Local WWII veteran rediscovers passion for painting

DENVER -- A 95-year-old World War II Navy veteran who was in combat in the South Pacific has found comfort and solace in painting: a passion he’s had since childhood.

One of Norm Oliphant's paintings portrays the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were forced to move from the southeastern U.S. to Oklahoma.

"That had a kind of certain sadness to me. That of seeing these people being misplaced and having to go someplace strange," Oliphant said.

Oliphant fought the Japanese as a Navy Seabee.

"We had people that knew what they really were doing. I had no idea what I was doing," he said. "The islands were being bombed almost constantly, so the air fields needed constant repair," he said.

Oliphant said the war was sometimes a dark period in his life.

”Some things happened to me in the war that I didn’t like myself very much," he said.

After the war, Oliphant felt like he needed repair as well, and rekindled a talent he has had since being a kid.

"I could draw probably since I was 7 or 8 years old," he said.

Oliphant had a natural gift, but the war and life got in the way. In his golden years, he started to paint again, entered a contest and won.

"That got me very interested again," he said.

Now, Oliphant’s water colors and acrylic  impressionist works of art are selling, but he doesn’t do it for the money.  It’s a way to -- at least while he’s painting -- forget.

"The sights and the smells and the sounds are going to be with you forever. During the painting, those would not be there, this brought me back to life again," he said.

Oliphant's paintings will be for sale at his show on Friday at the Desk Chair in Loveland. The show runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Desk Chair is located at 201 E. 4th St.

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