Gwynne Roseborough, left, discusses an EJ Hughes painting titled ‘Secret Cove’ with Hugh Grist, centre, John Mayba and Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan at the Alberni Valley Museum on Dec. 22. Roseborough and her brother Lorne were on hand to donate the painting to the city from the estate of their father, Dr. Frank Roseborough, who grew up in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Late eye doctor remembers his Port Alberni roots with large donations

EJ Hughes painting, $100K donated to city and community foundation

  • Jan. 3, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Port Alberni made such an impression on Dr. Frank Roseborough as he was growing up, that he has honoured the city with two large donations upon his death.

Two of Roseborough’s children—Gwynne from Vancouver and Lorne from Toronto—visited the Alberni Valley Museum just before Christmas to make the donations.

The Roseboroughs gifted the City of Port Alberni a watercolour painting by the late west coast artist EJ Hughes. A painting similar in style and time period sold at auction in Vancouver for $53,000.

The Alberni Valley Community Foundation was bequeathed $100,000 to go towards a bursary in the name of EJ Hughes.

Frank was a third-generation Roseborough to be born in Port Alberni, along with his brother John and sister Evelyn. Living in the city imprinted on Frank, and he never forgot his roots.

Although Frank Roseborough moved from the Alberni Valley in the 1940s to pursue his education and later marry his wife of 61 years, the late Nancy Anne, the family maintained ties to the Valley for many years, returning to visit an aunt who lived at Sproat Lake. Frank Roseborough is survived by his sister, Evelyn Reid of New Hampshire, who visited Port Alberni in 2016 following Frank’s death; his five children: Lorne, Kimberlee, Trevor, Gwynne and Glen (Shelley); three grandchildren: Victoria, Alexandra and Nicholas; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Jamie Morton, the Alberni Valley Museum manager, said the donation of the EJ Hughes painting is significant for the museum. “He is one of the most important Vancouver Island and British Columbia artists, so it’s great to have somebody in the collection like that. He’s one of the artists people think of when they think about west coast imagery.

“What’s neat is the late donor is someone who was raised here, is buried here…and wanted to save this painting for the community of Port Alberni to share.”

The painting, a watercolour, was done in 2003, four years prior to Hughes’ death. Gwynne says she thinks the real Secret Cove is located somewhere around Ladysmith; Hughes lived and painted in the Cowichan Valley for 50 years, and his work spans many locations on Vancouver Island as well as other B.C. communities.

Hughes was born in 1913 and throughout his career he developed a distinctive style to his paintings of the west coast. He learned to paint under the tutelage of Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley, and another Group of Seven member, Lawren Harris, recommended Hughes for the first-ever Emily Carr scholarship.

The late Frank Roseborough and his wife Nancy Anne both admired Hughes’ work and supported him through the Auld Kirk Gallery that they owned, as well as purchasing this painting. “I think my dad admired EJ Hughes for his wartime service as well as for being an artist,” Gwynne said. “He wanted to have some sort of acknowledgement made in his name.”

Frank was also a big believer in education: he completed his science degree at UBC in 1949 and his medical degree at Queen’s University in 1955. He also served with the Canadian Regular Army as a medical officer for the United Nations Emergency Forces peacekeeping mission during the Suez Canal Crisis, which is where he developed an interest in eye diseases. Frank enrolled in the Kresge Eye Institute in Michigan and became an eye surgeon—an opthalmologist. He opened practices in Victoria and later Duncan.

Roseborough bequeathed $100,000 to the Alberni Valley Community Foundation, and it will be used to create a bursary in the name of EJ Hughes.

The donation will be allowed to accrue interest for a year and the bursary will first be awarded in 2019, Grist said. There will be approximately $4,000 per year available to be handed out from this particular bursary, the details of which the Roseborough family will work out in the next year.

“The parameters of the scholarship haven’t been set up yet,” he said. “The family will decide how it will be disseminated.”

Frank Roseborough encouraged his children to gain experience as well as education, Gwynne said. “He encouraged us to go out and experience life, get an education and build a life. That’s probably why the scholarship is undefined: there are many ways you can get an education,” she said.

The EJ Hughes painting will be on display at the AV Museum sometime in January.

“We will try and get it up in the new year and give it its own exhibition for a little while,” he said. The painting will be stored in the museum’s hermetically sealed art storage facility when it is not on exhibit.

“My dad would be very happy that (the painting) is in a place where it will be appreciated,” Lorne Roseborough said.

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