Name Dropping | Danville man finds joy in his late-in-life hobby of painting

Chicago
By Chicago 12 Min Read

He’s not exactly the male equivalent of Grandma Moses, but Danville’s Don Merritt has some similarities.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses didn’t pick up a paint brush until she was 78. Merritt, while he majored in art in college, didn’t begin painting in earnest until he was 70 following retirement.

The 89-year-old Merritt enjoys art and excels at it.

“I didn’t start painting seriously until after 1995,” Merritt said. “I didn’t paint that much before.”

Painting is an outlet for the Rockwell International retiree.

Merritt has sold several of his paintings and wants to sell more, although parting with his work often isn’t easy. His paintings will remain on display through November at the Danville Art League building, 320 N. Franklin St.

From one artist to another, Art League President Kolleen Asaad said Merritt is a talented painter.

“He is very good with his art in the sense that everything is very real,” Asaad said. “He is a realist in his painting. It’s almost like a photograph, many of them. They’re very detailed.”

Merritt is prolific and shows no signs of slowing down.

He creates more works of art annually than most artists half his age, Art League member Sabrina Donnelly said.

A native of Hoopeston, Merritt worked at odd jobs after high school until he was drafted into the Army, serving for two years.

He returned to his hometown and worked for FMC for about five years drawing service manuals for the company.

Merritt majored in art at Illinois State University and taught for a brief time before moving to California. Most of his 31 years there were spent working as a computer artist for Rockwell International.

He especially enjoyed California for the outdoors and hiking.  

Merritt said he wanted to remain in that state, primarily due to more-agreeable weather, but the cost of living motivated him to return to his home state in 2000.

He considered moving back to Hoopeston, “but it had changed so much from the time I left,” he said, “so I bought a home in Danville.”

A sunroom in his north Danville home doubles as his art gallery.

Merritt doesn’t paint every day, but many evenings he can be found sketching while watching television.

His favorite subjects: Portraits and animals. He also enjoys western scenes, and among his works is a collage of old western movie stars. He has created a painting of Jimmy Stewart.

“He chose the western because he likes horses,” Art League member Dorothy Fava said. “He doesn’t do that much western scenery except in the background of his main subjects.”

Donnelly said most of Merritt’s works are done from photographs, while others are strictly created from imagination with minimal reference material when needed.

Selling one’s paintings is not always easy for an artist. Sometimes, however, they take up too much room at home.

“We artists tend to do that. They’re like babies,” Asaad said of paintings. “We can’t just throw them in the trash.”

Merritt is also active in his church and loves books, particularly on art.

“He has quite a collection,” Fava said.

“Bob Kuhn is one of his favorite artists … and Johan Vermeer, a Dutch painter.”

Kuhn is “a great wildlife artist,”

Danville’s Art League is an active group with more than 100 members and was the ideal place to display Merritt’s works.

“We have a beautiful building,” Asaad said. “We have a large pottery studio (and) we have a wonderful teacher for that who helps people develop their art.”

There are classes for experienced artists and color splash parties for those who are just beginning or recently began their art adventure.

“And they love them,” Asaad said of the splash parties. “We have them nearly every month.”

The league building is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

“If someone calls and wants to get in,” Asaad said, “we make arrangements for them to come in.”

Send us your Veterans Day information

Numerous Veterans Day services will be scheduled throughout the area on Nov. 11 to say “thank you” to those who served. We’d like to join in by listing all of those services.

Send information about your local ceremonies to us at [email protected]

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Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church, Danville

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Danville church to celebrate 152nd anniversary

Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church will celebrate its 152nd anniversary Nov. 12. The 10 a.m. homecoming program will feature Dr. Randal Ashton as guest speaker. Ashton is a well-known Danville dentist, an accomplished musician and a certified lay speaker.

The church is extending a special invitation to all former members and friends to attend.

The church was organized in 1871. Jie Wu is the current pastor.

A carry-in meal will follow the service at 11:30 a.m. in the dining room.  

The church is in the curve of Poland Road at 414 Poland Road in Danville.

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REICHENBACH

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Reichenbach is Rantoul’s student of month

Zoey Reichenbach has been named student of the month for October by the Rantoul Exchange Club.

The Rantoul Township High School senior is a daughter of Matt Reichenbach and Abbey Good.

Her school activities have included volleyball, student council, Interact, Multicultural Club, GSA, Environmental Club, Student Leadership, Madrigals, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Book Club, fall play, spring musical and Scholastic Bowl.

She has held offices as student council communications director, vice president of membership, 2023 district convention secretary and district discussion group leader, Environmental Club founder and president and FCCLA president.

Her honors and awards: academic letter, excellence in Spanish, student spotlight recognition, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation nominee, Excellence in Honors Algebra 2, Excellence in Culinary Arts 1, Excellence in Spanish, Excellence in 11th-grade Social Science, Excellence in Environmental Science, Pillar Award for Dedication, Discussion Group leader recognition, Personal Fitness Spotlight Award and high honor roll.

Her civic and volunteer activities have included HOBY, lights and sounds for music shows, Miss Rantoul volunteer tech crew, local food banks, Seek and Find helper, various opportunities throughout high school with Interact, Student Council, FCCLA and NHS. She has contributed about 300 hours of service.

Her work experience has included babysitting, the Dream Big event by Jessie Starkey and Rantoul Recreation Department.

Reichenbach plans to study recreational therapy in college with a goal of working with either the elderly or children with disabilities.

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CRUSE

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M-S student earns Farm Bureau scholarship

Campbell Cruse has been named this year’s recipient of the Champaign County Farm Bureau women’s committee scholarship.

Cruse is a daughter of Robin and Roger Cruse. She attended Mahomet-Seymour High School.

She is studying agricultural leadership, education and communications through the Parkland Pathways to Illinois program.

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First Baptist Knights soccer team, Danville, won the Illinois Association of Christian Schools state tournament.

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First Baptist wins state soccer title

The First Baptist Knights varsity soccer team, Danville, led by coach Randy Lightcap and assistant coach Jake Cummins, made history by winning the 2023 Illinois Association of Christian Schools state tournament.

The team, which finished second in state last year, dominated the previous year’s champions, Logos Christian, with a 4-0 win in the title game Saturday in Jacksonville.

Senior Jeremiah Watson, junior Eli Epling and sophomore Josiah Watson of the Knights were awarded all-tournament status.

The team had a memorable season, starting with an invitation to a national soccer tournament in Pensacola, Fla., where the Knights finished second among other nationally ranked Christian school soccer teams.

Said Lightcap: “The extraordinary talent these young men possess, combined with their desire to win and positive attitudes, allowed them to accomplish their goal of being state champions. While the accomplishment of winning a championship is amazing, I am most proud of their character on and off the field.”

The Knights finished the season with a 10-3 record.

Care Fair Academy High fundraiser

Academy High students Eli Hess and Max Libman compete in a group game during the 2022 Academy High Care Fair.

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Academy High sets Care Fair fundraiser

The Caring Crew at Academy High, Champaign, the school’s service club, will hold its fourth annual Care Fair to benefit Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

The fall-themed fundraiser will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at the school, 2001 Fox Drive. It is open to the entire community.

There will be an array of games, prizes and a bake sale featuring fall-inspired treats.

Last year the Caring Crew raised more than $6,000 for Eastern Illinois Foodbank, equivalent to 30,000 meals for food-insecure neighbors in the community.

The fundraising for this year’s Care Fair includes an online silent auction, an in-person raffle, bake sale items and more. The online silent auction takes place the week before the event, starting Monday, Nov. 6.

It will include a variety of items such as gift cards to local restaurants and businesses, Chicago excursions and sporting event tickets.

To donate, email the Caring Crew at [email protected]. Visit academyhigh.org for more information about the event and to RSVP.

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History lesson

The Champaign County Retired Teachers Association had its monthly luncheon meeting Oct. 5 at the Holiday Inn, Champaign. Ryan Ross, director of history and traditions programs at the University of Illinois, presented the history of the UI homecoming from its inception in 1910 to the present.

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