“ ‘Margret clung to the side of the overturned wood row boat. Knowing that her grip could not last much longer. Knowing that she would not make it. And the enraged waters of the North Sea would swallow her.
“ ‘Then, she felt a powerful hand grab her arm, and force her frozen hand from the boat’s rim. Encircling her chest. Then pulling her backward. Into the churning waves. Was she, in fact, being washed away? Or drowning?’ ”
These were the opening words of the true account written by the victim’s oldest brother, Franzen, in an e-mail to me. A native of Amsterdam, the third cousin was a “restoration painter of churches.”
“That’s why I became a painter of holy buildings,” he wrote. “To give thanks to the priest that saved my baby sister over thirty-two years ago.”
At a later date, Franzen took me on a virtual tour of the church in Bratislava, Slovakia that he’s been working on. It is a small structure, compared to the grand cathedral projects that he has completed in Europe and Canada. And, it holds a significant place in the painter’s life, perhaps in mine also. The church is the home parish of a group of Haytovkas originally from old Austria.
“Presently, I sandblast the upper spires on the roof. There are twelve of them, representing the twelve apostles. I push to finish spray before the heavy snows come. It is dangerous part,” the painter emphasized. “So high from the ground, over 4419 cm (145 feet) up. One slip of the foot. I worry. Then I remember Margret. The arms that saved her…”
Franzen said the upper exterior of the church had not been touched in over forty years.
“The surfaces were pitted by thick, pebble-looking layers of grime and pollutants from the large manufacturing plant located less than 1.6 kilometers (one mile) away. Underneath, most of the paint was chipped off. Brass was badly tarnished, and coated with sea salts and bird droppings.
“It was in much worse condition than the church officials believed. Much removal and repair work…”
Franzen said that he has been doing restorative painting since age twenty-six. Previously, he worked for a contractor that repaired and redecorated older homes, apartment buildings, shops, and large flats. My cousin explained that most of the properties were “…owned by the rich.”
For two years prior, he “studied the painting craft” at a trade school run by the Netherlands government. He called the training very intense.
“This church will be my last high project. I will be fifty-nine in December. My feet are not quite as sure as they were. I make plans to retire at sixty. Muriel and I take Gordon to cottage by sea.”
By the way, Franzen and his wife are caregivers for their son Gordon (28). He has severe traumatic brain injuries from a work accident in 2009.
Something tells me that both Gordon and the historic church structure, built over 250 years ago, are in very good hands.
With equal dedication and selflessness, a true craftsman preserves the lives of impaired persons and old buildings.
Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”
Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.