Dennis Tubbs has filled many roles in his life: Husband, father, caregiver, teacher, small business owner and professional artist to name a few.  At 78 years old, the Carthage, Illinois, resident has assumed a new role and title as a result of his three-times-a-week visits to Blessing Hospital.

“I guess I am the hall monitor. So many people stop and talk to me,” he says with a chuckle.

Before he was a hall monitor

Dennis found a passion for art in elementary school.

“I went into the hospital and some nice lady I knew sent me a whole container of art supplies. I entertained myself in the hospital and that started my career.”

His grade school and high school art teacher, Mrs. Lowenberg, helped this Fort Madison, Iowa, native fuel his passion.

“She got me a scholarship in my junior year of high school. I was at the University of Kansas for six weeks doing nothing but art. I knew I was going to be an artist for the rest of my life.”

After high school, Dennis studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and the University of Wisconsin. He became a professional studio artist.

While he can paint in any media, his favorite is watercolors. “They are a challenge. Once you put it down, you can’t erase it.”

Dennis’s life took a tragic turn when the love of his life, wife of 53 years, Ellie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. For six years he did not paint so he could devote total attention to caring for Ellie. Upon her passing, their daughter Andrea suggested Dennis again pick up his paint brush. He did.

“It was like I was reborn. I am painting now the best I have ever painted in my life.”

How Dennis found Blessing (and vice versa)

A year-and-a-half ago, Dennis began bringing his son, Matthew, to Blessing Hospital three-times-a-week for kidney dialysis. For the 13-and-a-half hours he waits for Matthew each week, Dennis sits in the lower level of the Blessing Cancer Center. Often times sketching or painting. He finds the people of Blessing Hospital to be inspirational.

“I could not believe the people who stop and say, “Hi. How are you doing?’ They watch and ask me all kinds of questions. I have met so many wonderful people. It really gives me a lift. These people are unbelievable.”

"Dennis Tubbs"“They say there are no good people in the world anymore. You come sit with me. Then tell me if there are not good people, friendly people left in this world. It’s totally amazing.”

Allison Housewright, Medical Staff Coordinator, is one of Dennis’s Blessing buddies. A self-described, “generally friendly and curious person” Allison stopped one day on her way into work to talk with Dennis after seeing him waiting for Matthew on a regular basis. They found a connection in the fact that Dennis lives in Carthage and Allison’s husband is a Carthage native.

“I just really liked him and his positivity, and his stories about his sweet wife, Ellie, that he lost. I really loved his commitment to her,” Allison said of Dennis. “He’s just a friendly guy and has nothing but positive things to say about Blessing.”

Dennis’s relationship with Blessing and its staff has blossomed over the past 18 months. He has painted pictures for employees he met, other pieces he painted hang in the Blessing Cancer Center hallway, and recently he taught a watercolor class for Blessing Cancer Center patients.

Dennis taught art for eight years to kindergarten through sixth graders at Sts. Peter & Paul School in Nauvoo, Illinois, an experience he calls, “one of the rewards in life that I’ve had.” He now teaches classes occasionally at an art gallery in Nauvoo, and hopes to be asked to teach more classes to cancer survivors at Blessing.

Dennis says it gives him a thrill when someone attends an art class and says, “I can’t paint.” He says by the end of the session they exclaim, ‘I never thought I could paint!’

“I don’t say I am a great teacher, but all you need is someone who has a little knowledge and can relay it. After that, it’s just amazing. It’s a joy to paint and to see that you can accomplish something you never thought you could.”

To know when Dennis will again teach a free watercolor class at the Blessing Cancer Center, follow Blessing Health on Facebook.