Richard L. Rotelli Books    
  A Creative Odyssey: The Story of Floyd and Richie
Let Me Be a Light: The Faith Journey of Father Ron Lawson
both by Richard L. Rotelli
   
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FRAMINGHAM’S SPECIAL ARTIST:
“TEX” WALSER

            Back during the Roarin’ Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression and during World War II, there was a very unusual artist who resided in South Framingham. His name was Floyd Walser. In his early life in Texas, where he had been a cowboy, Floyd suffered a devastating injury that paralyzed him totally. That was back in 1909 when he was 21. As he bravely fought his paralysis, slowly beginning to regain some use of his right arm and hand, polio struck. He spent the rest of his life after that with his useless legs tucked under his torso as he sat in his special chair. His left arm and hand also remained paralyzed, although he was able to physically move his left arm around with his right hand. He could force the fingers of his left hand to open or to clamp down like a vise on objects he might place there. His chair was “special” since it was an old livingroom easy chair that had four swiveling casters fastened to its base in place of its original short legs. He would be strapped into this chair, and by thrusting his upper torso forcefully toward the front, he could usually propel himself around his small studio room. He would also push with his wooden cane, and sometimes grab a strategically placed “hand-hold” with his strong right hand to further assist his efforts to get himself around a bit. Frequently, his able-bodied friends and helpers would push him in the chair to where he wanted to be.

He came to live in Framingham in 1923 when the very talented and internationally famous musician, Madame Edith Noyes Greene and her husband Roy, invited him to move from Texas to live in their lakeside home as their protégé. While still living in Texas, Floyd had taken several correspondence courses in art as a way of coping with his handicap. He had gotten quite good at sketching people and places and eventually came to the attention of the Greenes.

Roy Greene (who conducted the Framingham Civic League Orchestra for many years) drove Floyd into the famed art school at the Museum of Fine Arts. Roy would drive him from his Lake Avenue home, in his 1920 Ford Model T roadster, once a week for what became nine years of intense and very fruitful study by the developing artist. Floyd learned to work in every art medium from pencils, pens and charcoal to watercolors, pastels, oils and even etching. Difficult for anyone, but seemingly impossible for a person with his “limitations”. In addition to portraits, he would capture many historic homes and buildings in Framingham and nearby communities. Usually these were pencil or charcoal sketches and many became etchings. One of his favorite motifs was the gristmill near the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, where he worked in oils, pastels and watercolors that he did from life outdoors near the mill. He seemed especially drawn to trees with twisted, gnarled limbs whose deformed branches surely must have had special meaning to him.

Floyd Walser, or as he liked to be called, “Tex”, gave art lessons to a great many Framingham residents. In fact, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced the WPA in the ‘30s, as part of his “New Deal” to stimulate the economy after the Great Depression, Floyd was employed as an art teacher. Although he had previously given art lessons to many of the town’s residents, this job increased the number of pupils studying with “Mr. Walser”. A great many of these aspiring artists were very young children. Often in the summers when the weather permitted, he could be found outside his studio that was attached to the Greene’s Lake Waushakum home, with a large group of well-behaved, and maybe even motivated, youngsters. This location was adjacent to the Anna Murphy Playground. He surely had to work to hold his charges’ interest, considering the close proximity of all that the playground had to offer.

It is estimated that Floyd taught somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 students over the years of 1933 through 1948. Even after that time, he continued to teach selected adults the fine points of etching, as well as how best to mat and frame their artwork.

His life story, including how as a young, able-bodied man, he stole rides on freight trains, in true hobo fashion, then overcame his life-altering handicap, and went on to do so well as an artist and friend to many, is told in the book, A Creative Odyssey by Richard L. Rotelli. This book also contains much 20th century history, including background material about the Greenes. In addition, it recounts the marvelous liberating changes in Floyd’s life when he moved in next door with Richie Rotelli, his wife Angela and their young son “Dickie”, the book’s author. Richie’s inventive genius, included designing and building a motorized chair for Floyd in 1949, and shortly thereafter, a boat. These and other innovations by Richie provided the artist more independence to get around on his own than he had experienced in 40 years.

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Click here for a sampling of Floyd’s artwork as he developed his talent over the years.

Also, click here for a few photographs, most are right from the book.



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