By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
It happened almost seven years ago to this very day. On Christmas Eve 2009, Tom Day, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, a test flight engineer, suffered a devastating stroke. Beginning on that day, his life changed, as is the case with most stroke victims. But Day’s life changed in a direction completely unexpected.
By nature, engineers think in quantitative, analytical terms. Their job is to create order and uncover facts from uncertainty and unknowns. After his stroke, Tom Day went somewhere else: He began to create art.
With a diagnosis including Broca’s aphasia, Day had trouble speaking. His doctor gave him a pad of paper and a pencil and encouraged him to draw to help him to communicate. It was a challenge: His stroke had also cost him the use of his dominant hand. As featured in an Observer News article in July 2015, his family remarked that drawing was not expected to be well suited for him. “The only thing he could draw was a paycheck,” they said with humor.
But his wife, Hatsumi, saw things differently. She saw a new world opening up for her husband. She sought help from the University of South Florida and met renowned Ruskin artist Dolores Coe. Coe is a remarkably talented artist and so much more: She shares her talent and knowledge as an educator; she is warm and embracing. Tom Day could not possibly have found a better person to take the man beyond a mere diagnosis.
As a result, Tom Day became an artist. The 2015 article covered the first exhibit of his work at the South Shore Regional Library. What Day created on canvas was nothing short of stunning. It was both intricate and fabulous. It was the work of someone with spectacular visions in his soul and the ability to translate them to canvas, thanks to the help of his wife and Dolores Coe.
And today, more than a year later, both Tom and Hatsumi are holding their second exhibition at the library. While Tom worked, Hatsumi had discovered her own passion and talents in art. Over the course of the past year, the couple continued their relationship with Coe and have met and worked with famed artist Fred Rothenbush.
On Dec. 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the artist couple will hold a reception at the South Shore Regional Library. Rothenbush is expected to be in attendance. The exhibition, which began on Dec. 2 and runs through Dec. 31, features new paintings and drawings from both Tom and Hatsumi.
Tom Day, a man rarely seen without a bright smile on his face, is living proof that even a devastating tragedy is not necessarily the end…it can be a new beginning. For Tom, that beginning is a truly beautiful thing.
The exhibit, entitled Day by Day, is open and free to the public at the South Shore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way in Ruskin. The Wednesday night reception is also open to all. Their work is indeed stunning, and the exhibit provides a respite into sheer beauty.