Clyde’s Essence

When Jennifer Morganthall lost her father in 2018, she commissioned local artist Don Troutman to help keep his memory alive by repurposing his cherished bomber jacket. The results far exceeded her expectations.

by Nat Harwell

Jennifer Morganthall saw to it that a familiar piece of clothing, worn so faithfully that it became identified with the wearer, was transformed by a remarkable artist into a daily reminder of a loved one’s essence. The proprietor of J-Mo To Go in Covington, Morganthall was devastated by the 2018 death of her father, Clyde Yancey. 

“He had meant so much to so many people,” she said, “and he did so much behind the scenes for folks such as widows or other residents of retirement homes in the area, like bringing them coffee; and he never sought the limelight or took praise for what he considered just doing his part to brighten someone else’s day.”

When her father passed, Morganthall came into possession of his bomber jacket, which was patterned after the famed World War II bomber jacket worn by United States Army Air Corps flyers in Europe. “Dad was never in the military,” Morganthall said, “but he loved that jacket. He wore it literally every day for 30 years. It became part of him, and he identified with it as much as anyone who saw the jacket coming their way knew that Clyde Yancey had arrived.” Following Yancey’s death, Morganthall sought ways to preserve the legacy of the jacket. However, she was baffled as to how to proceed beyond just her idea of wanting to do so.

“Then one day I happened to visit WildArt on Covington’s Square,” she said, “and there, I met a local artist by the name of Don Troutman, who everyone simply knows as ‘Trout.’ I was struck by the beauty of his craftsmanship and the wide range of projects he displayed, so I asked him if he would consider looking at my dad’s jacket and see if, perchance, there was anything he could come up with to perpetuate it in a different way so that my daughters and other family members could have something to remember him by.”

“Dad was never in the military, but he loved that jacket. He wore it literally every day for 30 years. It became part of him, and he identified with it as much as anyone who saw the jacket coming their way knew that Clyde Yancey had arrived.”

Jennifer Morganthall

Troutman was intrigued by Morganthall’s request.

“I asked to take a look at it,” Trout said, “and was immediately entranced by the way the leather fell and folded naturally. It was a 30-year-old piece of cowhide which had the feel and comfort of being a comfortable, worn, distressed jacket possessing a great vibe and character, but I just could not bring myself to imagine cutting into such a wonderful thing. Jennifer was insistent that I let my imagination take hold and see what I could come up with, so I agreed to give it a try.”

To say Troutman found some inspiration would be an understatement. From that one bomber jacket, he crafted enough unique articles to provide a reminiscence of Yancey to Morganthall, her mother, her two daughters, two nieces, four nephews and two brothers.

“I thought he might make, simply, some Christmas tree ornaments,” Morganthall said, “but when he called and asked me to come see what he’d come up with, I was just totally stunned.”

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Indeed, Trout fashioned two purses, two bottle buddies, wristlets, four keychains, two necklaces with matching earring sets, wrist cuffs, two coasters, a leather catchall dish for keys and the piece de resistance—a leather apron for Morganthall emblazoned with her J-Mo To Go business logo.

“All of this from one jacket,” she said. “It is amazing.”

Clyde Yancey left quite a legacy for his family. Possessor of a law degree, he served as a private investigator and as an investigator for the DeKalb County Solicitor’s Office, from which he retired. Now his essence lives on in a special way, as each family member has a little piece of his favorite bomber jacket fashioned into something special by a local artist with a unique vision. 

Don Troutman has exhibits at WildArt on The Square in downtown Covington. For more information on his works, he can be reached at 678-773-2854.

Click here to read more stories by Nat Harwell.

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