Lena’s harts by Jon Breeding

Thank you for the recent videos sharing your stories. My name is Jon Breeding and I grew up in Tennessee in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. My father graduated from Bethel College in the early 1960s. He finished seminary in Memphis and began his ministry in Tennessee. My mother is currently an active member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in her town and continues to teach Sunday school at 81.

I am a visual artist and in lieu of making a video to post here, I would like to share with you a piece of art I created that is a tribute to my grandmother, Lena Hart. This piece tells about her great love for the many LGBTQ+ family members and friends in her life.

About the art piece:

Lena’s harts
18” x 18”
Acrylic on canvas, acrylic on paper, oil on canvas, graphite, wood, and LGBTQ+ PRIDE stickers

This piece is included in an art series I am creating called Keeping Boxes. Keeping Boxes are art pieces that tell stories across the generations of the LGBTQ+ community and connect us via pride symbols that are important to each generation. 

About my grandmother Lena Hart  (b.1915 – d.2005)

My grandmother joined the CP Church in Longview, Texas in the early 1940s.  When her daughter (my mother) was a child, she was hospitalized with meningitis and almost died. My grandmother’s prayer at the time was for her daughter’s survival, for which she in turn promised to find a church and start attending with her family. My mother recovered and true to her word, my grandmother started her search for a church. Not far from my grandmother’s home was a CP Church and she visited it. She thought it was a good fit, and my grandfather read the church doctrine and found it agreeable. They both joined and worshiped there for many years with their three children. My grandmother stayed active as a Sunday school teacher and served on many committees at the church until her death.  

Among many other expressions of her faith, Lena knew, accepted, and cared for her LGBTQ+ family members and friends during times when doing so was no easy task. She became aware–and accepted–that one of her sisters was a lesbian, that her husband’s brother was gay, and that her nephew was gay with a same sex partner in San Francisco; and later when I was born, that she became aware of and embraced the fact that she had a gay grandson. The Keeping Boxes in this piece represent these individuals, as well as the love and protections that Lena gave us individually and collectively in her life. She played a unique and transformative role for each of us, which was quite remarkable for the time period. I am always grateful for Lena’s heart, for her love, and for her pride in me.

Residing with his husband Ryan in Arlington, Virginia, Mr. Breeding is a successful Risk Manager for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. In 2013, he was invited back to his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, to participate in the first annual MT Lambda Alumni Dinner, sponsored by MT Lambda on the occasion of its 25th anniversary at MTSU. Chartered in 1988, MT Lambda was founded and continues to serve as a campus support group for LGBTQ+ students and faculty at MTSU. Not long after the Alumni Dinner, and as a result of his experience there, Mr. Breeding felt called to work with the MTSU Foundation to establish a scholarship fund for LGBTQ+ students, and thus the Heroes Scholarship Fund came into existence. The fund currently provides financial support of up to $4,000 per year for successful applicants, providing a tangible expression of acceptance to a community too long denied the respect routinely afforded to others. “The most important thing is acceptance, and that’s what’s changing”, observes Mr. Breeding. If you would like to support the scholarship, your donation may be made at https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/MTSU/team/LGBT. When asked for the designation, enter LGBTQ.



Lena Hart with the artist (right) and his husband Ryan in 1995 at her apartment in Longview, Texas. This was the first time Lena had met Mr. Breeding’s husband.


The artist (and author), Jon Breeding, in 2021 in his art studio providing an artist’s talk on the piece at an online poetry conference

Print Friendly, PDF & Email