In the Mission’s early days, Nadine Pitney came across a paraphrase of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. She was moved; it reminded her of the men coming into the Mission.
Her husband, Mission Director G.O. Pitney, thought it would be good to have the story hung on the wall at the Mission. He spoke with a local sign-shop owner, Adolph Sjostrom, about the idea.
“I have a young apprentice working here who is a good artist,” Adolph said. “I will have him do it.”
The finished piece on heavy paper – a man’s portrait with the story lettered to one side – was framed and placed on the wall in the Mission’s original Kishwaukee Street building. After the 1971 move to Madison Street, it hung for years above the pulpit and stage area.
Years later, G.O. ran into Adolph. In the course of their conversation, Adolph mentioned The Prodigal painting, and its creator: the now-nationally famous artist Tom Heflin.
“Perhaps he would come and sign it for you,” he told G.O.
Indeed, Tom attended the Mission’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1984, and during the event he climbed a 20-foot ladder and autographed the painting.
The brittle, old painting didn’t survive the move to the Mission’s new Hope Place in 1999. But that same year, the Mission commissioned Tom to do another painting. At a special banquet, he unveiled “Lord of the Harvest” to the Pitneys, in honor of their many years of service. The painting now hangs in the Mission’s Visitors Center.
Adapted from Rescuing the Raggedy Man, ©2004 by Perry Pitney and Jim Killam