Senior Living

Emeritus artist wins holiday card art contest

by Bradley Hartsell

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Alexander Von Hesiter, a 91-year old artist, looks at a scrapbook of old pictures and his past paintings.

The things you notice about the von Heisters’ Emeritus Senior Living apartment is the art hanging on the wall and the history books on the shelf.

For Al von Heister, the love of history and art have been intertwined for most of his 91 years. Born in 1922 in Düsseldorf, Germany, von Heister’s family immigrated to the United States in May 1927.

“That was the same time [Charles] Lindbergh was flying over. We’ve must have crossed paths on the way,” joks von Heister.

Alexander “Al” von Heister served in the Air Force in World War II, where his affinity for airplanes really developed. He began sketching them and eventually began painting in earnest after the war. His art talent paid homage to his great-grandfather and great uncle who were famous for their art, Andreas and Oswald Achenbach, respectively. Andreas Achenbach received the medal of first class in Paris in 1855, with “The Chambers Biographical Dictionary” noting "he was regarded as the father of 19th century German landscape painting."

Al von Heister took inspiration from his accomplished family and began painting landscapes from his travels in the war. One painting hung in the living room is of the Hong Kong harbor.

The winning holiday card he painted is from a photograph he took in Rothenberg, Germany, a medieval town. He says he finished the painting about a year ago and then submitted it, along with more than 200 other Emeritus residents from all over the country.

Five winners were selected and are displayed on Emeritus’ website. von Heister’s card depicts a snowy building-front during Christmas. The wreath on the door, glowing entry lamp and window above the door spark a warmness that pushes away the the pretty but bitter snow.

Mr. von Heister and his wife of 44 years, Roselynn, lived in LaGrange for many years before coming to Emeritus Senior Living in Newnan a year ago. He retired from Delta after 28 years in 1987. In LaGrange, he had a studio and took a few art courses from Steve Close, who’s now passed away. von Heister recalls Close setting up a table with folded clothes draped it and colored jars stacked about. He turned to the class and said, “now paint that.”

Other than those classes, which came much later in von Heister’s life, he was all self-taught. Roselynn von Hesiter feels their love of travel and experiences in life have led to her husband’s impressive life in the arts.

“I wish everyone could travel,” said Mrs. von Heister. “I think we wouldn’t have so many problems if everybody were more connected.” Perhaps their experiences, from Scotland to Al von Hesiter’s beloved homeland, and rich historical background have contributed greatly to their gentle spirits and bubbling creativity (Mrs. von Heister herself is a longtime seamstress).

It’s easy to imagine Al von Heister leaving a warm impression on those around him, including the people he interacts with on a daily basis at Emeritus.

“We are astounded by Al’s talent and creativity, and we are thrilled that her work was chosen for the Emeritus card,” said Annette Fields, Executive Director. “Al is a treasured member of the community. He constantly delights us with his great talents.”



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