The history of Carbon County is revealed in the paintings of Mary Kocher, and for the first time roughly 140 of her historic scenes have been collected and published in the book, "A Mary Kocher Retrospective 2012."
Kocher will have a book signing on Thursday evening, Oct. 18 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Harry Packer Mansion, 19 Packer Hill Road in Jim Thorpe.
Kocher, now 91 years old, brought her painting interest to Carbon County 68 years ago, and soon began creating images of its historic buildings many of which no longer exist.
Her paintings are popular and are found in many local homes and collections, with numerous paintings on display at the First Northern Bank in Palmerton and the Mauch Chunk Trust in Jim Thorpe.
In honor of the 2012 centennial of the founding of Palmerton, Kocher painted a montage of buildings and landmarks in Palmerton.
showed the painting to Connie Reinhart, the president of the Palmerton Camera Club.
"This is all I have to pass on to my daughter and granddaughter," Kocher told Reinhart.
Touched by this sentiment, Reinhard suggested that they collect photographs of her paintings into a scrapbook. Kocher liked the idea but the task seemed overwhelming.
"At first I dragged my feet," Kocher said. "Then Connie said that all she wanted is my permission and she would go around and take the photographs."
"We talked further," said Reinhart, "and I found out that she had paintings in the Mauch Chunk Trust Company and the First Northern Bank and in various private homes."
Reinhart said they received permission to copy those pictures.
"Soon we thought, 'Mary is better than a notebook,'" Reinhart continued. "We went to one of those Internet services and had a cocktail table book printed for her. It has 72 pages with about 140 photographs of her paintings.
"The project was fun. It was hard work and I learned a lot," Reinhart said. "I learned that I would like to grow up to be Mary. She is such a cool lady. I have a lot of fun with her.
"I learned that at 5 foot and a half inch, I am too short to take a photograph of a picture hanging on the wall because there is a prospective problem, so my 6-foot tall husband had to do those. I learned a lot about Photoshop: about actions, the transform tools, about layouts, about sharpening, and color balance."
Reinhart placed an original order of 20 copies. They quickly sold out and an additional order of 21 copies is being published, with half already spoken for. A third order of 20 copies is being placed to cover copies which will be made available at Thursday's book signing.
"I always liked painting buildings," Kocher said. "I probably should have gone into architecture. I've been successful with my paintings and it has kept me busy and allowed me to travel and to take lessons and be exposed to many people who paint better than I do.
"I came from an artistic background," she continued. "My parents and siblings are artistic. It's something that's in your soul to be expressed. It has been fulfilling all my life and especially now that I have been widowed for a good many years and my only child left home quite a while ago, got educated and married.
"Painting is something I fall back on and I am so grateful that I am able to. It's what keeps me busy and mentally and even physically alert. I've met many interesting people and visited interesting places. I have no regrets. I feel I have had a really interesting life."
Copies of "A Mary Kocher Retrospective 2012" will be available at the book signing or by calling (610) 826-7285.