Power of Photography
by Cate Murway
Life is buzzing away all around you, day by day,
often we don't notice, but everything is changing and
in the near future, all of this is only going to be memories.
Prevent a loss of images. There is something completely
powerful and unique about heirloom photographs
as they document a point in one’s life, furthering the story
that can be passed on for generations.
As far as can be ascertained, Sir John Herschel in a
lecture before the Royal Society of London, on March 14, 1839
made the word "photography" known to the world,
but some believe perhaps that Johann von Maedler,
a Berlin astronomer, had already used the word.
The word itself is based on the Greek φῶς [photos] "light"
and γραφή [graphé] representation
by means of ‘lines’ or ‘drawing’, together meaning
"drawing with light".
Photographer Kathleen [meaning pure, clear] Ann [Coombs] DiBlassio sees beauty and captures it with her camera. Photographs can move or touch one’s heart in such a way that there is no other form of expression.
No single element totally makes the final product but a photograph with a dramatic backdrop and an extreme angle of view creates a whole new dynamic.
Kathy’s tack sharp focus, dedication and passion power the depth in her picture perfect endeavors.
A picture can capture a 1000 words......talent like this has the power to leave one speechless.
Kathy and her two younger sisters grew up on Cedar Street with their parents, Dorothy Jean [Magee] and Raymond “Ray” Efferson Coombs, a 32° Mason.
Ray enlisted into the Navy right after high school, serving in the Korean conflict as an aviation mechanic. He was wounded in the heaviest and most perfectly coordinated concentration of pre-landing bombardment on the twin islands of Roi – Namur and was one of the first patients to ever receive penicillin.
In 1942 he returned home and found work at the Ford Company in Bristol and as a paid fireman for Consolidated, the fire department that had taken over protection in Bristol Borough since 1928, with its headquarters in the Bristol Municipal Building.
All of the equipment had been donated by Joseph R. Grundy who also gave the municipal building in which the department was housed.
Every day Kathy and her two sisters, accompanied by their mom, would walk down Cedar Street to eat lunch with their dad, sitting together on the fire escape behind Consolidated Fire Company on Pond & Mulberry Streets.
While still a fireman, her dad enrolled in real estate license courses in preparation to open the Raymond E. Coombs RE office on Pond Street after having worked with Frank E. Mignoni in Mill Street.
Their mother, Dot was 3rd generation Irish, raised on the family farm in Bensalem.
She was a strong supporter of her husband, “my Ray” and her children, as well as an amazing seamstress. As a member of the Bristol Travel Club, one of their missions was supporting young girls in the community, Dot worked along with Mary Ancker, a board member of the Lower Bucks Hospital, to start the Candy Striper program.
During the 1950s and 60s, the popularity of candy stripers was widespread. In general, the goal of a candy striper was to make a patient's stay in the hospital more pleasant.
The Coombs were excellent role models to their three girls and they were taught at an early age to work for everything they wished to accomplish.
Kathy was one of the first students at the “state of the art” Warren-Snyder Elementary School when she entered as a 3rd grader. She completed her college prep at St. Mary’s Hall [now Doane Academy] in Burlington, NJ and graduated from Moore College of Art and Design, dedicated strongly to excellence in art and design. She also attended the Tyler School of Fine Art and cultivated her creativity that continues to distinguish her as a leader in her fields.
Her mentor was the late artist, Joseph Edward Pavone. She felt “privileged to attend his Saturday morning classes.”
She had helped him at his Radcliffe Art Gallery, formerly Dr. William C. Le Compte’s stone carriage house on 117 Franklin Street.
“He was kind and generous to the neighborhood kids and I was one of those neighborhood kids.”
When she could no longer afford his classes, he permitted her to model for his Artist Association classes in lieu of tuition.
“He designed the curriculum for my senior year portfolio at St. Mary’s Hall and he always made me laugh when he called me his ‘most famous student’”.
Fondest memory? He also taught her “how to clean her brushes very well.”
Her two sisters are BHS graduates. Violinist Carol Anderson, Greater Philadelphia Suzuki Association – Board of Directors, developed an adjunct to the the Renaissance of music teaching practices, the Suzuki method, conceived in the mid-20th century by Shin'ichi Suzuki. Carol is a Fort Washington resident and she has “developed a unique ‘back-door’ method of teaching”, igniting “sleeping brains” and further proving that “Scales Aren't Just a Fish Thing”.
The youngest, Bristol resident, Lynn Morris, runs a successful consignment store, Tullytown Antiques and Collectibles.
Entrepreneurial endeavors have traditionally been household events.
Kathy has always brought her love of art and creativity to her accomplishments.
She began her lifelong love affair with the arts by dreaming.
“I dreamed. Creativity comes from within. It’s just the way I see things.”
She studied piano under Philip Pfender from the Philadelphia Orchestra while attending St. Mary’s Hall and had the opportunity to play with the Eugene Ormandy Youth orchestra. She enjoys classical-music genre.
Her parents had presented her with an upright piano when she was 13 or 14 years old.
Her first piano teacher, the late accomplished musician of both the organ and piano, was Mrs. Mildred Emily Degville, the wife of the late Rev. Edward H. Degville, who expected her to “embellish every note”.
Kathy and Joseph Dominic “Joe” DeBlassio met through friends and are the proud parents of two children, Joseph, Jr. and Jennifer and they adore their “2 amazing grandchildren, Brendan and Andrew”.
Her husband, Joe is an Army veteran, an intelligence specialist, who was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam conflict and was a police officer.
When their children started school, Kathy ran K DiBlassio Designs from her garage, creating unique clothing for women and children. She designed and made the samples herself and marketed her own collection.
An especially exciting moment was while they were watching a Phillies game at their home when the camera panned the audience. She spotted a woman wearing one of her designed creations.
“I always believed that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard enough to make it happen. “
When she made the decision to work outside of their home, she applied to a kitchen and bath company, armed only with her clothing designs. They were duly impressed and she got the job. This satisfied her creative desires until she opened her own high-end kitchen and bath remodeling business and quickly realized that she loved the challenge of putting new kitchens and baths in old homes and enjoyed taking pictures of her finished projects.
She and her husband worked together in her Bucks County Kitchens in Penns Park until they closed the business in 2008.
Her unusually creative yet timeless designs earned them four "Excellence in Design" awards as well as national recognition for their innovative projects.
Kathy has also expressed an affinity for her family genealogy, researchong her family history for the last 30 years. Coincidentally, she shares her birthday with the African-American writer Alexander “Alex” Murray Palmer Haley [1921 – 1992] who is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
She found that her family has been in Bristol since the late 1800’s.
Grandfather Charles Ellis Coombs, Jr. lived on Wilson Street and worked at the Franklin Arsenal. He was also a policeman in the Borough, steadfastly walking Mill and Radcliffe Streets on his foot patrol. There were no cars.
Her great grandfather Charles Ellis was an Army veteran of both WWI and WWII. He worked at the T.B. Harkins Foundry Company on Dorrance & Canal Streets, established by Thomas B. Harkins in 1871 for the manufacture of stove-plate and fine iron and steel castings. He was a member of the #2 Fire Company and he participated in the Borough flower shows, winning many prizes for the dahlias he grew in his garden on Pond Street.
His wife, Elizabeth Rousseau Coombs’ ancestors, St. Dominique plantation owners, came from France.
Dr. Jean Baptiste Clement Rousseau raised his family in an ancient brick mansion, the yellow colored “clock house” in Bensalem along the Delaware River. It was so named for the round window resembling the face of a clock in the center of the second story.
One of his sons, Dr. Louis V. Rousseau, kept a light burning in that window during the rafting days on the river, to warn the mariners on the Delaware of the dangerous rocks near the front of the house. Two sundials marked the well-kept lawn.
When the estate was sold Dr. Rousseau moved into Bristol and lived on the property that was purchased for the Bristol Methodist church after his death.
Kathy has joined a writers group to help hone her skills and writing a book is on the horizon but she keeps her Canon EOS 5D camera with herself at all times.
She is exploring wherever her camera takes her for new avenues of self-expression.
“I am mesmerized by the different effects that can be created with lighting and love the challenge of organizing and staging the shoots for myself and my friends.”
Her first exhibit will be with Joe Connett, Muggs Ferguson, and Jess Graves in “Encounters” in the Mill Street Marketplace this August.
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