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World renown artist continues painting in Sarasota with Alzheimer's

SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - A famous painter with works of art in places across the world has roots in Sarasota.

Dorthea Wendlandt first started painting 80 years ago, but after developing Alzheimer's, she stopped. She now lives in the Arden Courts community where people with Alzheimer's are encouraged to continue the passions they developed in their younger years.

She doesn't remember her husband, but hasn't forgotten an extraordinary talent.

"I was doing big things," Dorthea said. "How often do I paint? Hmm it's a little difficult to uh..."

She trailed off, trying to remember that she paints every day.

It's a gift that never left Dorthea, even when her memory did.

"You have to find different ways than you're used to to live with Alzheimer's," explained her husband, Bob Wendlandt. "It hurts in the stomach that I have to do this, my stomach is in a knot all the time."

Bob and Dorthea Wendlandt married in 1974, 25 years after first meeting in art school.

"I just fell in love with her, again," Bob said as he held back tears. "I knew it a long time ago, but uh, it's coming back again. She's wonderful, she paints what she likes to see."

Employed by Crayola, her work was sold all over the world, but after nearly 80 years of painting, one day that artist imagination was gone.

"When she first came here, she was a little confused, rather confused," Bob explained. "So she backed off of it for a while. As a matter of fact, I bought her a brand new easel and we brought it in here, and she said, 'I don't want to paint right now."

But even at 90-years-old, the artist in Bob knew it was only a matter of time for his beloved.

"She's got a hand so steady she could be a surgeon," Bob said. "You're drawn back to it anyway. You know, eventually, you're gonna go back to it. She had no choice."

Sure enough, "she wanted the easel back again!" Bob said.

"I do it when I feel like it," said Dorthea. "I started when I was 10."

It's a passion that will never leave, much like the love Dorthea still feels for Bob, but can't remember.

"Yesterday it was, she introduced me to Mr. West Virginia and she said I think this may be my next husband," Bob laughed. "That's the best I've done so far!"

A bond, appreciation, devotion to each other, and to the arts, no matter how much time passes.

"She'll keep painting, she's gonna be around a long, long time and she's gonna be painting everyday," Bob said.

Arden Courts is a live-in community entirely for those with dementia, but every person living here participates in activities like Dorthea to keep them as oriented and independent as long as possible. 

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Multi Media Journalist