AKRON — You may not have heard the name Oscar Velasquez, but if you’ve lived in northwest Ohio you’ve seen the fruits of his labor.
Velasquez was an artist. His canvas — the sides of buildings where his detailed murals adorn many area downtowns, including Bluffton, Columbus Grove, Findlay, Delphos, Leipsic, Ottawa, Toledo and Van Wert.
Velasquez was 77 when he died Sept. 10 in Akron, surrounded by his immediate family.
He came to Putnam County in 1953 as part of a family of migrant farmworkers and discovered a talent for art, earning him a scholarship at the Cooper Institute of Art in Cleveland.
Right out of college he got a job at the American Greeting Card Company and rose to direct the design department but left after several years to devote more attention to his art.
He was the author of two books, “Sketch of the South” and “Sketches of Homes,” the latter of which included sketches of homes around Bluffton.
He even has credits for his work in movies.
He was the art director for the filming of “Sleeping with The Enemy,” which starred Julia Roberts. He did three watercolors and five drawings of scenes and sets of the movie.
His sister, Irma Ayres, recalled his generosity.
“When I was 12 years old, Oscar came all the way down from Cleveland to Pandora to pick us up to take us to Cleveland to see The Beatles in person,” Ayres said. “So he drove three hours one way to pick us brothers and sisters up, and then he took us to the concert to see The Beatles, and then he drove us all the way back home. He is very generous that way, and knowing that we would all love that. That is a memory that will never go away — that I saw the Beatles in person because of him.”
Before he died, Velasquez was asked about his niece touching up a mural in Van Wert.
“My daughter lives there, and probably two weeks before he passed (they) had talked to my daughter about possibly touching up his mural,” Ayres said. “My daughter said, ‘Well, I’m not going to touch it unless my uncle Oscar says, you know, I have his blessing.’ I had visited with Oscar and said ‘absolutely my niece could do it.’ I thought that was kind of interesting that in that timeframe that he gave his blessing for her to touch up this mural.”
A celebration of Velasquez’s life will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Eagles Hall in Ottawa.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.