Kelly A. Watts and Malisa J. Werner
The authors of Gathering at the Watering Hole—on a mission of healing through art, legacy,
and an endearing baby elephant that’s stealing hearts across the world.
In the realm of artistic endeavors, there are stories that transcend their physical forms, reaching out to touch the lives of those who encounter them. The tale of Kelly A. Watts and Malisa J. Werner is one such narrative, intertwining creativity, healing, and the enduring legacy of a beloved artist—Gregory C. Werner, Malisa’s father. Their collaborative endeavor, Gathering at the Watering Hole, brings to life Gregory’s breathtaking drawings in a transformative, heartwarming book that’s captivated children and adults alike. The embodiment of artistic brilliance and emotional rejuvenation, Gathering at the Watering Hole holds within its pages the power to bring solace to all who encounter it.
Kelly and Malisa’s remarkable journey began with a deeply personal mission after Gregory’s tragic passing in February 2022. In the wake of this profound loss, Malisa, a visionary artist and an educator of children; and Kelly, a former educator with three decades of experience; embarked on a heartfelt endeavor to share Gregory’s extraordinary artistry with the world and encourage children to pursue their own artistic endeavors. As they transformed his exquisite drawings into the enchanting tale of an endearing baby elephant, JuneJune, and his tribe, they found comfort and healing in the process itself. “Greg loved children, and he loved telling stories, so a children's book was the perfect medium to showcase his expressive talents,” says Kelly. “We hope our book becomes a source of healing for all who hold it close to their hearts.”
However, Gathering at the Watering Hole encompasses more than just healing properties. This enchanting book imparts valuable life lessons and kindles the flame of artistic passion. It beckons readers to carry the torch of creativity forward and manifest their creative dreams—the same dreams that carried Gregory’s imagination into the early morning hours before heading off to his construction job. A single father to Malisa and her brother, as his children slept, Gregory quietly scrolled his brush, a pencil, a finger, and so emerged a gentle curl of a trunk, a spark in the eye, a playful tail, and somehow… somehow… the intangible feeling of love.
For Malisa, these memories remain as vivid as ever. “Each piece is a little flashback of my childhood. I would get up in the morning, and as he worked on them, I’d watch them morph into something amazing,” she recalls. “When we had family over, it was like we were walking through a museum because all the artwork was on the walls.”
Gathering at the Watering Hole: A literary gift of healing, artistry, and life lessons
Released December 2022 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Gathering at the Watering Hole tells the uplifting story of JuneJune; an adorable baby elephant who is excited about going to the watering hole, where he plays with his friends, shares lessons learned, and learns new things that have occurred since the last time they gathered there. These invaluable life lessons lay the foundation for socialization with peers, and establish a solid bedrock to fall back upon when peer pressures get heavier as children start to grow. The tale of JuneJune also tells them that it’s okay to be alone—so long as they are safe and having fun. At the same time, the exquisite simplicity of his daily adventures sparks the creative imagination in both children and adults—and the curiosity of all as they explore the mystery of the missing dragonfly. “One morning I woke up and my dad had erased one of the two dragonflies. I wanted him to put it back in, and he was going to, but he never had the chance,” Malisa remembers. “If you look closely, you can still see the outline of it in one of the drawings.”
Not only has the book become a beacon of solace and inspiration, but JuneJune has emerged as a floppy-eared symbol of hope and the ambassador of Kelly and Malisa’s Mission of Healing. Leaping from the bank of his watering hole, JuneJune has journeyed across Florida and the bustling streets of New York City, his infection charm stealing the hearts of children, parents, and adults, and garnering interest from hospitals, schools, and libraries for captivating book readings. “My dad would be so excited right now. He was my hero, and he wanted to bring his artwork out into the world since he was young, so this means so much to my family,” Malisa shares.
Gathering at the Watering Hole and the Mission of Healing stand as testaments to Kelly and Malisa’s unwavering dedication to healing, artistic expression, and to Gregory’s enduring legacy—proving that art has the power to transcend time and heal the world.
Kelly A. Watts & Malisa J. Werner
Co-Authors of Gathering at the Watering Hole and Co-Founders of Mission of Healing