There were broad smiles, reunions with old acquaintances and the odd tear as family members of former residents of the Dr. F.W. Green Home gathered on Wednesday, May 29.
The group had come together to collect portraits of their loved ones that used to line the halls of the home, painted by former resident and prolific painter Adolphus “Duffy” Burton.
During the 1990s, Duffy painted dozens of portraits of his fellow residents at the aged care facility. Until a few years ago, those portraits were on display for everyone to see, but they were taken down during a remodel in 2010.
Having lost touch with the relatives who used to visit those oldtimers in the home, recreation coordinator Mari Thomas and Laird Siemens, chair of the family council, called The Townsman for help getting the word out that family members could claim the beautifully painted portraits.
Now, almost 30 of the portraits have new homes with family members delighted to see the likeness of their loved one.
Many people saw the article with a list of names in the Townsman, but many more were contacted by local historian Dave Humphrey. He spent hours trawling through old newspapers, birth and death records and managed to contact about 20 families of people in the portraits.
On Wednesday, some of those descendants came from as far as Elko and Invermere to gather in a sunlit room at the Green Home to collect the portraits and share their memories of loved ones.
Carol Canning came from Skookumchuck to pick up a portrait of her grandmother Maude Goodwin.
“I remember that coat!” Carol exclaimed, looking at the colourful, floral jacket Maude wears in the portrait.
Carol got a phone call from Dave Humphrey telling her that the portrait was there if she wanted it.
Coincidentally, the Goodwin family will celebrate a reunion at Wasa this August, and Carol plans to show it to some of Maude’s 11 children and 49 grandchildren who will be gathered there.
“The portrait might get passed around,” Carol said.
“It’s nice that somebody did this,” she went on. “We keep pictures of her in the house all the time.”
Ken Pearson clutched a coffee cup the mirror image of the one his father Seth clutched in the portrait Duffy painted as he looked over the portraits.
“I can look at a lot of these pictures and remember a lot of people,” Ken said.
His father spent six years living at the Green Home before he passed away at age 98.
“It’s so like him, it’s unbelievable,” Ken said, looking at Seth’s portrait. “(Duffy) did such a wonderful job.”
Cranbrook resident Rhonda Brass came to take home a portrait of her dear friend Betty Scott. The two met at the college when Betty was already late in years, and began to meet over tea to talk about religion, sociology and philosophy because Betty wanted to keep her mind fresh, said Brass.
“She was a great lover of nature, and especially the Rockies,” said Brass, looking at the portrait of Betty with the mountains as a backdrop.
In fact, Betty was the sister of Dr. Green himself, Brass said.
“She shared stories about Dr. Green. Her brother was a very good doctor. He did the best he could for people, and he was available day and night.”
Now the portrait will have pride of place in Brass’s home.
“Thank you to the late Duffy Burton for doing these beautiful portraits. He was very talented. And thank you to the Green Home for letting us have them.” she said.
Thirteen portraits remain unclaimed: Ann Barkovich, Bernard Chevous, John Demant, Louise Gierl, Tillie Hewson, Mary Jones, Lucy Konkin, Waldren McLean, Sheila Mines, Loretta Molloy, John Ozeroff, Mabel Smith, and Sadie Thorlanson.
To lay claim to one of those portraits, please contact Mari Thomas at the Green Home at 250-420-2451.
In the meantime, six of the remaining portraits will be on display in June at the Cranbrook and District Arts Council for its Bygone Era exhibit.