I’ll always remember the smell of the art gallery. Dust and wood. Frames stacked and hung in every free space. In those frames, paintings were staring at you everywhere you looked. This sounds cluttered. But you didn’t feel cluttered because each stacked image was more interesting than the next. The religion of history and beauty and expression shown on each canvas.

My mother is an art collector. My mom dearly and tenderly loves art, and with that she dearly and tenderly loved her art gallery. The gallery owner was a family friend like no other. Like a person plucked from the 1960s, he always had on a starched shirt and tie and looked younger than I do (even in his seventies). Perfectly shaved every day, smiling and complimentary, always wearing a shiny watch, he owned the art gallery that his father started in 1919.

This art gallery honored Midwestern artists and restored any painting you brought in. He was the gallery – his reputation preceded him before you walked in the door. He brought European culture to Oklahoma City by bringing Picasso and Chagall lithographs to his gallery.

I was raised in this gallery, when it was at the local mall, and then the other mall, and then when it moved the house downtown. He was at our family events, vacations, and gave the first toast at my father’s memorial reception. He gave Husbanks and I a beautiful painting for our wedding. He could have auctioned it off, but he gave it to us because we were family. He framed our college diplomas. Actually … most things on our wall came from the gallery owner. He is a constant in our lives.

Monday, he took his own life. I have no idea what was going through his mind or why he was so sad. I just know that my family misses him. He always laughed and smiled and complimented. I hope he knows we loved him and that he brought beauty to many lives. And he’ll stay with us, through the expressions on our walls.

  1. #1 by Misty on October 8, 2009 - 9:21 pm

    I’m so sorry Hil. Please tell your mom we’re thinking of her as well.

  2. #2 by Dawkins on October 8, 2009 - 9:48 pm

    This post is a beautiful tribute to your family friend. Hope you make it to OKC soon (plane troubles?)

  3. #3 by Morgan on October 9, 2009 - 7:48 am

    I pray he can live on, this weekend, through memories shared and friends and family coming together, and in the decades to come, through stories and the art that he loved.

  4. #4 by Weslie on October 9, 2009 - 1:07 pm

    Beautifully written, Hil. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. #5 by slogerot on October 9, 2009 - 9:36 pm

    I’m so sorry. Thinking of y’all. Love you.

  6. #6 by Robert Meister on October 11, 2009 - 9:06 pm

    Hillary: We are friends, actually family, because of Willard. I am so proud that you, your mom and dad will always be an important part of my life because of Willard and The Colonial Art Gallery & Co.

    Much love,

  7. #7 by rebekahjo on October 15, 2009 - 5:34 pm

    I’m sorry Hillary, it sounds like he was wonderful and passionate man. I’m sorry for your family’s loss.

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