Sunday, February 4, 2007


Photos I took of Andy in Kinnelon in the early 1960s.

Jenny took this last photograph of Andy in September 1980, two months before his death.

Studying it now, after all I have just written, I realize how much it fits into the story I have told. Wearing one of the many sweaters I knitted for him, in addition to his typical serious, intent look -- there are those beautiful hands. The one, poised over the chessboard, looks no different than when he lightly held a paintbrush poised over his artwork.

When he died in late November, neither Jen nor I could bear to think of him inside a coffin! We told no one, but the plain pine coffin in the funeral home was empty. On top we placed this photo. Neither did Jen nor I wish to bury Andy in Montclair where we had been so unhappy for so long. Instead, we decided we would fly his ashes to Provincetown, Massachusetts where we three had always been joyful.

On a bitter cold and sunny day, we hired a dune buggy, waited with the driver in a coffee shop on Commercial Street until the tide went out so we could drive the reach to the tip end of Provincetown where the lighthouse stood.

With my own hands, I scooped away the sand and buried his ashes beside Long Point Lighthouse. Whenever you are at the bay where we always stayed, you can see that ‘monument’ we felt was the right one for such a man. And we fancied Andy would have agreed. From there, by day, he could always ‘look’ across the curve of bay and watch the incredible play of light of that place in all seasons. And by night he would have the twinkling cheery lights of the town so long a haven for American artists.

Until 1990, I could not distill this experience into the poem I wanted to write. And then suddenly I did.


more ill . . .
fall winds
rattle the window

thru the hospital gown
your shoulder
small as our child’s

the call comes . . .
w/o you

making it thru night
selecting the music
of your life


talking to a priest:
“We are not believers
but the family . . . “

no one
in the coffin

at the end
the church empties to Bach’s
Tocatta & Fugue


in the back office
of the funeral parlor
the small box

the weight
of your ashes

each step
along the cold street


at the airport
Jenny & I
& the box wait

in fog
the bay the sky she & I
rise & soar with you


the reach . . .
flocks of gulls rise in sunlight
by the lighthouse

heavier than the sand
each pale handful
from the little box

in the shadow of the lighthouse
rising    sand & ashes
blow from me

the winter sun
dune grasses
bay & ocean glisten on


Here I would like to thank Leif Peng first for loving Andy’s work before he knew anything about him, and then for asking me all the incredible questions that stirred loose these memories and brought them back to the surface to be shared with others who struggle to follow their dreams. Leif has given me the greatest thing any artist thrives upon and that is complete artistic freedom. And he has provided Andy with the full recognition he always deserved.

Andy’s niece, Andrea Luciano Fehrman (who was named after Andy) found Today’s Inspiration by chance, and wrote Leif about me and wrote me about him. Without that, this story would never have been told. I shall always be grateful.

My thanks to Andrea’s mother, my sister-in-law, Ethel Luciano with whom I have also kept in touch all these years. She provided me with details of Andy’s childhood and his teenage years so I could build his story on a solid foundation of truth.

Mario Calafatello, my brother-in-law I thank for the fine photo capturing Andy playing his beloved trumpet to Jenny.

Last, my eternal thanks to my daughter, Jennifer Leigh Virgil Gurchinoff, about whom no parent could say more: she is exactly what Andy and I wanted -- but never thought we’d get. And of course it is she who photographed all of her father’s art for this and continues the line of talent with her photography, and passed the genes on to one little son who, at ten, has never stopped drawing.

Anita Virgil is an internationally anthologized haiku poet. She lives in Forest, Virginia.

Entire contents of these posts on Andy Virgil (both text and pictures) © 2007 Anita Virgil. Nothing may be reproduced without permission of the author.

* The selection of Andy Virgil's original art available from Graphic Collectibles has been expanded.


Anonymous said...

Not to be recognized in his own time may have been unfortunate though doesn't mean it will remain so. Talent rarely is recognized in its own time. I remember seeing his work in magazines and being taken by the incredible perfection of his colors and the innocent sensuality of falling in love he so often portrayed. The men were so divinely handsome, rugged and accurate, they represented what he personified in his timeless trench coat and portfolio photo. Young talent and sophistication.Your gift of writing rewards his labors of love.
The fact that you found each other and lived and loved and rose to every challenge you crossed, is having it all. His talented peers and those whose work he valued, recognized his talent and that's the highest recognition of all.

Thanks to you and Leif for sharing
your story.
Coco Carey

Lisa said...

I enjoyed so much reading about Andy Virgil's life. I recognized some of his work, although he died before I graduated from high school. He was an immense talent. Thanks for sharing his story with us.

Jason Waskey said...


Thank you for that.

rodge said...

Wonderful. Beautiful art and poetry and such a compelling story.
A fantastic memorial.

Jason said...

It's a shame that the illustration of today is no longer as elegant or as lively as the Golden Age. Fantastic work and story. I studied under the tutelage of Roy Cragnolin's son and am still amazed at the prodigious amount of quality work that was produced by Andy Virgil and his contemporaries.

Anonymous said...

I knew... Thanks Anita.
Your and Andy's and Jen's friend... Sasa

Lighthouse Pilot said...

an absolutely beautiful and inspiring story.