October 5

Library Exhibit Features 101-Year-Old Nursing Care Resident’s Collaborative Artwork

Photography Project Helped Bethany Village Senior With Memory Loss Connect With Family During Visits

A collaborative art series featuring the talents of long-time Bethany Village resident Wally Willaman and his son-in-law Bill Franz, an amateur photographer, will be exhibited at the Dayton Metro Library second-floor gallery through Nov. 5, 2023*. The exhibit, titled Jobs from A to Z, features 26 original works of art that were created using digital photography collage. Each piece features a photograph that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet and is signed by both artists.

[*UPDATE 11/4: The series is no longer on exhibit in Dayton. It is slated to go on display in Ann Arbor, MI as part of Michigan Medicine’s Gift of Art exhibition program from March 11 to May 31, 2024. Centerville’s Woodbourne Library will display the collection in June.]

wally willaman, age 101, bethany village resident with his art series A to Z

Franz was inspired to work with his father-in-law on the project after their visits became difficult because of Willaman’s age-related memory loss. After hearing a story on the radio about a woman who used a project to connect with an aging family member, Franz decided to give the idea a try. The duo worked together on the A to Z series for six months and saved their work in a three-ring binder. Although reluctant to participate at first, 101-year-old Willaman grew to enjoy the project and was eager to work together during Franz’ visits.

“Through this experience, our time together transitioned from difficult to fun. Without a doubt we were brought closer by this project,” says Franz. “Our collaboration has also helped me to create better art, and I value my father-in-law’s unique perspective and artistic process.”

Bill says, “Wally loves the first piece in the series, A is for Accordionist, largely because he loves Charlie Campbell’s smile in that photo.”
When Charlie heard he had a fan at Bethany Village, he stopped by to meet Wally and to play his accordion for some of the residents!
Z is for Zookeeper | Jobs from A to Z series

“Wally and I hope people have as much fun viewing this art as we did making it,” says Franz.

At times, the A to Z series involved other Bethany Village residents. When Willaman and Franz had a difficult time deciding how to proceed with an element in the series, Franz would bring in a box of donuts and set up a voting station to gauge which direction for the project was more popular.

Franz is continuing his efforts to engage with his father-in-law and other residents through art. He recently purchased a box of 100-year-old photographs at a garage sale and brings a few on each of his visits to Bethany Village. He sits with a group in the common area and together they concoct background stories for the people featured in the pictures.

“I hope that what Wally and I have created together inspires anyone struggling to connect with a loved one, no matter their age.”