It started as a Facebook message- from someone I did not know. Not a big surprise since I have my artist site open to anyone to view and email me. Some are buyers of art, some are looking for a painting buddy while in Maui. But the message was the showstopper: "N Zrolka 1938".
I responded immediately! "Yes, I'm Diane and niece of Nick Zrolka- you have one of his paintings!"
The writer, Norma, responded, "So glad you responded-always a little awkward contacting a total stranger. I'm not sure how my aunt acquired this painting-- she was married to George----- and her first husband was Louis ---- maybe there's a connection thru marriage. In any event, I'm happy to find the family it belongs to. Please send me your address and I'll get it mailed out to you ASAP." I was very excited.
After a few email exchanges, I let her know that my uncle painted part time since he was a Detroit fireman, captain of one of the fireboats.
He did a scene for my parents when they were married (~1945) and one for me when I was married. And many more in between. Perhaps this was a wedding present, since he was not a man of means; it would have been a gift from the heart.
Norma was happy to know the connection! She wrote, " My Aunt Emma --- was married to George --- who also worked for the Detroit fire dept! She married George in 1938. I'm guessing you're right-- it was a wedding gift! I've scanned through your work--talent runs in the family. That's how I tracked you down. I found something in a Google search where you mentioned your uncle's name and a link brought me to your page-- then a quick Facebook search and here we are. Gotta love technology."
Without further ado, her generosity was confirmed. "I'll get this boxed and mailed to you by next Friday and send you a quick email when it's on it's way. No need to reimburse me for shipping. It's my pleasure to reunite you with an old family treasure:)."
And this week, what arrived? The painting.
Norma responded to my confirmation, "I'm glad your Uncle's painting got there safely. I'm delighted to see it back with his family."
I'm in the process of re-framing it and getting it cleaned; oil paints can withstand centuries of time.
Thank you Norma for your curiosity and generosity!
Here is my Uncle Nick, photo taken in 1980, with his wife Mary. Eventually his success included painting the neighborhood scenes where her grew up in Detroit during the Depression, documenting the life and activities of the era. Some of his work found a home at the Hill Gallery in Birmingham Michigan, Both rest in Michigan where they lived long and happy lives, he passed in 1999. I'll never forget his twinkling eyes, ghost stories and laughter in addition coaching the best way to add shading to my flower paintings.
Thanks so much Uncle for showing me the way, to learn to love my gift and helping me nurture it along. Your work will continue to shine on.