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Her artwork, club highlight rich history

Roberta Saulsbury has created hundreds of different pieces of artwork using the ancient technique of paper cutting. Her creation of an eagle with American flags won a national award. <i>Debbie Griffin photos</i>1 / 2
The organization Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) gave local woman Roberta Saulsbury a national award for the quality of her paper cuttings.2 / 2

Local 95-year-old Roberta Saulsbury said she feels honored to receive a national award for her paper-cutting art from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), even more meaningful to Saulsbury since she helped establish the local branch in 1976, called the St. Croix-Chequamegon chapter.

Saulsbury said she is the only founding member still alive, but the club now has about 45 members, with about 20 more prospects processing their paperwork.

She explains that the nonprofit organization promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism. DAR is a lineage-based membership for women who descend from someone involved in winning American independence.

Saulsbury clarifies that daughters don't necessarily have ancestors who were veterans in the American Revolutionary War. Women who can demonstrate a link to a person who aided the mission would be eligible for membership.

She emphasizes how membership remains open to just about anyone willing to do the research and find such a link.

The DAR requires documentation via an application process. The organization's website provides forms and resources to those interested in tracing the branches of their family tree.

"It's an honor to belong," she said about DAR, "but I don't believe you should just sit around and brag about the ancestors."

She thinks the organization is and should be about what "we" can do to better the country and promote DAR's fundamental missions.

She points out that DAR has chapters in other countries, as well as members from all different ethnic backgrounds.

Saulsbury said people aided the cause in many ways, giving the examples of those who opened their homes as needed to travelers and veterans or maybe gifted a cow so that soldiers in the field wouldn't starve.

Saulsbury said she's lived in River Falls for 35 years but at three different times. She was married to "Arnie" for 63 years, and the couple has two sons and two daughters.

Their family's strongest connection to the Revolutionary War is Saulsbury's 7th-generation ancestor John Dominick, a veteran of four wars and friend of American independence.

Saulsbury's daughter also belongs to DAR. The senior-most member says the club offers "fun with women of all ages and does a lot of nice things."

DAR offers an annual scholarship to a UW-River Falls student, a candidate in ROTC and others. The local club also holds a contest among high school seniors, who write an essay on a surprise topic. DAR also presents a "good citizen" prize each year.

Other activities include taking toiletries and comfort items to the veterans' hospitals and homes, contributing to care package sent to troops overseas, as well as organizing an occasional fundraiser.

DAR meets 10:30 a.m. the second Saturday of each month in the public library. People can learn more about the organization at its national website:

Artistic pastime wins prize

Saulsbury's letter from the DAR calls her artwork beautiful. She said she has probably created 500 paper cuttings since she began playing around with them in 1986.

She gives away many and mentions one she created that's inside the Luther Memorial Church on Fourth Street. She said she'd never thought of selling them or entering any contests but has recently done both.

Saulsbury said a fellow DAR member suggested she send in some of her cuttings for the club's competition. Another DAR discussion led to the decision that the club would take about 50 pieces to sell for fundraising at the upcoming spring conference.

"This is the first time I've entered anything about it," said Saulsbury.

She was shocked and pleased to receive place in American Heritage Committee Paper Crafts. DAR sends the entries around to five other chapters for judging.

The patriotic eagle image she created earned her an official certificate, as well as a display spot in the DAR Museum Gallery. Saulsbury said the building is gorgeous and she thinks its D Street address number in Washington D.C. is fitting: 1776.

The art of paper cuttings, according to many sources, is ancient and otherwise known as by the German word, scherenschnitte, which means 'scissor cuts.'

Saulsbury uses special paper containing fibers and a printed pattern. She uses tiny, expensive scissors to snip out the tiny paper pieces and create holes.

The patterns are typically black or white and once cut out, are mounted on a black or white background for a striking contrast that pops out fine details.

She said it takes about a day to create one, depending on how often she works. She pays $65 for the special, tiny scissors and said she's worn out several pairs.

The DAR member enjoys the pastime so much that sometimes, she sits too long.

After a doctor's admonishment, she now sets a timer to prompt her to get up and walk around.

Asked how she got started in the art, she said she thinks her experience sewing from patterns helped her master the art.

She said, "I just saw a book on it, I bought the book and there were samples in there."