Marine's drawings inspire by showing 'Hands of Jesus'

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Doodling in confirmation class would usually get a student in trouble, but for Ronard Hair, it led to an original artwork series titled "Hands of Jesus."

Patricia Janelle said she and her husband, Gary, immediately "noticed the immense talent in his little doodle artwork and thought this had to be put to good use."

Affectionately known as "Ron" to many at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Hair was 15 when he was first approached by Janelle to collaborate on the seven-piece collection for the parish.

While brainstorming what sort of art would depict the love and gift of Christ, the hands of Jesus kept coming to mind, Janelle said.

She said Hair had a very willing spirit and the pair discussed how best to translate their thoughts on canvas. Before his pencil ever touched the paper, the two would meet to first hear from God. Janelle said she knew this endeavor was going to grow to be much more than they initially anticipated.

In an effort to maintain the integrity and sacredness of the project, she said she and Hair would gather to "discuss the Scriptures, say a short prayer and then Ron would proceed with each piece."

For two and a half years, Hair was meticulous in his dedication of time to ensure every stroke of the pencil gave life to Christ's story of birth, ministry, death and resurrection, Janelle said.

The collection depicts the "baby hands of Jesus in the Blessed Mother's hand, the little hands of Jesus helping St. Joseph build a table, the healing hands of Jesus over a person in the process of being healed, the blessing hands of Jesus over the fish and loafs, the resurrection hands of Jesus and the hands of Jesus in the priestly hands holding the consecrated Eucharist," Janelle said.

"Jesus is present every day," Hair said. "I sought a clear and concise way to articulate the power of God."

He said it was easier to convey Christ's radiance through the use of pencil rather than to incorporate color.

Hair hopes his portraits will not only demonstrate the wonder of God at work, but also "lead someone into a deeper relationship with him."

Each piece was drawn to capture the inclusiveness of Christ, he said.

"Anyone, regardless of nationality or faith, will prayerfully see themselves needing Christ's love at one time or another," Hair said.

Every Wednesday night for nearly three years, Hair spent about an hour before the start of Mass perfecting each drawing before carrying out his duties as an altar server.

Word quickly spread around Holy Trinity about the innovative art collection with a modern touch.

About midway through the work, parishioners, eager with anticipation, would peek over Hair's shoulder to see the progress. Happy for the company, he said they would cheer him on and sit in admiration while he worked.

"Seeing Ron's work brought about a sense of awe and profound humility over God's immense love for me and for all mankind," said Sally Zaleski, Holy Trinity Catholic Church high school catechist.

"The Hands of Jesus is a dramatic series of artistic renderings that speak volumes about the love Jesus had and continues to have for each one of us," added her husband, Gene Zaleski, Holy Trinity high school catechist. "From tiny hands of an infant to the healing hands of the sick to the outstretched hand on the wood of the cross, God became man, and mankind has forever been changed."

He added, "The drawings served as an icon of sorts, helping to draw me further into prayer and gratitude for God's intimacy and compassion for me."

The youngest of three children, Hair said he recognized his gift of drawing before the start of elementary school.

The Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School graduate said he never received any formal training in art and considers his artistic abilities as "God inspired."

Following in the military footsteps of his late grandfather, World War II U.S. Army veteran William Fred Hair Jr., he recently chose a career in the Marine Corps, working in construction and utilities.

"I've always wanted to be a Marine," Hair said. "It's a sense of pride."

Since completing rigorous recruit training at Parris Island in November, he joined the ranks of 20,000 new Marines who completed additional training in the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger (a satellite facility of Camp Lejeune) in Jacksonville, N.C. earlier this month. The SOI prepares men and women to carry out their duties while in hostile combat situations.

For many mothers, the thought of their child volunteering to be put in such danger is unfathomable.

"We are humbly proud of Ron and the blessing he has been to our family, the parish and for serving our country," his mother, Elena Hair, said. "The gift that he is sharing with the church comes from above."

Robert Hair says his son took a liking to drawing images of his favorite cartoon characters and even created a comic book series.

However, he quickly realized there was something more to Ron's drawings.

"When he was a young child, Ron would go to his room and draw the cartoon characters from memory," he said. "I was quite amazed ... He would have so much detail in the drawings — the legs, arms, the facial expressions to the hair flowing in the wind."

He said he always knew his son was a talented artist.

Ron Hair said the road has not always been easy, but he added that he is grateful to his mother "for always pushing me to be better."

Like the portrait of Joseph and Jesus doing carpentry work, Hair said he has fond memories of his dad and him fixing things around the house.

"I like it when my dad says, 'I'm proud of you, son,'" he said.

Mrs. Hair said she's grateful to the Janelles for taking Ron under their wings.

The Janelles have high hopes for the young man.

"The sole purpose of Ron's hard work on the project was to gift it to the parish of Holy Trinity," Mrs. Janelle said. "We pray that he stays safe, that the Lord will open blessed and beautiful doorways for him that he may always stay close to Jesus and have a heart and spirit to help and give in ways that will bring others closer to God."

Nearly 300 miles away from his parents and his extended family at Holy Trinity, Hair will not be home for the holidays.

He had a special message for those he loves.

"While I may not be home during the Christmas season, thank you for believing in me," he said. "I will always be thinking about you and will see you soon."


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