A former Washington Home hospice volunteer, Greg Mize first met Paul Brown after Paul’s wife passed away. “Paul really went to a reclusive state,” says Greg. “The Washington Home was worried about how he was coping. They called me to see if I could be a support to him in his loneliness.”
For six months, Greg called Paul to no avail. But then, Greg had a stroke of luck. “When I visited him, I brought my labradoodle, Stella. Stella was in the backseat of the car. Paul just fell in love with her. He didn’t want to sit in the front seat with me. I said, ‘Let’s have lunch that way you can spend more time with Stella!’ And he agreed that it was a great idea.”
That marked the beginning of many lunches at Greg’s home. And, as their friendship developed, Greg began learning more and more about what Paul was doing all that time he was alone in his apartment. The answer was surprising.
Paul was making art.
“He would go into his building’s back alley to the dumpster, and he would pull out discarded cardboard,” says Greg. “He’d bring the cardboard into his apartment, and he would make cowboy pistols and musical instruments.”
The results were captivating. “I was totally amazed,” says Greg. “All that time since his wife died, he was making these beautiful things.”
Unbeknownst to Greg, others had taken notice of Paul’s artwork, too — including Iona social worker Deb Blum.
Deb had been working with Paul for a few years. She helped him tap into different benefits, and ensured he regularly received Iona’s home delivered meals. She also introduced Paul to Iona Gallery Director Patricia Dubroof. Within a year, he was exhibiting his pieces in the Lois & Richard England Gallery at Iona. The exhibit ignited something new in Paul, says Greg. “It was the blossoming of Paul Brown. He just came out! That’s where Iona made a big difference.”
To this day, Greg now intertwines his memories of Paul with Iona. “Iona made Paul feel like he had some special worth. And he did. They shared his story, and that meant so much to him.”
It meant a lot to Greg, too. After Paul passed away in 2011 — two years after his artworks were featured at Iona — Greg and his wife, Marisa, decided to show their gratitude to Iona with a gift.
Today Greg and Marisa are inspired by not only what Iona did for Paul, but what Iona does for so many other older adults, especially those facing hunger. “We learned about how many seniors don’t have food. They scrounge and they go hungry day after day. It was a total surprise and shock to us,” says Greg.
That’s why Greg and Marisa continue to make a monthly donation to Iona. “It’s easy to give and it’s lasting,” Greg continues. “And you know because Iona has been around for a long, long while that they’ve learned how to support seniors in the most effective ways.”
Learn more about Paul Brown’s Instruments with Personality exhibit at Iona. Visit www.iona.org/newsletter-paul-brown.