Every morning for the last year, I have created a watercolor portrait of my father, William Prime Batson. I started the project on his 90th birthday on October 22, 2011. On Sunday, October 21, 2012, I completed my 366th painting.
Physically, my father is robust: cognitively he is in decline. He doesn’t know my name, or our relationship, but the bond between us is strong. He seems to particularly enjoy our 6:00 am portrait painting sessions. You can’t see his eyes in any of my paintings because he is concentrating on the delicious breakfast I serve: hot cereal with apples and prunes, toast and juice.
Here is a selection of my favorite pieces from the 366-day tribute. If you click on the image, you can see the rest of the paintings from that month. Eventually, I would like to find a space to exhibit the paintings side-by-side. I also hope to find a way to use these portraits to encourage the discussion and consideration of elder care issues.
My father, William Prime Batson, grew up in a home at 23 Jackson Avenue, between South Broadway and South Franklin, that was demolished by Urban Renewal in the early 1960’s.
His friends call him Prime.
He remembers the Hudson River freezing to a thickness that allowed people to walk across to Tarrytown.
He graduated from Nyack High School, lettering in Basketball and Track.
He tried out for the Harlem Globe Trotters.
He served in World War II in the Signal Corps in Italy and Germany.
After the war, he opened a coffee shop with his sister, Frances Adeline Batson, in Paterson, NJ, where he met my mother.
He worked for thirty years at Curtis-Wright in Lodi, New Jersey, a factory that made airplane engines.
He was an active member of the United Auto Workers (UAW)
He had a daily copy of the New York Times reserved for him at Jerry’s Soda Shop on Main Street.
For many years, he voluntarily mowed the grass around the Community Garden at Depew Ave. and Franklin St.
He spent ten years working for the Nyack Water Department after his factory closed. His sister, Frances Adeline, was the Deputy Village Clerk.
Yesterday, October 22, 2012, he turned 91.
Happy Birthday Dad!
I want to acknowledge my cousin, Sylvia Peterson for her loving attention and dedication to her uncle Prime.
Photo Credit: Janae Peterson (The shot of Dad and I is her first published photo. She’s ten years old!)