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Artist who crafted Helen's Alpine look dies at 85
0312John Kollock
John Kollock

Artist John Kollock, the man responsible for crafting the look of Helen’s Alpine-themed architecture with his sketches, died Monday. He was 85.

His daughter, Carey Madigan of Clarkesville, said her father died of natural causes Monday night.

“In the end, it was peaceful,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

While looking at her father’s watercolor paintings in his Clarkesville home, Madigan struggled to find the words to appropriately describe her dad.

“He was someone who can envision how things could be,” she said. “He could look at something and say that would be a great ...”

However, Jeff Ash, a Helen city commissioner, easily pointed to Kollock’s influence of developing Helen into a Bavarian-looking village.

“His drawings, sketches and attention to detail is the foundation he gave to the people of Helen,” he said. “We will always refer to this town as John’s creation.”

Kollock developed a knack for drawing early in his life. He was known to copy cartoons from the funny papers as a child.

“I saw a cartoon and would draw it,” he said in an October interview with The Times. “They tried to send me to art school and I didn’t like what they were teaching me, so I quit.”

But his love of art did not end. He earned a degree in theatrical set design before being drafted into the U.S. Army Special Services division. While in the Army, he traveled around Europe writing scripts, performing and designing sets of plays to entertain troops.

During his service, Kollock became fascinated with “vernacular architecture” — the places where common people live. And his travels throughout Europe served him well, especially when Helen officials were seeking to draw tourists.

One of the entrepreneurs, Pete Hodkinson, asked Kollock to come up with an attractive color scheme for the buildings on the main road. But as he drove into the city, Kollock saw something more from the top of a hill.

“I was like ‘This looks like a little village in Bavaria,’” Kollock said in October.

The artist then sketched what the individual buildings might look like if Helen were a German folk village. By fall of that year, many businesses had finished adding the decorative exterior and filigree to their buildings with the help of local carpenters.

But Kollock never took credit for his idea or the success.

“John (was) the quietest ambassador this town will ever have,” Ash said. “He never — since I’ve known him — wanted to brag about his work or wanted to take any credit. He did it for the love of it.”

But his love of art is why he did it, his daughter said.

He would be most proud of getting “to do what he loved,” Madigan said.

“It all happened for a reason and everything fell into place and it was good,” she said. “How does the Bible put it? ‘God saw it and said it was good.’ That was his feeling. He could do something that he loved to do and share it with others.”

Visitation for Kollock will be from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Hillside Memorial Chapel and Gardens, 5495 Ga. 197 South, in Clarkesville. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church, 295 E. Green St., Clarkesville.