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Chicago Heights Woman Paints Her Way Through Alzheimer's

Tessie Baffes, a resident at Prairie Manor Rehab and Healthcare Center, won't let her passion for painting be forgotten.

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Seeing various artwork spread across a desk at , one can't help but notice the smooth brush strokes of a floral arrangement painting.

Is it 'Comparison to Sunflowers' by Vincent Van Gogh or 'Roses' by Pierre Renoir?

Neither. It's Tessie Baffes from Chicago Heights.

This local artist has a talent many would envy, but there is something different about Tessie. She has Alzheimer's and has forgotten many details of her life.

The one aspect that is unchanging is her love for the arts. As she shows these works of beauty, one could imagine them hanging on the walls of the .

"Five dollars," Tessie says, throwing out a price. "Some of these are only three dollars."

It's quite a bargain, especially since Tessie is much more than a gifted painter.

"I like to do oils, watercolors, charcoal and pen & ink," the 87-year-old adds. "I tried to teach people here but they are to hard to teach."  

Tessie stops and speaks of her dad, whom she momentarily believes just passed away. Time seems to have melted together for her, leading Tessie to believe the year is 1982.

Regardless, Tessie's work, including her latest painting of violets transcends any date. The artists talents have captivated even the employees of Prairie Manor.

"She tries and sells paintings to all the employees all the time", says Director of Community Relations Melissa Topor, who recently bought some of Tessie's artwork. "I think everyone that has an office here has purchased a painting from her."

Topor has seen enough of Tessie's work to immediately recall which she likes most.

"One favorite of mine is the floral arrangement," said Topor. "It's artsy, it took some thought. She has this wonderful talent that she does every day. It's amazing she has retained the artist in her. She may not remember some things about her past life, but she knows this."

As a craft table is set up downstairs of Prairie Manor, Tessie shows visitors her artwork and encourages them to buy a piece. As one visitor looks at a painted vase with flowers, she says, "This is my life."

Topor looks on, telling the visitors, "It is amazing how she has Alzeimer's but she has not lost her sense of who she is."

To purchase one of Tessie's paintings, contact Melissa Topor at at 708-754-7601, extension 148.


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