There was snow on the ground when I drove to his small house, struggling to find it at the end of a small side street. He stood in his yard and waved to me after I circled one too many times, I remember.
It was last January when I sat with him in a sunny studio, artwork covering every wall. I had meant to write about him ever since the previous spring, the hand-painted cards he sent to every church member hanging on my fridge for months as a reminder. It took him being hospitalized with pneumonia before I finally talked to my editors about him. He was 94 and I was afraid I’d already missed my chance.
That January morning he told me about painting, how he decided he liked art while serving in World War II, and how he started painting because he couldn’t afford the art he saw in stores.
He’d painted around 5,000 cards by then, affixing a red felt heart on the back of each one. And like he’d wanted when he first started painting, his walls were covered with his own artwork.
“I like to paint,” he said then. “And it gives God the glory. I’m painting things He has made.”
That quote ran at the top of the page, above his picture with the story on the front page.
I read yesterday that he’d died, the long struggle starting with a fall on the snow in that same yard two months ago.
And I wonder if he’s still painting in heaven? Only this time painting celestial scenes, not the earthly ones he’d painted before.