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'Dwell on the good things'

Local artist honored in memorial service that coupled as an art show for charity

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Dozens of Baskerville's paintings were displayed in the lobby at Willamette Christian Church.Take one look at Leana Baskerville’s artwork, and you would be forgiven for assuming she’d been painting her whole life.

The details are vivid, the colors rich and diverse. Baskerville’s work is singular in both style and substance, which makes it all the more surprising to learn she took up painting a mere four years ago.

At the time, Baskerville a musician and teacher by trade — was simply looking for a new hobby, but painting became something of a refuge when she was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago.

Last month Baskerville passed away and her family opted to honor her considerable gifts in a memorial service that doubled as an art show. One hundred original paintings lined the lobby at Willamette Christian Church Jan. 6 as hundreds of mourners toured the makeshift exhibit. Special prints of one painting were also available for a suggested donation of $10 — the proceeds from which would be given to Africa New Life Ministries International.

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Pastor Joel Dombrow said Baskerville still had energy for her artwork even during cancer treatment.

“Leana and I, not knowing all this would happen, it was a dream of ours to have an art show,” said Dean Baskerville, Leana’s husband. “After she passed, I started thinking, ‘Shoot, let’s do it at the celebration.’ Lots of friends would be there, and lots of people might be interested.”

The exhibit proved to be a revelation even for Dean, who had seen nearly all of Leana’s paintings.

“I was actually shocked ... to see them all in one place,” he said. “I had never seen it like that, myself, and Leana never did either.

“Even seeing them all together, you could kind of see a running theme through them.”

Along with written tributes from friends and family, the memorial service also featured a video with Baskerville’s artwork accompanied by her music. Dean Baskerville — himself an accomplished professional musician — also played an original song as part of the service.

“She’s always been very talented musically, and she taught music for a number of years at Sauvie Island (Academy),” said Chuck Boman, Leana’s father. “She got laid off and took an art class at Clackamas Community College ... that was the start.”

Even before she started the course at CCC, Baskerville had several pieces commissioned, and it was clear from that she had a considerable gift.

“She was always drawing and doodling around with things,” Boman said. “She was very prolific, creative and fast at doing what she wanted to do ... once she got started on something, she got it done quickly.

“All I go by is the number of people I know in the art field — they followed her and said she’s amazing.”

When Baskerville was diagnosed with lung cancer, she was told that she likely wouldn’t survive for long, according to Boman. But Baskerville simply took that as a challenge, and for two years she defied the odds while continuing to explore her newfound talent.

“She painted pretty hopefully about things,” Dean Baskerville said. “Even things that might seem kind of dark, being in the midst of cancer, there was always a hopeful side.”

Baskerville kept a “cancer diary” on Facebook, posting a number of her paintings along with some of her favorite scriptures. As time went on, she began to use the diary to converse with cancer patients across the country.

“A whole bunch of people used to read what she wrote,” Boman said. “She was constantly carrying on conversations with people who have cancer, across the country.”

In one piece, Baskerville painted the universal sign for radiation and filled it with flowers — the goal being to remold a symbol generally associated with danger.

“I saw this sign everywhere while receiving radiation treatment for my cancer,” she wrote on Facebook. “To me this symbol didn’t mean ‘danger’ so much as ‘treatment.’”

The post received 49 likes, 14 shares and 11 comments, and The Kaiser Permanente Interstate Radiation Oncology Center would later buy several copies of the painting to hang in its Portland offices.

“Everybody she touched, she had some impact on,” Boman said.

It was in this spirit that the family donated proceeds from the memorial to Africa New Life Ministries International — which has partnered with Willamette Christian Church to do charity work in Rwanda.

“My daughter told me over $2,000 was donated, which we were really excited about,” Baskerville said. “That was another dream of ours, was to go to Africa. Leana wanted to take recorders and maybe teach art lessons and music.

“In a way, we’re living out a few dreams within this context.” Indeed, it proved to be a small positive in the midst of intense grief, and befitting of a message inscribed on one of Baskerville’s paintings:

“Dwell on the good things.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Baskerville's former bandmates at the church also performed during the ceremony.