A Family Treasure Rediscovered
Ron Houck dresses, speaks, and expresses emotion with a rare combination of overwhelming charisma and soothing genuineness. The first thing one notices when speaking to Ron, President of Cincinnati’s premier plantscaping company, The Plant Trolley, is that he lives to connect with people. Even more compelling, Ron lives to connect with his family. So when Ron came across a painting on Everything But The House created over half a century ago by his beloved mother, he explains, “all I knew when I saw it was that I was not going to let it slip through my fingers.”
Kathy Liguzinski, Ron’s sister, received an email from a good friend in July of 2018.
That good friend, Joanne, had just moved her parents out of their home and had contacted EBTH to take care of the estate. On the back of one of the paintings provided for the EBTH sale, which depicted the Cincinnati skyline, Joanne noticed a signature– “Freida Houck, 1970”. She immediately reached out to Kathy.
Isn’t Freida Houck your mom? Maybe there are two Freida Houck’s out there in our Cincy community. Nah… probably not :), Joanne said in her email.
Kathy, in exuberant shock, called Ron and shared the news. Right away, Ron got to bidding.
“I sat on my cell phone for days straight, bidding every time it went up,” says Ron.
Ron’s tenacious commitment to reclaiming Freida’s piece of art resulted in him winning the auction. However, that’s not where the excitement ended for the Houcks. Winning the item on EBTH was only the beginning of their emotional journey.
Ron was, of course, filled with excitement while he was on his way to the EBTH warehouse to pick up his mother’s 50-year old creation, but he truly had no idea what he was getting himself into. Ron, discussing his first interaction with the painting at pickup, explains, “I got emotional– almost like when you see a touching scene in a movie– where everything just kind of swells. I knew right in that moment that I had just picked something up that I would have for the rest of my life. I remember picking it up and being overcome with emotion. I thought to myself, ‘I will always have something of my mother’s to think of her fondly.’ You get misty finding something like that. It’s real life. Little things mean a whole lot more than you can imagine, and the big things that you think are big are, in reality, absolutely nothing. Finding a painting like this– it has more value than any $60,000 car. It has more value than my house.”
Ron’s immediate attachment to the piece was complex. His mother, Freida, now eighty-four years old, created the painting when she was in her early thirties. She was always into the arts– singing, dancing, acting, producing, and painting. While she was raising three children, years after majoring in Art in college, Freida was on a constant quest for artistic inspiration, and she remembers the exact day she painted the Cincinnati skyline while sitting on the banks of the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky. “In my artistic mind, I would look around for different subject matters that I thought would be very interesting– worth analyzing. I just saw the Cincinnati skyline with the bridge alongside it, and I fell in love with the composition. And then I just decided to paint it,” says Freida. The piece was one of the first paintings Freida ever conceived as a young artist, and it was the first she ever sold. After a quick sale later that same year, she never expected to see the painting again.
Fast forward once again to 2018. In Joanne’s email to Kathy Hauck, she outlined the chronology of the India ink and brush painting. Freida’s creation was bought by Joanne’s parents at an art show in 1970, long before the current best friends ever met. To reiterate, Freida’s long-gone, first-ever-sold painting had been owned by the family of her daughter’s best friend for fifty years, and she never knew it. The painting made trips with Joanne’s family as they moved from city to city over that span, where it sat on numerous fireplace mantles in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky. The painting had lived an adventurous life of its own.
When Ron surprised his mother with his EBTH find on her 83rd birthday, Freida was in utter disbelief. “I looked at it and I thought, ‘did I do that?’, and then I recognized the signature– my signature! I hadn’t thought of it in fifty years, and then it all started coming back to me,” she explains. “It was heartwarming, really, for me. It was a time in my life when my children were growing up. It was truly a wonderful time in my life. Seeing the painting again and remembering that era of my life– being brought back there– brought me so much joy. It’s like finding a treasure that you weren’t searching for but has this incomparable value.”
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Rather than keeping the treasure to themselves, Ron and Freida decided to carry on the painting’s legacy. As a Christmas present this past December, the two sent contemporary reprints of Freida’s painting to everybody in their family. On the topic of legacy, Freida explains, “We love reminiscing! It takes you back to that period. And I think when I saw the painting, it took me back to that specific period– where you relive that portion of your life and the related experiences that come along with it. We are a very nostalgic family, so we decided to turn this discovery into a new experience for the grandkids with the new reprint of the painting. We sent it to family all over the country– Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati. It was incredible.”
Sitting with Ron and Freida, it’s obvious that family plays an unparalleled role in their lives. The two are best friends, and they don’t care to hide how much they value spending time with each other. They retell stories of pranking one another, they laugh, they tease, they smile, they express their mutual gratitude, and, most importantly and evidently, they simply enjoy each other’s presence. It is no surprise at all that both Ron and Freida developed an immediate, intense emotional connection to Freida’s long lost painting after Ron’s win on Everything But The House. However, what is even less shocking is that Ron did everything in his power to bring a piece of his Mother’s past back home. The Houck family embodies a passion for legacy, a passion for artistic vision, and a deep-rooted, incomparable desire– no– instinct to do anything for the benefit of their loved ones. And, as a result of their immense care for one another, Freida’s painting is now home.
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