Last spring I rented a booth at a community yard sale held once yearly on the big lawn of one of Louisville's historic homes. A fellow who set up near me had a painting I admired with a price tag of only $10. I was a little put off by one thing though. The frame -- made of curvaceous cove molding and painted fire-engine red -- was all wrong. I told the guy I'd think it over. At the end of the day he wandered over to my booth and told me he still had the painting and asked if I wanted it. I said I was still unsure. He asked if I'd consider a trade. I said sure, and asked what he wanted. I had a small collection of dental molds that caught his eye. You got a deal, I told him.
First thing I did when I got home was discard the frame. Then I got busy googling. The guy I swapped with didn't know anything about the painting, so all I had was the artist's name: Theo Daniels. My Google results were slim. Very slim. The only hit of consequence was an obituary.
On June 1, 2010, Theodore Edward Daniels of Lake Tomahawk, WI, passed away gently at Howard Young Medical Center in Minocqua, WI. He was 86.
Ted was born April 30, 1924, in Aurora, Illinois, to Theodore S. and Florence (Cogger) Daniels. He grew up in Batavia, Illinois, and attended Batavia High School, and then attended and graduated from Howe Military in 1942. He studied there for two years before being released early for the Korean War.
He served three years in the U.S. Army Air Force where he flew a “Vultee Vibrator.” He was also an air traffic controller. After the Army Air Force, Ted attended Meinzinger Art School in Detroit for two years and then the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts for three years. Upon completion of his schooling he opened a painting and pottery studio in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, and also worked as an instructor in the Wisconsin Rural Arts program through the University of Wisconsin Extension.
In 1951 he became an accredited judge of fine arts for the State of Wisconsin. He judged many shows, and at one in Oneida County, he met the love of his life, Helen Gary Daniels of Rhinelander. He gave her a First Prize. They were married on June 12, 1954, in Rhinelander, and remained married until her death on May 21, 2008.
In 1956 they moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they opened The Yankee Studio, an art and import shop, and worked there for 20 years before retiring. During that time he was also a member and on the Board of Directors for the Cedar Rapids Art Association. He also taught for the Art Association. He conducted private oil painting and watercolor classes for many years. He was also involved with See Magazine, a local arts magazine, for two years.
Ted and Helen moved back to Wisconsin in May of 2007. They are survived by their three children and three grandchildren, daughter Jane (Jerry) Matz and their son Christopher, daughter Julie (Bruce) Kuehl and their children Clayton and Kendra, and son Thomas Daniels.
Theodore was preceded in death by his parents Theodore and Florence Daniels, sister Dorothy (Robert) Spargur, and his wife Helen.
Ted loved art, fishing, sailing, gardening, family and friends and loved to tell a good story. He was like a father to many. He will be greatly missed.
I then knew a little about Theo Daniels, but a new mystery appeared. How did my painting wind up on a yard sale table in Louisville, Kentucky?
There was one clue among the memories left on the funeral home's website. There was a short message left by a niece living in Louisville. I found her name in the phone book and gave her a call. She told me she didn't know how the painting could have found its way to a yard sale, but vaguely spoke of some chaos following Daniels' death. She suggested I call Daniels' daughter Julie to learn more. Julie was very glad to hear from me and spoke lovingly of her father. She even provided a photo of him for me. But she couldn't tell me how the painting wound up with a $10 price tag on it.
In any event, I built a new frame for it, as you see, and I'm very glad to have it.