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Purple heart art is a special gift

Internet search ends with artist offering his work to admiring vet

POSTED: July 3, 2011 12:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Frank Downing, left, stands with artist Joe Satterfield and the patriotic print that first caught his eye at the Oakwood VA clinic.

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Although Frank Downing sees his own Purple Heart hanging on the wall every day, somehow one at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Oakwood still managed to catch his eye.

"I was signing in and I noticed a picture of the Statue of Liberty and the Purple Heart. I had never seen it before, but I had to find out about it," Downing said.

"I go to the VA about every three months, so that was something new. It was so striking, I said, ‘I want to get it.'"

With the aid of a helpful artist, and the Internet, he would.

The framed print, which Downing describes as "striking," was simply signed, "J. Satterwhite."

"He asked the receptionist where it came from and she did not know," said Teresa Bodine, a Murrayville resident and Downing's daughter, who was with him at the time.

"A lady sitting in the waiting area, began to investigate. She found J. Satterwhite on the internet on her phone and gave my father the phone number.

"When he returned home, he called the number and found Joyce Satterwhite in Virginia. She was an artist, but not the artist of the painting in the clinic."

That could have been the end of the wild goose chase, but luckily for Downing, it was not.

"I said we've gotta solve this problem someway," Downing said. "She was so nice and so helpful."

The Virginia-based artist began her own Internet search and came up with Joe Satterwhite, who happens to live in Lula.

"She immediately called my father. Luckily, I was there, and was able to take down the information, find the painting and send an email to the
artist," Bodine said.

"A few days later, I got a phone call from him. I told him the story about how much daddy loved the painting and he said, ‘I'd love to donate a print to your father.'"

Thanks to the worldwide reach of the Internet, the Lula artist says this isn't the first time that he's been tracked down for a print of one of his original oil paintings.

"I've had other people do the same thing," said Joe Satterwhite, a fine artist by trade.

"People have seen my prints here or there, then they research my name."

As someone who receives care from the VA clinic, Joe Satterwhite says he has a soft-spot for military personnel and often donates prints to veterans and veterans organizations.

Whether or not he was the first or last beneficiary of Joe Satterwhite's generosity, Downing says it was a happy surprise to meet the artist and receive the print.

"I looked at it and said I can't believe this," Downing said. "It's a beautiful (print). It was unreal."

It seems only fitting that the veteran received the print so close to the Fourth of July, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

As a young man in the 1940s, Downing traveled far from home to help another country free itself from unwanted control. More than 60 years after the end of World War II, reminders of Downing's service hang on his wall.

One is a blown-up map highlighting the route he travelled from Normandy to Berlin. The other is a case containing his military commendations, including his own Purple Heart.

"I was wounded during the war. Tanks are big, old targets, so you get shot at a lot," Downing said about how he received his Purple Heart.

"When we left England to go to Normandy, the first mission we got, my driver was killed. I took his job as driver and drove the tank from there for about 2,000 miles to Berlin. It probably took us about a year.

"It was Hitler country and he wanted to keep it, but he didn't get to."

At 88 years old, the veteran has seen a lot of Fourth of July celebrations. Just as his actual Purple Heart and its artistic duplicate are equally cherished, each Fourth of July celebration is just as relevant as the last, he says.

"I've seen a bunch of them," said Downing with a laugh.

"(It's important to celebrate) because it's a part of what we are. It's a good country. We should be proud of it."



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