This idea came to me after I had painted the previous mayor, Mike DiNunzio, before he died.
Unfortunately, he never saw the painting. Dick Stricker, on the other hand, who was one of Mayor Mike’s friends, former Lansdale Borough Councilman and active, Historical Society member, requested that I paint his portrait as soon as possible – being eighty years old and not in the best of health, at least according to him – because he could go at any moment.
In the event of his soon-to-be death, he prodded me to get the painting finished. He also gave me explicit instructions as where and how long his portrait should be placed at the different stages of his funeral: next to his casket at Huff and Lajker, then at the Lansdale Mausoleum before internment and then on permanent display at the Lansdale Historical Society. I went to work right away.
No portrait comes without criticism of the subject. In Dick’s case, he was a little concerned about the wisp of hair (I offered to change it; he declined the touch-up), but he was pleased with the characteristic creases in his forehead that were the result of a skin condition. Thankfully, he is still with us.
Two paintings down and I was enjoying this, plus it was helping my craft. Who next?
With so many interesting faces in Lansdale, I embarked on this project called "The Many Faces of Lansdale" which would – I hope – be a good representation of our borough.
My next choice was Russ Smith, who is president of the Blue Comet Motorcycle Club and one of the driving forces behind Lansdale Bike Night. I also could not resist painting someone with mutton chops (with a Hungarian wife, perhaps it is the connection to Franz Josef II).
I have been asked if I have a criteria for selecting the subjects for these portraits and the answer is: not really.
It helps to have an interesting face but more important is the commitment to Lansdale, whether it be as a colorful figure, a community leader, a business person or an interesting person about town. Take for example, my next portrait of Nona Breaux, the former editor of The Reporter with 38-years time at the newspaper. Not a tax-paying Lansdale resident, but an honorary one.
As long as I can remember, Harry Mitchner has been walking about town and needless to say his visage is one that is characteristic of Lansdale. He refused to sit for a painting and grudgingly allowed a photograph.
Another Lansdale wanderer in town is Dell Mims. She is a sweetheart who can be seen walking Main and Broad Streets. Give her five minutes and she’ll get you up to date on all the happenings in town.
Next, was Jay Daveler. He is a lifelong Lansdale resident, business owner, former Fairmount Fire Chief and current Fire Marshal. And Lansdale’s first, well-deserved recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lansdale has a large Bangladeshi community and having attended a few of their community days, I have made the acquiantance of Mohammed Mustafa, a very caring and community minded resident.
This past Memorial Day, I snapped a photo of this member of the Lansdale VFW, but unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name so if anyone knows, please let me know. A fine portrait if I do say so myself.
To date, I have painted 16 portraits and each one tells an interesting story. What I hope to do with these portraits is eventually have them on display at the Historical Society, Borough Hall or 311 West Main Street.
I am continuning to look for subjects, so if anyone out there reading this blog has any suggestions, please feel free to send me a photo with a description of their contribution to Lansdale or why they are identified with our little town (please make sure, you have their permission).