‘It’s a challenge’: Legally blind woman continues to paint

Marie Regehr of North Newton works on her flower watercolor, Monday morning at Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton. Although she's legally blind, she continues to paint. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NORTH NEWTON—The gold color of Marie Regehr’s perfectly manicured fingernails mirrored the gold in the flowers as her 94-year-old right hand dipped a brush in water and then watercolor paint, creating a vision on canvas.

Many people can paint, but not everyone can while they’re legally blind.

Regehr said she’s been painting for around 10 years.

“Off and on the last years, maybe,” she said. “I just started as an adult. I wasn’t really aware I was interested in art. I enjoy it now, yet. It’s a challenge making something pretty.”

She became interested in painting when in McPherson.

“I think I was working in McPherson and was with a group that was handicapped mentally,” the Kidron Bethel Village resident said. “I was supervising them and they were creating art—a group of 10 or so painting. I thought this is fun. Maybe I should start doing it myself.”

She was working in McPherson at the time and got started on painting there. When she moved to Kidron Bethel, Regehr was glad they had weekly art classes.

“They were helpful in giving advice and encouraging,” she said.

Regehr’s only tried watercolor as her medium. She found something she liked and stuck with it.

She doesn’t see quite as well as she used to.

“I have difficulty seeing, yes,” she said, adding that’s not something she’s had her whole life. It’s just been the last several years. “I can see colors and then hope it doesn’t deteriorate too fast. Makes me sad.”

Cortnie Michaelson, Life Enrichment assistant who sat with Regehr during her interview and leads the art group, had some observations about Regehr’s work.

“I’ve noticed when she paints, a lot of times, she uses just color,” Michaelson said. “We’re seeing what you’re seeing. It’s just beautiful.”

There are frustrations for Regehr.

“I never thought of it. I might not be able to see too well,” she said. “It’s a challenge trying to do better every time you paint.”

Regehr’s been part of the art group even before going into health care at Kidron.

Regehr said she’s entered competitions like Art is Ageless with Presbyterian Manor and thinks she received a third place award one year.

“It’s a challenge for me to try,” Regehr said. “It’s a joy to seeing what other people have painted.”

Regehr attends art class on Thursday afternoons.

Although she’s painted more as an adult, this isn’t the first time Regehr’s created art. She said she minimally did it as a child. The teacher in her one-room school at Inman didn’t have much time or money for the kids to work on art. She said the teacher encouraged them to paint with crayons.

Regehr’s favorite painting she’s done is of a building.

“I like it,” she said. “I like to see what other people have done and get ideas.”

In talking about her yellow flower painting, Regehr said she tried to get little flowers in one spot.

“It got darker than I thought it would,” she said.

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