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Comfort Through Canvas

Posted on March 20, 2020

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The oil paint still smells fresh as Denny O’Dell sits near his framed picture of the white egret and begins to tell his story.  You won’t be able to buy his paintings, because this unassuming artist chooses to give his creations away to those who are sick, on hard times, or to those he calls “very special people.”  He presented the staff at Roane Medical Center with one of those paintings.

Mr. O’Dell has chosen to use only RMC for the needs of his family.  He feels that there is no reason for them to go anywhere else because, the great care at RMC and the people who give it have proven to be just what he needed. 

Five years ago, O’Dell was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  In coping with his diagnosis, Mr. O’Dell has found true comfort when he has a paint brush in hand. “I do my best work on my worst days,” he said.  “I have probably given away about 40 paintings since I started doing this.”  When asked if he always knew how to paint, the retiree said he always felt better with a pencil in his hand but it wasn’t until three years ago when he received an art set from his kids for Christmas that he taught himself to paint with oils.

This humble painter says he was just “an old country boy” who had been outdoors all his life, so he started painting what he knew.  His remarkable work reflects birds, mountain landscapes, blossoms, and lighthouses, and his eyes light up with enthusiasm while talking about each painting.  He feels calm and joyful when he can put a piece of his memory on canvas.  “My wife says that Parkinson’s has taken my smile.  But in here,” he says, placing a hand on his heart, “inside I’m smiling.  I’m blessed.”    

Acknowledging that all of his abilities will someday disappear, he wants to share what he has, while he has it.  “The more I see myself, the more I appreciate others and what they do.  All of the girls back there [in surgery] are great.  They feel like family now and it means a lot to come in and be treated well, be treated with kindness, and with humor every time.” 

The staff at Roane Medical Center is honored to be among Mr. O’Dell’s “very special people.” The painting will hang proudly at Roane Medical Center.