hat’ that she created for the occasion. My home, Woodloft, has a small bat population and she wanted to be sure none of them landed in her hair. When Judy asked me to create a custom necklace for her, she asked me to incorporate a few particularly meaningful keepsakes she had collected over the years. Below, are the items she gave me to work with.

Sterling horse

Angel heart

Sterling feather

Small bird

Dolphin pendant

I added pau abalone shell pieces in recognition of Judy’s journey to New Zealand, itself a symbol of her many interesting travels. I also added a nautilus in acknowledgment of her long-time residency near the ocean in Florida.

Pau Abalone

I’ve enjoyed learning about Judy’s life and working on her necklace. I wasn’t sure if I could pull all those items together in one piece, but I believe it worked out very nicely. I hope she agrees.

Homestead Horsewoman

Below is the scroll I wrote to go with Judy’s necklace.

Homestead HorseWoman

A galloping horse is the central element in your Goddess Ceremonial Necklace, Judy, because of your lifelong involvement with these graceful animals. From Janie, your first pony, to Tony and the other horses of your youth, to the therapeutic riding mounts of your adult life, horses have been a constant presence in your life. Horses represent a source of power and freedom for you as they have to many people throughout history. Through your work in therapeutic riding, in turn, you have given some of this power and freedom to handicapped individuals: a little bit more power over their lives, and a little bit more freedom from their limitations.

The angel with the ruby heart has many meanings for you. First, it signifies your faith. It also symbolizes the spiritual guides you have encountered throughout your life. At least as importantly as these, however, and perhaps even more, it signifies the extraordinary bond of love among you, your sisters, and the other members of your family.

The two feathers are symbolic of the glowing hawk feather you found in Tallahassee and had incorporated into a Lakota-made dream catcher. Found shortly after your beloved sister, Alice, passed, you embraced the original as a spiritual message from her – and so the feathers on your necklace serve as an affirmation of that reassurance.

The bird over the head of “Homestead HorseWoman” signifies the totemic birds – hawk, bluebird and hummingbird – which have played such a significant role in your life. It also symbolizes your love of bird watching, a pastime you avidly share with your grandchildren.

Turquoise is one of your favorite colors and stones, and so, of course, it is included in your necklace. Historically, people of many cultures have reputed the stone to bring prosperity, health, or good fortune to the owner. May it confer all of these on you, Judy.

The two representative sea mammals forming the large heart at the bottom of your necklace are reminders your multiple encounters with dolphins, and your embrace of the dolphin spirit of "a carefree sense of adventure” coupled with “unselfconscious playfulness". Taken together with the horse and the bird, these dolphins also represent your love for the natural world and your efforts through the years to take ever better care of “Mother Earth.”

The paua abalone shell pieces are a token your trip to New Zealand. They also serve as a more general reminder of your many journeys and your belief that we should always “live in the Now.”

~ Cheryl Dolby~

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  1. Cheryl, This is a wonderful neckless! Beautiful job!!
    Thank you for posting a photo of me and my sculpture at the gallery. I look forward to being associated with such talented artists!
    Viki Quinn

  2. Cheryl,

    I enjoyed all your tips. Hope to see you sometime.

    Your High School Friend,

    Shirley Tomko McFarland


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