I have been a freelancer for the past 20+ years, in Graphic Design, Publishing, Illustration, Advertising Design, Fine Arts, and Mural work.
I attended a trade school in Torrance, CA. for Advertising Design, Illustration and Graphic Design at SCROC. I attended LA Harbor College and was invited into their Honor's Program and took all honors classes, 17 units. The honor's program does not encompass art classes but only art history, I was an English major in the honor's program. I also attended PV Art Center for their art classes.
I was raised as an islander and if someone were to analyze my genetics to all of my directly inherited X’s from my mother and my father, I remain mostly an islander. This is the breakdown: my father’s mother was 100% islander and I have traced her family to living on every side on several islands for 100’s of years. My mother’s father’s mother, (Amy Flora Koch) was born an islander and her mother’s side, her grandparents and more trace back to the islands of Hawaii and Polynesia for many, many, generations. My father’s, father’s mother’s side is Native American (Indian) and I traced them back to being born on Indian Reservations as long as reservations existed. My grandmothers on my Native American side lived to be 98 years old for many generations and each generation had a set of twins. My father’s father’s mother is a twin (Nita Fay and Niles). Then my mother’s mother’s side is Yiddish, a Hebrew, Lithuanian Jewish side. (You can see posted below the differences in studies between islanders and mainlanders.)
I like working as a freelancer that is based in a worldwide atmosphere, because I grew up with my Yiddish grandparents living around the corner from our islander beach home and I was very close with them, they partially raised me. This side of my family came to the USA from (Odessa to East-End London, to USA), they owned and operated a Hosiery and Draper's business, (see photos below), they lived on Church St. which became Fournier Street, in Spitalfield, UK. This side of my family Lithuanian, Hebrew, Jewish family, who's language was Yiddish, in part, I will write about first. My grandfather always worked from London, to where we lived in Hermosa Bch. - Manhattan Bch. CA, selling Hosiery his family made in the UK, across the USA. Due to my family’s Draper business, I won best dressed in school growing up.
I used to call my design business May Art because my grandpa and grandma Kaufman were people from a continent that celebrates May Day. My grandparents had a beautiful rose garden, that smelt and looked so gorgeous, (I have never seen a rose garden like theirs since), this made May Day one of my favorite days with them. On May 1st, they would cut their roses, put them in nice baskets, then place them on their doorstep and ask me to go see what May Day gift was left for me there. I would then sit at their kitchen table after finding my basket and adore the beauty and fragrance of the roses. So, I wanted my grandparents to be part of my business in spirit and have their memories with me while at work every day.
Growing up with my grandma and grandpa Kaufman was great! Grandma cooked the best food! She told me that many Jewish women came to their home and taught her, HOW-TO-COOK grandpa's favorite Jewish dishes when they were first married. Grandma & grandpa lived with grandma Kaufman's parents after they were wed, until they passed away. Grandma's father lived to be 100 yrs old. My grandparents, the Kaufman's, had an arranged marriage that was set up by my grandmother's parents. Plus my grandma's closest and favorite sister, Amelia, (who was 2 yrs younger than grandma), married another Jewish man who owned a movie studio in Los Angeles, his name was Herbert Leavitt, they lived next door to Louis Burt Mayer of MGM, on Franklin Avenue, their marriage was arranged also around the same time. Amelia and her husband had maids, a butler, a chauffeur, etc. Amelia Grace was very beautiful grandma always said. My grandparents ended up adopting Amelia Grace and Herbert Leavitt's son, their nephew, and raising him as Peter Kaufman, after Amelia Grace and her husband Herbert died at a very young age. This tragedy always stayed with grandma and she told me a lot of stories about Amelia Grace. My mother and stepfather took me to my great uncle Peter Kaufman's home for the holidays and he was a very nice man.
Since grandma Kaufman enjoyed cooking, we had nice sit-down dinners. I went to my grandparent's house weekly and we phoned each other every day. My grandparents prayed their prayers, while washing hands, lighting candles, going through doorways, etc. Grandma spent at least one hour a day or more, on her religious studies and then praying. Every week grandma would read to me the stories she liked the most from her religious studies. Grandma Kaufman’s mother prayed as much or more than grandma did. Everyone on this side of our family was born into orthodox religious families. Grandpa's Rabbi, he was the Rabbi for his family right on Church/Fournier Street at the synagogue in East-End London, he is in the photo with my grandparents, he looks like grandma Kaufman, he was a Hebrew Lithuanian Jewish, Yiddish Rabbi. (One of my sons is Rabbi Gifter's look-a-like in appearance, they have an uncanny resemblance, including their gestures, you can see Rabbi Gifter in my photos.) (The Yiddish Jews of Odesa came here and built a replica of their synagogue in Ohio and I think we are still part of that synagogue in spirit and our appearance). Another one of my sons is also identical in appearance and his gestures, to an ultra-religious Jew from the UK, with the children, in the photos. (We obviously are related to all of these Jewish people or Jewish people still look alike and can have the same gestures and appearances even if they are not all religious). My grandma Kaufman went completely, white haired at 16 years old, which has a special religious meaning and which can be is genetic for Lithuanian Jews.
As I grew-up, grandma Kaufman would also tell me the families' history, on both sides of the family, that she knew. She told me about every time Grandpa's mother would phone him from the UK, about his sisters and how my mother is just like one of my grandpa's sisters. It would have been a sister that took after grandpa's father’s side, (I think from my research) because the woman in one of my posted photos resembles my mother immensely. She told me about her other siblings, her daughter and her husband the Koch’s, their friends, Hollywood parties they attended, who they knew, and how Charlie Chaplin phoned their home regularly. Charlie Chaplin maybe one of our relatives, also, and he wanted grandma Kaufman and Amelia Grace in his movies. Then, she told me about restaurants they ate at, about maids and housekeepers they all lived with, etc. She would say, "She could have been born a writer," if I wanted to know more than she told me. These stories were life shaping, as I look back, because I learned so much.
When grandpa passed away, I took care of my grandma Kaufman. I did her grocery shopping once a week or more, took her to the bank, her doctor's appointments, plus shopping at Dept. stores and I helped her in her home. Yet, grandma always cooked, and for me, and never gave up on cooking, she cooked until she passed away. So, as I grew older and was phoning her every day, now as soon as she woke up and then by nightfall. Or went to her house to visit. Grandma and I were best friends, but she said, "Amy, we are soul mates, not just relatives." I told her every single thing about myself, always growing up. I did not let her live in a nursing home, ever!! And when they tried to put her in a nursing home, I got her out of a nursing home all by myself, when I was only 16 years old, and she never went back to one AGAIN! She lived in fine health for 10 or more years, and again, I took care of her all of those years.
Grandma arranged my marriage at a young age, because she wanted my life a certain way (she said, and there was no living in sin around her)) and she wanted me to do everything that was in alignment with all religious laws ( I said, “Fine grandma, I want to be that way, fine, men will not buy a cow if they get the milk, okay I will marry my neighbor, Gordon). Grandma got to know my first-born son, Clark. My grandparents would have loved my sons and daughter now. I named my daughter after grandma Kaufman, her favorite sister, and grandpa Kaufman’s sister. Grandma always said, "Girls are very important because they do not go off and get married always, like boys can, girls need more care and support." (I did get married though) My grandma Kaufman loved my only sister. I would put my sister in her stroller, when she was a baby and just walk to grandma's to visit, all alone with her. My beautiful sister, I helped name after a movie star who loved the ocean (my step father loved Jacque Cousteau). Grandma, my sister and I, would sit at her kitchen table and she would say, "We are so in love (to me about my sister), this child is gifted to care for others, you can tell due to her sensitivity and alertness and she knows I am her grandma!" Because my sister upon sitting at the table with us, would hold out her little baby hand to touch grandma's hand. Then grandma would cry tears, that a baby was so special to do such a thing and she was so happy that my sister was born.
Before grandma passed away she spent those years collecting Hawaiian and Native American looking children’s painted plates, she purchased. I purchased a large showcase pieces of furniture with her, for her plates she purchased and put in her living room. We would go and look at her plates and grandma would say, “I love these children on these plates!” I look back and did not know my sister and I and my brother Keawe were all symbolic to these children on those plates. And then figured out later, this is how she told us she loved us, also maybe, even though we were from another culture, maybe and she cherished us all.
Now I like to think that I live just like grandma and grandpa and love to think I am the two of them mixed, also within being raised an islander.
PS- I was named after my mother's father's mother, grandma, Amy Flora Koch who was born in Hawaii and her uncle, Nathan, was the Treasurer for Hawaii when it first became part of the USA. Amy Flora Koch's mother, Ivy, who was Nathan the Treasurer's sister was born when Hawaii was the Kingdom of Hawaii still, or right when Hawaii became part of the USA. Amy Flora Koch's grandfather Captain Wilfong was friends with the Kings of Hawaii and a few hula songs were written to him and are part of the Hawaiian Historical Society (He was captain Wilfong by the Lighthouse in Puna). He owned one of the first Sugarcane Plantations on Maui. Amy Flora Koch's father owned and operated three old time General Grocery Stores in Hawaii on various islands and the big island (I have no idea what nationality he was) and so did Amy Flora Koch's father's brother, he owned and operated an old-time general store also. And my father's Johnson, like I wrote above, his mother was Portuguese Hawaiian. My father's mother's name is grandma Mary, who was Mary Johnson and you can see her in my photos. My grandma Mary's brother worked for the Hilo Newspaper he was very good looking and you can see him in my photos, sitting next to her. My Grandma Mary's mother was born in Hawaii also on the big island and her name was Mary, too. My great-grandmother Mary's father was the head sugar-cane planter on the big island for a plantation and he came from Maderia island ( He always lived on the island and this side could have been part Sumo which was part of the Mayangna people verse the Guanche people. Amy Flora Koch, my mother’s grandma and my great grandma married a German Jewish man that immigrated to the USA from Germany, his name was Herbert Koch, this side of our family in each generation had 10 to 15 children and they were clockmakers, and Jewelers.
Postscript Again: Now that I wrote about my mother's mothers side the Kaufman's, then mentioned that I was named after Amy Flora Koch, (her father’s mother’s side) born in Hawaii and her grandfather was Captain Wilfong from Puna, Hawaii, and that my dad, Bob Johnson's mother's side is Hawaiian. (Again, see in my photos about my father's Bob Johnson's side, plus my mother's father’s side, the Koch's and my step-father, The Kekuewa’s side). Now back to my step father’s side I have a brother named Keawe and he was named after the Keawe trees in Hawaii and after the royal Hawaiian Kings and I always asked my step-father and mother to show me the Keawe trees growing up on the islands. As they showed me the Keawe trees I learned so many tales and folklore about the Hawaiian islands and culture.
My step-father who was my step-father since I was 6 months old, was Hawaiian, born and raised. He was a wonderful father, who talked to me a lot; about his job, his life on the island, his life at school on the island, about canoe paddling, surfing big waves, deep sea diving, exercise, why exercise is important, about his daily experiences working. He was always nice and never yelled or punished us or anyone. He had a great nature, he was very calm and polite and we had a quiet home. He never drank alcohol or did anything wrong. He was always a kind gentleman in all ways. He had great taste and a great sense of style. He would take me running around the park so we could get in shape when I was 7-12 years old, and he took me to his canoe paddling practices a lot. Our whole family went to canoe paddling races every month of our entire life growing up. It was so fun and we went to a big luau afterwards, with hula shows, a Kalua pig roasting in the ground, and we ate every Hawaiian dish, always. I loved it! I grew up with King’s Hawaiian bread always in a bread drawer, in our kitchen. My friends would come over to visit and eat our Hawaiian bread. He did everything for us and hugged us always and he told us that loved us always, like a great father, he treated my mother so well. I had a lot of wonderful Hawaiian uncles, and cousins also. Bret, Blaine, Boyd, and Aneenee. Uncle Gilly, Uncle Sandy, Uncle Ronnie, and Uncle Al Chang, Uncle Gary and more. Plus Uncle Rabbit was a Beach Boy in Honolulu and he would take me surfing and he found a beautiful necklace for me under the sea, I always wore. I LOVED being raised Hawaiian it was well loved favorite childhood!! I will post photos of them in my photos.
I want to add that my step-father would also take me with him, regularly, to visit his boss, Hal Goldstein, at his home and he lived in a big beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills. My step-father worked for Hal Goldstein his entire life and he never had another job but working for Hal, he was his main foreman and was part of a union. Hal ran or maybe owned in part at least, the entire chain of all the Mann Movie Theaters, Nationwide. My step-father hung the huge old time curtains that would go up and down and sideways, before, during and after the movie, at every theater nationwide, plus he built the whole theater for him also. My step-father was the bravest man in California (people would say) since he moved to the mainland and he always climbed to the top of the highest HIGHRISE building in LA and hung the huge Christmas tree each year with lights for all of LA. So at Hal’s we would go and sit in Hal's study and it was nice, I would get the hear about their jobs. I liked it. As I look back maybe the only thing we did do that was not part of the original Hawaiian culture was that our family would go to the movies and we enjoyed the candy and popcorn from the theaters growing up.
Grandpa G. W. Willfong is mentioned here in the history of Maui.