An oil painting that was thought to be lost in the flood of 2008, but was later rescued and restored, will now have a permanent home in Pacific.
Michelle Malbeau, who lived in Pacific for 30 years and died last year, painted the 3- by 3-foot depiction of “Christ in the Garden” in 1945 when she was an art student at Ohio State University. The work took first place in a state art competition.
Malbeau treasured the picture and moved it to northern Wisconsin, California and finally Pacific where it hung in her home at Elm and Frisco streets.
Malbeau was a prolific sketch artist who created illustrious line drawings of each place she lived. She drew on white art paper, brown paper bags, the white side of cardboard packages and on the back of posters. But her favorite piece of art was her beloved painting of Christ.
In Wisconsin, she worked with a logging company who taught her about wood and she became a consummate carver. She built a three-story dollhouse for her friend and carved tiny furniture for each room.
She carved a perfect scale 12-inch steam engine and a paddle wheel steamer. She added a room to her mobile home, built a garage next to it and built scores of bird feeders that lined a pathway she created on the property.
She loved to fish and tied flies, so beautiful they looked like pictures in a sports magazine.
When Malbeau’s Pacific home was damaged in the flood of 2008 and condemned as unsafe, she was not allowed to re-enter the home and feared that her painting was lost.
Bob Masson, who served as Malbeau’s advocate following the flood was later able to get onto the property to help volunteers remove Malbeau’s personal belongings, recovered the painting. It had been damaged by the moisture, but Masson had Brenda Wiesehan, local art restorer, repair the damage.
After the restoration, Wiesehan built a new frame around the original primitive wooden frame that Malbeau had built.
Pat Finger, a close friend of Malbeau who inherited the painting, said she wanted to find a permanent home for the work of art. Finger and Masson approached Elder John Moore, Pacific Temple Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C) pastor, who said he would be happy for his church to accept and display the painting.
Malbeau’s “Christ in the Garden” will now hang in the sanctuary at the small church at 112 Bellevue.
Moore and his wife Emma were neighbors and close friends with Malbeau, whom they call “Mickey.”
“In all our years of knowing Mickey, we had no idea that she was a wonderful artist,” Moore said. “We’re happy to give her painting a home.”
The painting was the focal point of two one-woman shows and fund-raisers during Malbeau’s lifetime.
In 2009, the painting and more than 50 original drawings were displayed at Seeds of Faith Book Store on East Osage. Prints and note cards with reproductions of her work were sold to raise funds for barber Guy Kircher who was suffering from esophageal cancer.
Later when Malbeau was a temporary resident at Grandview Healthcare Center in Washington, Twyla Noe, Grandview activities director, arranged a second show — a fund-raiser centered on Mickey’s artwork.
Malbeau’s greatest love was her dog Charlie, a mixed breed who was offered to her by assistants at Dr. Damon’s office. Charlie still lives with Pat Finger.