In 1990, Anne Kibbe went on a cruise that changed her life. There were no onboard illnesses, no accidents on or off shore. The three-week cruise to South America was enjoyable, but otherwise unremarkable. Or it would have been, if she had been content to just lie on a deck chair or play bingo between ports.

Instead, Kibbe perused the daily schedules and found some art classes. She was 67 at the time and had never painted or drawn, had never considered herself artistic. But she was still interested in trying new things, so she figured there was nothing to lose in checking it out.

In class, Kibbe painted a few watercolor paintings of things she saw around her. One scene was from a postcard, another from the handheld fans given passengers on hot days.

She really didn’t think her paintings were anything special. But her husband, Russell, thought she had real talent. He encouraged her to paint more when they got home.

“I just thought it was something to do,” she says. “But he really liked them.”

                Soon after they returned from the cruise, the Kibbes celebrated their 47th anniversary. The next day, Russell died of a heart attack.

“It was a great loss,” she says. “I was so alone after he died. I needed something to do.”

Remembering how Russell had encouraged her to paint, Kibbe signed up for art classes at the YMCA. Before long, she hired a private art teacher and was painting all the time. She had found not only a new hobby, but a new therapy, a new passion.

“I know God had to fill me with something, and he filled that void by letting me paint,” she says.

For five years, Kibbe mostly painted scenes from her travels with Russell: the Great Wall of China, Mount Fuji , other landmarks from around the world.

                Then in early 1996, her daughter Donna came to visit, bringing a coffee table book she thought Kibbe might like. It was a book of Van Gogh’s paintings.

                Kibbe tore out a page with a painting she liked and painted a copy of it. She was so happy with how it turned out, she painted another. Before long, Kibbe was hooked.

“I painted every picture in that book, it was so good,” she says. “And then I got more.”

                A lot more. Since her first attempt seven years ago, Kibbe has painted approximately 140 copies of Van Gogh’s works. She began painting them because she simply loved to paint, and she loved Van Gogh’s art. But when Donna died of cancer, the pastoral scenes and cheerful colors covering the walls of her home took on even more meaning.

Much more than just pretty pictures, the paintings are reminders of a beloved husband and daughter who helped Kibbe find joy in painting the works of a master.

“They have so much meaning for me because my husband and my daughter were both part of it,” she says. “It just feels good to have them around. They’re my friends.”

Kibbe says she’s had offers to buy her paintings, but she can’t seem to part with them.

“I’ve been very selfish with them,” she says. “I don’t want to sell them, when my life is in those paintings. So I just say they’re not for sale.”

Now 80 years old, Kibbe paints most every day. But it’s not for lack of other things to do. Still healthy and active, she also goes to the Aerobics Center three times a week, belongs to the garden club and is active in her church.

With friends and family close by, Kibbe’s days are full. But she always makes time to paint. Her goal is to paint 150 of Van Gogh’s works. And being only a dozen or so paintings away from that goal, Kibbe expects to finish by the end of the year.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get all 150 done,” she says. “Probably just start all over again. I just love Van Gogh’s work.”

But having painted so many, isn’t she tired of it by now?

“Never,” she says. “Never. I really believe this was a gift from God. It’s still amazing to me that I was allowed to do this.”

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