COCOA BEACH – Jeanne Weaver has traveled the world. She has seen her artwork published. But her biggest adventure may have come only after she returned to the church she frequented as far back as 1955 and that hosted her wedding in 1970.
Now many of the walls in St. David’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church bear her unique and inspired paintings, and she couldn’t be happier.
“It is very definitely the most loving congregation I’ve ever met,” Weaver said. “I feel so terribly blessed to be part of this congregation and to feel all the love they’ve given me.”
In return, Weaver has given much of herself. The most recent addition, added in February to the sanctuary walls, is eight long, narrow paintings showing the stations of the cross. The series begins with Jesus’ sentence and culminates in a triumphantly resurrected Jesus displaying His wounds as a sign of His enduring love.
Weaver gradually began sketching her plans for her paintings in late 2016 before showing them to the church’s rector, the Rev. Scott Holcombe, in December. Anticipating a full year to complete the paintings, she was taken aback when Holcombe asked for them by the end of February 2017.
“My response was, ‘That’s not possible,’” Weaver said. “On January 1, I just had a feeling I had to get them done. I still can’t believe I did it.”
Weaver’s additions to the church began not long after her return there in 2011 after decades spent overseas, thanks to her husband’s foreign service job that took the family around Europe and Africa. She started digging around for the history on the church she had been away from for so long and found the church’s records in poor shape, due largely to the transitory nature of the Cocoa Beach community.
“The only way I could read some of them was on carbon paper,” she said.
As a result, Weaver’s first contribution was less an inspired, artistic choice than a logical one: a series of montage plaques that provide a guided tour through the church’s history. She left the final board largely empty, allowing room for the history yet to be made.
Weaver followed that spirit to design perhaps her most personal contribution—a spirit wall that honors active servicemen from the congregation and commemorates two fallen soldiers. One is her son, Todd, who died on duty in Afghanistan in 2010. While grieving, she later published a collection of 21 portraits painted in his honor, titled “Losing Todd: A Mother’s Journey, Finding Peace in my Heart.”
Several other paintings bearing a familiar signature adorn other walls of St. David’s by-the-Sea. Weaver may have spent four decades away from the church that played such a significant role in her formative years, but since coming back, she has certainly made up for lost time.
Another painting with a ninth station of the cross is on its way soon. Holcombe and the congregation can only watch with amazement and affirm that a higher form of inspiration must have been involved.
“After I saw them all done, I said, ‘You had extra-special help,’” Holcombe explained. “She said, ‘I know.’”