Painter, 98, inspires through his works and energy

Although he was always interested in art, Jim Noyes didn’t pick up a paint brush until the age of 40. He’s been creating impressive oil paintings ever since.

His portrait of businessman/ philanthropist Raj Soin hangs at the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University; his portrait of Dr. J. Milton Zimmerman hangs at the Zimmerman Law Library at the University of Dayton. His work is represented in many private art collections, including the collection of former Governor Bob Taft.

Noyes, who will turn 98 on March 27, says these days he’s painting better than ever.

Getting started

It was about 58 years ago that Noyes confided to his wife that he’d like to be an oil painter and asked if she would take on the role of instructor. “Laura was an exceptional watercolor artist who started painting at the age of six,” he said about his beloved companion who passed away five years ago. " I asked her if she would teach me how to paint and she agreed.”

For the next five years, Laura was intimately involved with whatever her husband was working on — always offering sage advice and instruction.

“I liked the idea of oils because if you don’t like what you’ve done, you can overpaint it,” he said. “I needed that as a beginner.”

He says Laura was a wonderful teacher. Both had studios at home.

“I painted in the basement, she painted on the first floor.”

In those early years, Noyes learned that you have to “really want it” and “you can’t be disappointed that it’s poor at the beginning.”

He was determined to try his hand at everything from paintings to portraits. “All of the paintings I do begin with photographs,” he said. “I’ve taken photos all over the world.”

Through the decades, Noyes traveled to 35 countries, often on business trips.

“The other guys would go to bars and I’d go to my hotel room and paint,” he remembers.

His ‘business’ was serving the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base where he was program manager for cargo aircraft. Upon retirement he served as a civilian program manager and deputy director for cargo aircraft.

Over the years, he was responsible for three different Presidential aircraft — two for President Dwight D. Eisenhower and one for President Harry S. Truman. “All of those are on exhibit at the Air Force Museum,” Noyes said. “Our job was to tell the contractor what the president wanted in the plane. I remember that Mrs. Truman picked out the dishes for their airplane.”

The early years

A native Daytonian, Noyes grew up in Riverdale and attended Brown Elementary and Fairview High Schools.

“The war was going great guns when I graduated in 1944 and before I graduated I was accepted into the Naval Air Corps,” he said. “That required two semesters of college so I went to Ohio Wesleyan University after high school.” He also attended Illinois Institute of Technology.”

After serving in the Navy, he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and graduated as a mechanical engineer. After graduation, in 1949, he and Laura were married at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The couple had two children and three grandchildren.

Over the years the family lived in Dayton View and Kettering before Jim and Laura moved to Bethany Village in Centerville.

Engaged with life

These days, Noyes continues to stay busy. You’ll find him spending 4-5 hours at a time at his easel in his cozy home studio.

“After a few hours, I find the quality of the work decreases,” he said.

His black cat, Abigail, is never far away.

“She has been my salvation since my wife passed, " he said. It’s no surprise that Abigail appears in many of his paintings.

Noyes was a golfer throughout his life and at age 91, got a hole-in-one.

He still drives and exercises regularly three times a week.

“I use the treadmill from 2-5 mph for 20 minutes and the bicycle for 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes,”

He makes breakfast and lunch in his apartment, joins a group of other widowers for dinner. To keep up with national and world events, he subscribes to “The Week” magazine.

“I’m thrilled that I’m still physically able to do things and still have the ability to paint,” Noyes said. “My whole family lives far away and I’ve become lonely. My cat and my painting help a lot. My advice about aging is to continue to do as many things as you possibly can. You can get depressed if you don’t. "

Dayton artist Marsha Pippenger has known Jim — and his late wife — for years. All three were active in the Dayton Society of Artists. She describes Jim as sweet and pleasant.

“Jim is a very skilled painter,” Pippenger said. ”Several of his paintings are in the permanent collection of Westminster church where they can be viewed in the West Parlor. He is still very engaged with his art and I hope can work as long as he has.”

About to turn 98, Noyes says he understands that at his age he may be dying soon and says he’s ready.

“I loved my wife so I’m hoping the good Lord will let me be with her for eternity.”

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