It’s often in death that we appreciate what someone has given in life. That can be said for former Lakeview High School Class of 1971 graduate Jimmy Johnston, who’s painting of four Canadian “Honker” geese is now hanging in the high school’s front offices.
The story truly unfolded when Johnston ran into health issues and piled up medical bills that weren’t being covered by insurance. In order to combat the costs, Johnston offered his artistic skills to interested individuals for a custom painting to settle his bills in a way he knew how.
Although he was an accomplished artist whom had shown his work internationally in Japan, Europe and other locations, the interest didn’t materialize. One person buying a painting gets expensive and with the high medical bills it wasn’t going to work out.
That’s where his cousin, Kathy Johnston-Tacke, took the reigns and put something on Facebook regarding the opportunity. With the help of Paul Primak, who saw the post, a few members of the LHS’s Class of 1971 got together to commission the painting, handling the entire cost.
The genesis of the idea led to the stepping up of about 25 or so former classmates that raised over $3,000.
Primak actually went to Portland to retrieve what Johnston had completed before his death just a year or so ago. The initial drawings and a half completed painting made its way down to Lakeview where Lake County School District No. 7 Supt. Will Cahill stepped in.
Cahill connected Primak with Bob Bear, the art teacher at the high school. Bear, an accomplished artist himself that has received international awards for his wildlife illustrations, completed Johnston’s work only changing a few pieces, but keeping the structure of the concept. With the final touches needed regarding completing the painting’s frame, construction and welding teacher Fred Smith’s woodshop class wrapped up the project.
“It was nice because it was really a very nice sense of community,” said Primak. “People really did step up once we got going.”
The LHS office is the final resting place for the painting after three years of work. For Johnston and the rest of the Class of 1971, this was a job well done and a memory forever painted in time.