Valley artist in hospice draws on life full of passions



If anyone ever wondered about Willie Lane’s main passions, one look at his room would quickly satisfy their curiosity.

“We draw with him and he draws us,” said Samantha Gregoire, a state-tested nurse’s aide with Crossroads Hospice of Youngstown and one of Lane’s caregivers.

Gregoire is among those who give high marks to the watercolor paintings, drawings, sketches and other artwork that cover nearly every bit of wall space in the 75-year-old Lane’s room at Austin Woods Health Care Center, 4780 Kirk Road, where he’s a seven-year resident.

He also was the main attraction during Friday’s “Willie’s Starving Artist Party” at the health-care facility, made possible by the hospice center’s “Gift of a Day” program, which seeks from residents their ideas of a perfect day.

Lane, an artist since a young age, has received hospice care for about six months.

Gregoire and fellow Crossroads aide Abbey Perhach visit Lane three times a week and assist him with dressing, feeding and other needs. They also take time to admire his renderings of people, scenery and landscapes as well as scrapbooks filled with more abstract pieces.

Various staff, family members and friends attended Friday’s gathering to honor Lane. Also joining the party to create a few paintings of their own were Austin Woods residents Margaret Mahlic, Carol Kane, Lillian Bathory, Charlene Veltri and Angie Cittidini, who painted everything from colorful flowers in vases to ocean scenes.

Lane may have spent decades delving into and giving others some of his art, but that’s certainly not to suggest he can’t be on the receiving end.

“We talk about his artwork and I gave him one of my pictures of Michael Jackson,” said Chester Johnson of Akron, a Crossroads volunteer and a 50-year artist who spends time with Lane at least once a week.

Johnson, also known as “C.J.,” titled the ink piece, “In Memory of the King of Pop.”

“He’s a straightforward man who knows what he’s doing and what he likes,” Johnson said of Lane.

Crossroads Hospice is a patient-centered facility that provides social workers, physicians, bereavement counselors, home-health aides, volunteers and others to address residents’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs, noted Kate Davis, Crossroads’ provider-relations director.

Despite his health challenges, Lane remains upbeat and doesn’t allow them to thwart his efforts to continue exercising his artistic abilities, Davis explained.

“He’s always smiling and he’s very optimistic,” she added.

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