Gertrude was a pretty awesome 95-year-old artist

I was scrounging for something in my basement the other day and came across a painting by a 95-year-old woman.


Gertrude’s hand-painted gift to my mom, her nursing home roommate.

Gertrude was her name. She was one of my mom’s roommates at the nursing home where my mom spent the last 3-plus years of her life.

Gertrude gave the painting to her, and even inscribed the back in labored cursive — “To Margaret. Love, Gertrude.”

I used to visit the nursing home quite often, and Gertrude was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary environment. She was perpetually upbeat despite her situation, and was in relatively good shape mentally and physically.

As my mom declined with dementia, I often engaged more with Gertrude. Painting was her passion. Despite sometimes shaky hands, she spent a lot of time on those 6×8-inch boards, using brushes and acrylic paints her family brought to her.

Gertrude outlived my mom by almost four years. When I found the painting in my basement, I couldn’t remember her last name but I knew she was from New Jersey.

Thanks to the wonders of search engines, I found her obituary. One particular memory came flooding back, of a lunar eclipse one night in 2004 or 2005. The three of us – my mom, Gertrude and I – watched the eclipse unfold through the window of their room. It was a rather surreal way to spend an evening, I admit.

But back to Gertrude and her painting. According to her obituary in 2010, “At age 75 she became a very accomplished artist. She won a local art contest and went to the NJ state finals.”

I think that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever read in an obit.

Gertrude, by the way, lived to be 101 – four days shy of turning 102. She was born in Germany and came to America as a small child. She loved the ocean and volunteered with Muscular Dystrophy patients, helping them swim. She lost her husband in 1973 and a son in 1997.

I wish I had known at least some of that about Gertrude, or had the emotional intelligence to ask about her life. But at the time I was more concerned with my mom and seeing that she was taken care of, so I think my chats with Gertrude stayed pretty superficial. I should have thanked her for being so kind to my mom, and for giving her that painting of a simple floral arrangement.

So, to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Gertrude Neufeldt Schuliar (1908-2010), I want to say thank you. And in case you were too young to know her, you should know that she was an awesome lady.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
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