Kensington artist paints a moving tribute to the Crocodile Hunter

Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006

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Submitted photo courtesy of Jason Swain
Kensington artist Jason Swain stands in front of the painting of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin he painted on his van to honor Irwin after his death. Swain grew up in the same town on Australia’s Sunshine Coast as Irwin.

Shocked, as many people were at the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin last month, Kensington portrait artist Jason Swain wanted to honor his fellow countryman.

Swain, who is from the same town on Australia’s Sunshine Coast as Irwin, adorned his van with a portrait of Irwin wrestling a crocodile.

‘‘A lot of people around town know my van because the trailer is all decorated with lots of Australian things,” he said. ‘‘It was sort of natural that if I was going to paint anything, it would be that.”

Swain said he often saw Irwin working at the Queensland Reptile Park, now called the Australia Zoo and founded by Irwin’s father, where he began his wildlife career.

‘‘Back then, if he had 10 or 15 cars drive through it, it was a good week,” Swain said. ‘‘It’s funny to think the same guy got so big.”

Swain said his brother-in-law worked for Irwin and even repaired his boat just a few days before he died from being stung by a stingray while snorkeling.

Swain said he plans to paint a larger portrait of Irwin to send to the Australia Zoo or to Irwin’s wife, Terri. He said he hopes that a business or organization might help him out with the cost of shipping the painting down under.

‘‘He was a local boy. He was very hands-on, very personable,” Swain said. ‘‘He was a little over the top, a little loud, but that was just his way of getting attention to what was most important to him, conservation.”

Cheering for literacy

Volunteers gathered on the National Mall on Sept. 23 to raise awareness about literacy during National CheeREADing Day, organized by Garrett Park resident Bretton Keating, 17, a senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington.

Keating became involved with the organization, which encourages children to read, last summer. She was recently named the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., region delegate for CheeREADing and chairperson for National CheeREADing Day.

Along with volunteers Emma Platais and Shannon Keating, members of Girl Scout troop 2243 and Tilden Middle School students, Keating stood outside the Washington Monument with signs and posters announcing CheeREADing. They spoke on the importance of literacy and raffled off a set of the first five Harry Potter books.

They were joined by CheeREADing founder Ashley Anderson, who started the organization when she was an eighth-grader living in Texas, and Miss D.C. Kate Michael, whose platform deals with literacy.

The idea behind CheeREADing is to make reading fun for children by cheering them on and holding reading pep rallies where kids play reading games.

‘‘The event was a success, as it truly drew attention to our cause, and helped inform people more about illiteracy and what they can do to stop the growing issue of illiteracy in America,” Keating wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette. ‘‘Many people expressed to us that they had no prior knowledge of the seriousness of illiteracy in America, as well as expressed a desire to help with the fight against illiteracy. We received great response for our raffle. Our audience was over-all enthusiastic, and many told us that they would consider volunteering with CheeREADing now that they understood our motivations and main goals.”

For more information about the group, visit

We salute ...

Jeremy L. Krauss has graduated from the Army ROTC Leader’s Training Course at Fort Knox, Ky.

The 28-day course is a leadership internship for cadets who are normally between their sophomore and junior college years. College students experience and examine the Army without incurring an obligation to serve in the Army or ROTC, and are eligible to receive two-year college scholarship offers and attend the ROTC Advanced Course at their college.

Krauss is a student at Valley Forge Military College, Wayne, Pa. He is the son of Gene L. and Margot R. Krauss of Kensington.

Violin and piano recital planned

Violinist Amy Beth Horman and pianist Corey McVicar will perform a recital at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church. 10123 Connecticut Ave., Kensington.

The recital will feature music of Handel, Brahms, Ravel and Stravinsky. The audience is invited to meet the artists at a light reception following the recital. A free will offering will be taken during intermission.

Go to for a map and directions. For more information, call Music Director John Horman at 301-949-2900, ext. 104 or e-mail him at

Potluck party coming up

The whole town of Garrett Park is invited to the 10th annual Weymouth Street potluck block party from 4 p.m. until nightfall on Oct. 15 at the cul de sac on Weymouth Street.

Bring your own food and drink and a donation for charity organization GIVES, which is collecting to help rebuild New Orleans.

Enjoy food and friends, and country rock from the Band Border State.

Moon over West Howard

Usher in the fall season with the merchants of West Howard Avenue in Kensington during the ‘‘Harvest Moon over Howard” event Friday through Sunday.

The event will include a food drive and 15 participating showrooms will donate a portion of their weekend sales proceeds to Manna Food Center in Rockville.

Visitors will be treated to a wine tasting, refreshments in each showroom, a drawing for a $500 street-wide shopping spree or dinner and a show at Strathmore Music Center, a treasure hunt to win a day at a spa and other special promotions.

West Howard is home to antiques from around the world, vintage and contemporary arts and design solutions.

For more information, call Deb Sagerholm or Nicole Weaver at 301-530-3420.

This column is for you. Share your good news! Feel free to send press releases and news tips. Contact JoAnn Grbach via e-mail, phone at 301-280-3001, fax at 301-670-7183, or snail mail at 1200 Quince Orchard Blvd., Gaithersburg, MD 20878.