Home » Features » The Art of Being Useful

The Art of Being Useful

Posted on June 1, 2019, by Roberta Hudlow SL

Robert Strobridge, deep in thought, sits out on his front porch at his home in Brajac, France.
Photo by Mary Jo Wilmes

As Loretto members demonstrate and march, Robert Strobridge (Stro) is with us in his well-made, colorful banners. They draw attention to the cause and announce the presence of the Loretto Community. Wherever Loretto members use them, they are noticed and photographed. His banners have been at demonstrations from our southern border to Standing Rock. We have used them to advocate for love of neighbor, for free speech, for science, against human-engendered global warming, for literally every good cause. The banners have advocated for peace, for justice, for the rights of farm workers, for women. They have marched along with the causes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.

Stro’s striking banners

To Roberta Hudlow, Robert Strobridge’s most iconic banner is the one above, at left, which is a black silhouette of the crucified body of Christ on a dollar sign on a brilliant red background.
Photo by Mary Ann McGivern

To me, Stro’s most iconic banner is the black silhouette of the crucified body of Christ on a dollar sign on a brilliant red background. All of his designs are striking, and the choice of quotes add to the impact of his work.

Roberta Hudlow carries a Stro banner for a march supporting equality.
Photo by Mary Ann McGivern

Stro first met Loretto when the Webster University art department hired him. When I called him in France this spring, he said he met Gabriel Mary Hoare in St. Louis; in fact, Gabe met him at the airport. He swears that even then, she referred to him as “dear friend, Robert Strobridge.” It is interesting that his and Gabe’s years have marched on together; Gabe turned 90 in March and Stro turns 90 this June. Stro was at Webster for six years in the mid-to-late ‘60s during which time he got to know many Loretto members. As we talked on the phone, he mentioned Rose Annette Liddell, Mary Martha Mueller and Marie Ego.

‘To me, Stro’s most iconic banner is the black silhouette of the crucified body of Christ on a dollar sign on a brilliant red background.’
– Roberta Hudlow SL

How Stro ended up in France

Robert Strobridge, at left, enjoys a beautiful feast with longtime friend Tom Lang. Lang, Mary Jo Wilmes’s husband, is chairman of the art department at Webster University. Stro first met Loretto when Webster University’s art department hired him. He worked there for six years in the mid-to-late ‘60s.
Photo by Mary Jo Wilmes

Stro was born in Colorado, but his family soon moved to Iowa. After high school, he studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute. He was teaching in Milwaukee at Layton School of Art when Webster University art department hired him. In 1968 Stro visited Ohio State University (OSU) to collaborate on art paradigms for a St. Louis educational organization, Central Midwestern Regional Educational Laboratory (CEMREL). At that time, I was studying art at OSU. I ended up working on the project that Stro introduced. Another result of his visit was that he hired an Ohio State grad for Webster’s art department. Tom Lang is still at Webster as head of the art department and keeps in contact with Stro. The following year, OSU hired Stro. He met his life partner, Joe  Guerinot, and since Joe was a Francophile, the next move was to Dordogne, France. Stro still lives and plies his trade of the art of being useful in the same area.

Stro just keeps on going

Postcard of banner created by Robert Strobridge for Buffy Boesen in 2016

Stro says he keeps moving by going between his sewing machine and his ironing board. He also likes to spend time reading history and historical novels. He still makes banners upon request. Sadly, many of the banners that he made to speak to the world are wall decorations now.

Robert Strobridge talks with Maggie, a friend of Mary Jo Wilmes.
Photo by Mary Jo Wilmes

If you would like to sit down and hear from Stro himself about what he is doing, type into your browser for the video “Robert Strowbridge, Master of the Art of Being Useful” or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcSddUia7As. There, you will see the colorful bags he is making as gifts to the Haitian people and hear about his attitude toward life. In 2012 he said he could make seven bags a day. Now he says he makes about 30 a month. He doesn’t work on them every day. I understand from Mary Martha that his connection with Haiti started with the Corbetts, a couple he knew at Webster who was actively working in and for Haiti long ago.

Stro, as you celebrate your 90th birthday on June 25, may you have more peaceful years of living the art of being useful. We thank you for working to make the world a more caring and colorful place.


Roberta Hudlow SL

Roberta Hudlow SL is a working artist, photographer and longtime advocate for justice and peace.
Cupola Cross 2-Icon

Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!


  1. Avatar Michaela on March 16, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Robert Strobridge is my Uncle Bob. I am the eldest of four nieces. My name is Michaela. … I’m amazed by his talent and creativity! I have always known he has a heart of gold. … I want him to know how very much he is loved and missed. … Thank you for creating this website to honor him for some of his accomplishments. He has been the best, caring, most generous, and kind uncle to all of us.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on March 17, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you, Michaela, for your loving comments about your uncle. We think he is something special, too!

  2. Avatar Patricia Drypolcher on August 15, 2022 at 5:51 pm

    Is it possible to find Mr. Strobridge’s banners on postcards or bookmarks??? Thanks. Pat Drypolcher

    • Avatar Loretto Community on August 24, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      Dear Ms. Drypolcher,

      A few years back Loretto printed an oversized bookmark featuring one of Mr. Strobridge’s banners with the message “Be Light into Darkness.” On the back of the card is a message from Loretto President Barbara Nicholas. We could send it to you, if you would like a copy.

  3. Avatar Suzanne Punch on August 25, 2022 at 11:17 pm

    Can contact information for Robert Strobridge be shared here or sent privately?
    He was a very influential teacher of mine at Webster College.
    I am now an art teacher at the School of Visual Arts here in New York.
    I would like to acknowledge to him all that I experienced in his classes and beyond.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on August 29, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      Dear Ms. Punch,

      We cannot give out members’ contact information without their express approval. If you would, please submit your request to reach Mr. Strobridge, along with your contact information, to [email protected]. We will be happy to forward your request to Mr. Strobridge.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cupola Cross 2-Icon

Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!