The Wizard of Wellesley: Seniors home resident brings Montreal landmarks to life

Click to play video: 'Montreal senior paints scenery on walls' Montreal senior paints scenery on walls
WATCH: A 92-year-old resident at the Wellesley retirement residence in Pointe-Claire is spending his days painting detailed murals of Montreal landscapes. Global's Anne Leclair meets the man holding the paintbrush – Jul 31, 2017

Seniors homes can be synonymous with being old, dreary and dark.

But that’s far from the case at the Wellesley Retirement Residence in Pointe-Claire, where one senior citizen has been given carte blanche to paint the dining room walls as he pleases. His fellow residents are thrilled and feel it’s breathing new life into their living space.

“The art work here I think it’s fantastic,” 93-year-old Betty Grothé said. “I just love watching him.”

Fred “Tex” Dawson spent most of his life working as an architect. But it’s what he started doing after moving into Le Wellesley senior’s residence close to three years ago that has everyone talking.

“I was rather unhappy with the pictures that were here in the dining room,” the 92-year-old said. “I asked the director if she’d like a mural on the wall, she said ‘sure!'”

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And the rest is history.

“He decided to paint the Notre-Dame Basilica and everybody was blown away by it,” Chartwell Le Wellesley’s leasing manager Viviane Meslage said. “And then he said ‘can I do more?’ and we said ‘sure, go for it’ so he continued doing another one, another one and hasn’t stopped since.”

Dawson has painted close to a dozen murals in the dining room alone, not to mention the series of custom-made paintings lining the hallway to his room.

“I enjoy painting on large surfaces very much,” Dawson said. “I’ve had a lot of positive remarks which feed the ego, it’s enjoyable.”

Residents love looking at the oil paintings and reminiscing while sharing meals in what used to be a drab dining hall.

“I think they’re gorgeous, I think Wellesley is very lucky to have them,” resident Audrey Ballard said.

“It’s called ‘La Maisonneuve,’ our dining room, but it’s like a little Tex Dawson gallery which we’re very proud of,” Meslage said.

Dawson says the positive reviews keep him going, and he loves the fact that so many people connect with the Montreal landmarks he’s brought to life.

“I did the Pointe-Claire windmill and there happened to be a lady sitting at her table, she said ‘I was a girl at that nunnery,'” Dawson said. “So I had to look up on the internet to make sure I got the habit right.”

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The largest murals have taken Dawson about a month to complete – and there’s no end in sight to his work.

“Once we run out of wall space here in the dining room we’ll start our way down the hallway,” said Meslage.

It’s clearly therapeutic for the residents and for Dawson, who’s been through a lot in the last year.

“My wife unfortunately passed away a year ago and we miss her greatly, she was my best critic.”

But there’s no stopping his passion for sketching and oil painting, he’s already working on his next piece which should be ready by the time he turns 93 years of age at the end of August.

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