McCrabb: Watercolor finds new home after being discovered in artist’s portfolio in daughter’s attic

William “Bill” Rehse, one of Middletown’s most prolific painters, also was meticulous.

He numbered all of his more than 800 paintings, then jotted down the corresponding number and a few notes in his journal.

But what his two daughters didn’t know was that Rehse, who died in 1994, stored 40 unnumbered watercolors in a black portfolio. They believe he didn’t number those paintings because they weren’t finished or he wasn’t proud enough of the work.

That portfolio was recently discovered in a dusty attic when one of his daughters, Ann Veith, was clearing out her Middletown home as she and her husband, Jim, were preparing to move into a condominium on Shaker Run Golf Course.

Veith gave the portfolio to her sister, Patricia “Pat” Kienlen, 70, who lives in Middletown.

Here’s where those recently discovered paintings were given new life.

Since they were unnumbered and not noted in a journal, Kienlen didn’t know the location of the subjects. So Kienlen, her daughter, Carrie Parsons, 26, a teacher at Wildwood Elementary School; her best friend Emily Sotzing, and her mother, Susan Sotzing, formed a “searching team.”

Their first assignment: Find the location of one of Rehse’s watercolors.

They were told one house he painted may be found on Yankee Road. Simply enough. Not exactly Mission Impossible.

“Well we didn’t know how long Yankee was,” Kienlen said with a laugh.

They started down by the Meadows Restaurant and drove toward downtown. They compared the painting to every house without finding a match.

Then they realized one short block of Yankee was a one-way. They hadn’t checked there yet. That’s when they uncovered the house matching the painting.

“It was like we discovered America,” said Kienlen, a second-grade teacher who retired after 38 years, all in Middletown.

She contacted the couple who live in the house and invited them over to her house to view the painting. Andy and Jamie Seibert, who bought the house on Yankee Road five years ago, were thrilled when Kienlen presented them the painting of their home she had matted and framed.

He said the two-story house was built in 1826 and its color scheme obviously changed from when it was painted by Rehse.

“It documents a moment in time and we are honored to have it,” said Seibert, adding the painting hangs near the front door under a staircase.

Discovering the paintings and giving away some of her father’s work would have made him proud, Kienlen said. He often donated work to the Middletown Arts Center auction.

It also has rekindled her childhood memories of her father and his passion for painting.

“I’d sit and watch him and be memorized,” she said. “He was so good.”

Now others are getting an opportunity to appreciate his work. All thanks to that portfolio and a little investigating.

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