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A Second Career in Art: Richard Secor

What shall you do when you retire? Living to ponder that question is an accomplishment by itself, and when faced with that question – “What now?” – too many of us just don’t know.  

Photo of Richard Secor by sign of his gallery, School Street Gallery

Richard Secor, by his School Street gallery, now closed, in East Boothbay, Maine.

Richard Secor confronted that question upon early retirement from a career in banking at the age of fifty-five.  Fortunately for him, he had always had the itch to try painting, although he had never touched a brush since perhaps childhood.  What is it about art that calls us in that way?

Author Melissa Goodwin, Mr. Secor’s wife, says her husband found inspiration in Tony van Hasselt and Judi Wagner’s artwork and learned to paint by studying their books.  Tony and Judi’s two books, The Watercolor Fix-it Book and Painting with the White of Your Paper, shared their collective wisdom about watercolor painting.  Richard absorbed these painting lessons as he embarked on a late-life career in painting.  

At the time, Melissa and Richard lived in York Beach, Maine. “I remember him [Richard] wanting so badly to go to a book signing they were having at a gallery in Portland,” Melissa writes.  “We went, met Tony and Judy, bought the book, signed by both. I can picture it as if it were yesterday.”

Melissa's Barn, a painting by Tony van Hasselt

Photo of Melissa’s Barn, a painting by Tony van Hasselt

The couple moved to East Boothbay in the 1990s, finding a home just a short walk up the hill from Tony and Jan’s home, where Richard opened his School Street gallery.  Melissa recalls, “Dick kept hoping that he would bump into Tony at the Post Office so they could get to know each other, and eventually it happened! That’s when we became friends and neighbors.”   As in most small towns, friendships are cemented around the dining table.  “I remember in particular a lovely evening when she [Jan] fed us coconut shrimp.”  When they left East Boothbay, Tony’s farewell gift was a painting of their barn titled Melissa’s Barn, a painting rich with memories for her and her husband.

Mr. Secor never went on a workshop with my father, preferring to learn on his own through books.  Melissa explained, “That book and others by Tony were his art Bibles. His goal was always, always, always, to be able to paint as loosely as Tony did.”  

Today, Mr. Secor lives with his wife in Florida, and he continues to paint.  Though afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Secor finds that his symptoms vanish when a brush is in his hand and the paint is flying.

Here’s to your good health and happiness, Richard and Melissa.


Note: This is the first memory shared on this site.  If you have a workshop memory to share, please contact me through this site.  Thanks to Melissa and Richard for sharing their memories. – Chris van Hasselt

Living with the UWO Tribe

Creating UWO figures

The magic of the UWO people. Click to enlarge.

For my father, his workshops were his passion. He enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow painters who had traveled with him to various locales over the years.  He had no plans for retirement, and I believe had he been able to do so, he would have continued to travel and teach to the end of his life.  

COVID-19 ended his workshops as travel restrictions came into effect.  Like so many people, he suddenly found himself without work.  Many of his students were past retirement age and considered vulnerable to the virus.  Even without the restrictions, who would sign up for a painting workshop when the world was seemingly falling apart before our eyes?  

When I last visited my father in the fall of 2021, he had clearly lost a lot of the exuberance and energy that he always had.   Most of his decline can be attributed to age, but the stress of his career vanishing before his eyes and the COVID lockdown certainly played a role.  (more…)