Vicki Sylvester, 60, has worked for 20 years at Hank’s Place, the restaurant in the middle of Chadds Ford where Andrew Wyeth often ate with his longtime model, Helga Testorf.
What was it like when Andrew Wyeth came in?
I remember how he’d walk in and call across the room [to the cook], “Bill, how aaaare you. “ And he’d always say to us, “I’m not Mr Wyeth. I’m Andy.”
This is such a small place. No one would ever come up and bother him. They might say, “Hi,” but they didn’t treat him like a movie star. Not even us waitresses would ask him for autographs. We didn’t invade his privacy. He was such a kind gentleman with a little twinkle. He was very good to ordinary people. He taught us a lot to be humble.
He and Helga would often sit right at the counter and watch Bill when he was cooking.
Did people recognize him?
They wouldn’t bother him in here. People would sometimes come in and say they’d seen an old man up in the woods painting. And we’d say, “Yes, that’s probably Mr Wyeth.”
How often did he come in with Helga?
They came in every week. And when he was older, we’d take food over to the studio. Helga would be there at the studio.
What do you think he’d make of all the changes and development around here?
We get a lot of construction people who eat here now. I think he’d think it would just be something more to paint.
Do you like his painting?
I’m a layperson. I go to the museum maybe three or four times a year. I didn’t really know what he was thinking. But now I have four prints of his. That’s after hearing his granddaughter Vic talk about him and she explained it all. I told him, “If you were not popular, by the time Vic stopped talking you’d be a millionaire.”
He laughed and laughed at that.
So you never once asked him for an autograph?
For our anniversary, I gave my husband two prints, “Ides of March” and “Master Bedroom.” And my husband said, “What, not signed?”
My husband was joking. But I would never have asked Mr Wyeth for an autograph.