A unique and thoughtful effort is underway in Kansas City to honor some area veterans.
Local artists are sketching portraits of vets as they were decades ago using old black and white photographs.
The portraits honor men and women who served their country in their youth, and who are now in hospice care.
The effort is the brainchild of Crossroads Hospice, which tracks down military records and photos, and holds ceremonies that remind the veterans their service has not been forgotten.
"I guess I feel a sense of duty to do it right. I really do," Lynne Hayes, one of the artists, said. "Looking at their faces, I get a glimpse of what they looked like in the past. I try to imagine how they spoke, how they acted."
Among the portraits she's sketched is that of Melvin Lewis, a Renaissance man who served in the Navy.
"There is always a glimmer even if they are very ill. There is always a glimmer in their eye when they see the pictures," Hayes told KCTV5.
An artist himself, Lewis sculpted wildlife using sawdust and Elmer's glue. It was a hobby that grabbed the attention of local newspapers and other artists.
Lewis also played in a harmonica band and met the love of his life, Dorothy, while dancing.
At the end of his colorful life, Lewis was presented with a portrait at a veteran's recognition ceremony at Crossroads Hospice. It shows him as a young man in uniform surrounded by the things he loved.
Lewis died Oct. 17 but, before he passed away, he told his family that he loved his portrait.
"Oh, he was ecstatic. He was in tears happy. Yeah, I don't know how much more I can say except that he couldn't believe that he was being honored," said Rebecca Lewis, Melvin Lewis' niece.
Megan Henson, assistant director at Crossroads, said that's a common reaction.
"You can see the memories come across their face. The families, the grandchildren, they see their loved one in a different light when they were young and healthy and vibrant," Henson said.
Rebecca Lewis got a chance to meet the artists who sketched her uncle's portrait. They hugged and swapped stories about the man responsible for their path's crossing. They both keep a copy of his portrait.
"I love it. I love it. Just a piece of him. A big piece of him all in one. I get to look at it every day and see my uncle" Rebecca Lewis said.
Crossroads Hospice said it is always in need of artists to help create the portraits in the North Kansas City, Kansas City Metro, and Warrensburg areas.
Click here for more if anyone is interested in helping.
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