Picture This: A Tribute to George Pollard

By: Pat Hegewald

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Paul A. Hegewald died in November of 1972 from a massive brain injury he received as the result of being hit by a car.  He was 4 years old.

In the fall of 1971 Kenosha welcomed the arrival of Ocean Spray Cranberries.  To commemorate their arrival, The Kenosha News featured a picture on the front page of a young boy holding a red balloon that said “Ocean Spray Loves Kenosha”.  That picture was taken by long time KN photographer Marshall Simonsen.   The boy in the photograph was my brother Paul.  Marshall Simonsen lived across the way from us in City View Trailer Court (yes, I am indeed trailer trash!).  I remember Mr. Simonsen walking the 30 feet across the “road” between us to ask my mom if he could take Paul’s picture for the next day’s paper, holding that balloon.  She agreed, Paul was dressed in a collared shirt and the picture was taken.  The next day the picture appeared in the paper and everyone was digging having one of our own make the front page.

In the spring of 1972, on 40th Ave, on the west side of the St Mary’s playground, my brother was hit by a car while crossing the street.  The car was going north up 40th at a rapid rate of speed, going around the light cluster at 39th, 75th and Roosevelt Rd.  Essentially “beating the lights”.  My mom, my older brother and myself all saw it happen.  The details of the “why” make the driver look horrible and that is not the purpose of this article…it happened, and it was life changing.  He was tossed into the air and landed on his head, on the curb on the east side of 40th Ave.  It was the last time he would be conscious.

Fast forward to five months later and after a day-by-day life spent in the waiting room at Kenosha Hospital (kids were not allowed anywhere near hospital rooms back then)..five months of worrying about whether or not he would ever “wake-up”, and if he did, what kind of shape he would be in..five months including a court battle to take him to Woodstock Rehabilitation Center (now known as The Bay at Water’s Edge) because there were only hospitals and old folks homes back then and his was such a unique case because of his age.  After those five long months, Paul passed away quietly.

About six months after Paul’s death Mr. Simonsen was back at our door and asked my parents if he could introduce them to a friend of his, George Pollard.  I remember being positive he was the tallest man to ever set foot in the trailer and he was a very soft spoken, genuine person.  He asked my parents for permission to do a portrait of my brother Paul that would be created from the picture that Marshall Simonsen had taken over a year earlier.  He told my parents that there would be no charge for the picture, that he had heard Paul’s story from Mr. Simonsen and wanted to do something to help our grieving family.  My parents accepted his kind gesture and the two left our trailer.

A Short time later, Mr. Simonsen and Mr. Pollard were back at our door with the finished product.  He pulled the picture from the protective wrap around it and watched as the entire room burst into tears.  He instructed my parents that they were to take the picture to a designated framing company in Kenosha to have the portrait framed to their liking.  He told them the cost of that framing was also taken care of.  It also should be noted that while all this was happening, some friends of my parents had organized a fundraiser to help defray the massive amounts of cost my folks had incurred (and that was with them having AMC BlueCross/BlueShield Insurance).  The largest donation by 100% was made anonymously.  My father would find out years later, that the anonymous donation had come from George Pollard.

So this man, who had never met any of my family members before, asked permission to use his world class talent to create a portrait that was taken from a picture of a young boy that had passed away six months earlier.  And then he paid for the frame and donated essentially half of the entire amount of the fundraiser that was started for the family of this boy he would never have a chance to meet.  How does one even respond to that?  I am certain that my parents, decent people that they were, had no chance of articulating what that gesture meant to my family.  This man created the portrait of presidents, of superstars in the world of sports and entertainment and of cultural icons, so his talent is well represented by the sheer magnitude of the people who sat for him.  But the portrait of Paul Hegewald goes well beyond the man’s ability to create.  This portrait comes complete with compassion, generosity, humility and understanding.

This portrait that now hangs in our home is beyond priceless.  It represents much more than the likeness of my brother and the talent of the artist.  It represents the decency of a world class human being.  This portrait will soon go to my younger brother (sometimes not-so-jokingly called Paul’s replacement) who along with his wonderful wife have blessed our family with another Paul Hegewald (and his beautiful older sister Mazellie).  I know my parents were not the type of people that could write or speak in a manner to let Mr. Pollard know what this unbelievably selfless act had meant to us, so I’d like to publicly say it for all of us.  George Pollard was not only one of the greatest artists in American history, I know from firsthand experience, he was an amazingly thoughtful and caring person that touched my family deep while in our darkest time.  For that, we are forever grateful.

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