NOTES FROM NAPANOCH #19
by Joe Bevilacqua
As I look back on 2007, I am shocked to discover, it has been the best year of my life. Although I lost my job in radio, it opened up my life to new possibilities.
I am also surprised to realize that I only started writing this column in March. The column may have been the other reason so many other good things have happened to me. It led to my other contributions to this paper, and a lot of other work.
After living in Napanoch for five years, most of which was spent working from home and recovering from back surgery, as a writer, I was suddenly thrust me into the heart of the community.
The best part about it all has been the people I have met. I have felt welcomed by the very people I ignored for almost five years.
One of the interesting people I met this year was an artist named Dennis Fanton.
In 2007, Fanton has had a number successful gallery openings, including one at Aroma Thyme Bistro, in Ellenville. He also teaches Impressionistic painting, and will be an instructor with the Wallkill River School in Montgomery beginning in January 2008.
But Dennis Fanton was not always as successful in his art. He has made his living mostly as a registered nurse.
For years, Dennis Fanton made a New Year's resolution to be more involved in his art, but each year, his job got in the way. Fanton was born in 1949 in Summit, New Jersey and grew up in Sterling, a small town near Plainfield when the central part of the state was still a very rural area.
“I lived right across from a lake,” reminisces the 58 year old registered nurse. “I spent most of my childhood on that lake, skating, swimming, everything.”
Fanton loved the outdoors so much he wanted to paint pictures of everything he saw. In spite of this, his artistic inclinations lay dormant in those early years.
“In the 1960s, you were expected to get a stable job, stay in the job, get your pension and retire,” explains Fanton, who plans to become an artist were waylaid by the Viet Nam War.
After high school, he enrolled to art school, but in 1970, Fanton had a low number and was sure to be drafted, so he enlisted in the Navy where trained to be a coreman.
“That's how I got into the medical field,” he recalls, “and so my art had to take a back seat.”
In his three years of service, Fanton first worked in an emergency room and later performed physicals for flight pilots at the base hospital in Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
“They were involved in 'Operation Deep Freeze' in the Antarctic, which I do not know a lot about,” admits Fanton. “I found that I liked helping people. It wasn't just a nine to five, doing your time and going home, so I stayed in it as a profession.”
After being discharged from the Navy in 1973, Fanton took jobs at several hospitals and eventual moved to Orange County, New York to go to Orange County College where he received his RN. Around the same time, he saw an newspaper ad for art instruction with Lisa Spec.
Fanton studied with Lisa Spect, who was president of the Art Students League of New York. After Spect’s death, her students formed the Garret Society, and they continue to meet every Tuesday and paint together in a studio in the Paramount Theater in Middletown.
“In the short time I knew Susan, she really inspired me.
After a few years of small successes, this New Year, Dennis Fanton resolved to devote himself fully to his art, even as he continues to work long hours as a nurse. He plans on devoted himself full-time to his art when he retires from nursing in a few years.
I have never been one for New Year's resolutions, but if I were to make one, it would be to continue to stay involved in my community in whatever way I can, no matter what the future holds.
Finally, let me end my last column of the year on a personal note. On December 27th, my wife, Lorie Kellogg and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. After living all over the country, we are both very happy we are spending it here in Napanoch and Ellenville.
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