Hanging on the wall on our family room is a composite picture, made up of many smaller pictures. The pictures are of family - our two sons and many cousins, Ellen and myself. They span special moments in our 57 years of married life. A cornucopia of happy smiles, colors of clothing - various backdrops inside our home and outdoors.


Hanging on the wall on our family room is a composite picture, made up of many smaller pictures. The pictures are of family - our two sons and many cousins, Ellen and myself. They span special moments in our 57 years of married life. A cornucopia of happy smiles, colors of clothing - various backdrops inside our home and outdoors.

On my writing pad is the picture of a beautiful young lady, with whom I shared the vicissitudes of married life for many wonderful years. As I look at her picture, with her curly poodle cut hairdo and her beautiful smile, my mind goes back to the carefree days of our courtship - a whirlwind couple of years before our wedding day. My very first memory of her was the way she was dressed - in her beautiful lavender summer pastels. I knew this little lady was an artist for her stunning appearance.

After those first dates following my introduction to her (by a college buddy), my initial feelings were confirmed. She was an elementary school teacher who loved artistic things. Another memory in this collection is the picture of her with a large group of her adoring school students at our wedding reception.

The choice of her wedding dress, shoes and colors of her attendants’ dresses were like a picture painted in beautiful springtime pastels. In another memory, she pursued her art expression with beautiful sketches of birds, butterflies and flowers.

Our new home, a simple two-story apartment in Denver, Colo, soon became a miniature gallery of her poetry and artwork. Upon our return to Kansas with our first-born son, she was using the love of children’s songs and books to teach him his first lessons in the beauty of nature. When our second son was born, his arrival filled our home with neat little children’s songs, joy and many other occasions for interesting little experiences with two little soulmate brothers. Soon our two little fellows were the best of buddies, chasing butterflies and birds with mom’s help.

When our youngest son celebrated his sixth birthday, mom took a part-time job as a decorative assistant at JC Penney’s, so he could go to half-day kindergarten in McPherson. It was then her artwork took on an urgency to begin a lifelong passion for painting beautiful pictures in oils, acrylics and watercolors.

Soon, she was recognized by her contemporaries for the exquisite style and the natural beauty of her work. Ellen began to enter competitions and art shows, where she earned the respect of her fellow artists and judges alike. She earned many awards and commendations for her beautiful paintings.

She was known as the “Iris Lady,” because her interpretations of Iris and other flowers was almost photographic in accuracy. With the recognition of her work by art critics, and the distinction of being chosen by the same critics as an “Artist of Merit” in national art associations, her work was chosen to be part of an international traveling art collection. This brought her great satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment, for which we were all very proud.

A recent addition to the larger composite was the enjoyment by many purchasers of her work at art shows.

With the onset of dementia, Ellen began to become frustrated with her inability to concentrate on a painting long enough to finish it. The ravages of dementia changed her personality and she began to become anxious about many of the scenarios which involved her art associates.

And so the picture of Ellen as a wonderful, creative artist has moved from the present to the past tense. The bigger picture now has become a happy memory of what once was.

In recent weeks, she entered the Generations psychiatric medical unit at the Newton Medical Center. After spending 10 days in the very loving, professional care of the staff there, she came home to begin her life in the Cedars House. Sadly, her stay there lasted only two days. She went to join the Great Artist and Creator of all the beauty in nature which she took great joy in painting. The last picture in the greater composite appears in gray, somber tones.

She will be missed in so many ways - her love for beauty, her great creative talent, but, most of all,  her all-consuming care for the welfare of her family and all of Creation, for which she developed an intense love for the Great Creator.