| Neighborhoods

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Painter Yawor produces portraits of killed military personnel

Daily Photo Galleries

Allegheny Neighborhoods Photo Galleries

By Karen Kadilak
Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 7:50 p.m.

Having recently finished his 60th portrait, Alexander Yawor of Hopewell still becomes emotional when painting pictures of military personnel killed in action.

“You can't help crying,” said Yawor, 90, an independent artist who began donating portraits to families three to four years ago.

Yawor spends about a week on each 16- by 20-inch, head-to-shoulder painting.

American Gold Star Mothers and other survivor groups reach out to families for photographs that he uses as guides.

“A uniform with medals, badges and ribbons takes longer to paint than a plain one,” Yawor said.

Kimberly Geonnotti of Clayton, N.J., cherishes the portrait that Yawor painted of her son, Army Pfc. David J. “DJ” Bentz III, who was killed in Iraq in 2007.

“When there's (an event) honoring DJ, the portrait travels with me,” Geonnotti said, adding that Yawor “really captured my son's eyes.”

Yawor said he painted only local service members, at first.

“Alex and I created a letter to introduce him to other organizations,” said Bonnie Phillippi, founder of the Yellow Ribbon Girls of Lawrence and Beaver counties.

The Western Pennsylvania Families of Fallen Heroes Foundation advertises the portraits on its website.

“Alex does remarkable work,” founder Bill Tomko said.

Yawor, who retired from a pipe mill 30 years ago, receives donations to pay for supplies, framing and shipping.

Fellow members of the Beaver Valley Woodcarvers are among those who donate.

“We try to let people know there is a man who is so kind to others,” said Theresa Napoli, secretary of the group.

“We'll give $200 or $300, which he's reluctant to take,” treasurer Rita Gallagher said.

Yawor, a Marine veteran who took up painting after returning home from World War II, considers his work a calling.

“I feel certain people are here for a certain reason,” Yawor said. “Since I knew how to paint, I should do portraits for the families.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.



Show commenting policy

Allegheny Neighborhoods

  1. Western Pa. business owners urge shoppers to think small
  2. Bethel Park students record books for hospital
  3. Mt. Lebanon staffers become hunters to attack deer problem
  4. McCandless to buy back property for $250K
  5. Young Achiever: Dylan Marino
  6. North Allegheny redistricting prevented crowding in schools, officials say
  7. Students get personalized approach to jobs at Bethel Park
  8. Upper St. Clair’s Goddard School set to open by summer
  9. Home-schooled students from North Hills advance in robotics competition
  10. 9 Western Pa. female leaders honored at black history banquet
  11. Young Achiever: Joey Santillo
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.