Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
I first met Bill Paglin during 2004 when I traveled to Ancona, Italy. I had written an article for “As I See It” several years ago about Lisa Paglin and Marianna Brilla, who own an innovative center for voice studies dedicated to the training, retraining and restoration of the artistic and professional voice.
Bill, Lisa’s dad, was 97 when I met him. Not only was he a professional violinist since his 14th birthday, but in midlife, he traveled to Mexico and there he began to paint watercolors and then oils. In 1949, he won the Chicago Artists Award, which enabled him to study at the Chicago Arts Center.
This wonderful gentleman was a life member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208. He married composer, classical and jazz pianist and singer Charlotte Morris. Another very talented individual, she appeared in well-known jazz clubs in the United States with Jimmy Dorsey, Fats Waller and Mildred Bailey. Bill lost Charlotte, who passed in 1989.
Over seven decades, Bill performed in concert with symphony, opera and jazz orchestras (The Lyric Opera of Chicago and with Paul Whitman). His best friends included Woody Guthrie, Lionel Hampton and Chico Marx. The stories I heard were wonderful.
My lifetime memories of Bill Carr include the clown painting he presented me as a gift during my visit. Also, he had the habit of long walks late at night, visiting the cafes of Osimo. Very often, he didn’t return until the wee hours of the morning. All this at 97!
Bill experimented with watercolors and pastels, but quickly moved on to oils. My clown came from an impressive portfolio of drawings he had sketched of people who sat in front rows of concert halls as they watched concerts. Some of these faces became the clowns that became Bill’s trademark.
In 1996, Bill moved to Osimo, a small hillside town near the sea in the Marche region of Italy. He lived with his daughter, Lisa. In 2001, he was invited to Germany, where his paintings received much attention and high critical acclaim.
On Dec. 18, 2004, late in the year that I had met Bill, his town of Asino held an art show on his behalf and celebrated his artistry. On Nov. 29, 2007, the city celebrated his life with a festival and piano performances for his 100 years young!
Lisa wrote to tell me that her father’s artwork went on exhibit at the royal Gallery in Amsterdam in the latter 2000s.
He became very frail at the end and I believe he passed on his 103rd year. His philosophy was, “We must love reality. We must love the truth. We must not lose our memory, but must live in the present with our eyes on the future.”
Sara-Anne Eames lives in Newburyport.