In last week’s post, you met Allyson Cayce, who went on a “spiritual mission” to help realize the dreams of an outcast.
I met Allyson and 2 of her girlfriends for coffee during her visit to northern Michigan. We were joined by LaShelle VanHouten, an art teacher, author and vice president of Ed Lantzer’s foundation, My Father’s Love; and Paul Hresko, a businessman and foundation president. Hresko runs The Starboard Inn, an old Victorian home, in Elk Rapids, MI, where Allyson and friends stayed. LaShelle and Paul were close friends with Ed during his later years.
Ed Lantzer, who died in 2009, was a man of deep faith. LaShelle, his chosen biographer, concluded: “Ed was blessed with a Christian relay team. One person after another stepped in to help.”
Hresko explained how he and Ed met. In 2003, a court reporter from Grand Rapids, Deb Swanson, “felt called to come up here. She didn’t know why,” Paul says. She booked a room at The Starboard Inn and drove north. With no friends or family in the area, she asked innkeeper Hresko about volunteer opportunities. He introduced her to Sister Augusta, a nun in nearby Kalkaska. The sister said, “There’s something you should see.” She drove her to an old, abandoned schoolhouse. There she met a frail older man.
“Oh, it’s you,” Ed Lantzer said to a startled Deb Swanson. “The Father said you’d be coming.” He was living with his panels in the schoolhouse. Showing them to Deb, he said, “You need to find a home for these. I’m ready to go home.” Deb reported back to Paul and Patti Hresko. Paul says, “I felt called to see that Ed and his panels were safe.” Thanks to several “coincidences,” detailed in The Mural Writer, Paul moved the panels into donated warehouse space in Kalkaska.
The warehouse was near a school for troubled teens. Ed was often bullied as a kid and called a “half-wit.” As an adult, he was divorced from 2 wives, estranged from 8 children. Ed visited the alternative school across the street and volunteered to teach marquetry. The principal declined; the school couldn’t afford it. Ed found some broken down pallets and returned with the material. “It’s free,” he told the principal.
The art teacher at the school, LaShelle had grown up in Kalkaska. As a child, she said, “We kids steered clear of the crazy man on a bike.” Lately, the man had shown up again, still on his bike. LaShelle agreed to visit the warehouse. Seeing Ed and his creations, she says, “My mouth fell open.” Ed began working with her students every afternoon, helping them create marquetry tabletops, jewelry boxes and chests and sharing his philosophy.
Though students were dubious at first, they bonded with their new teacher. Student absences plummeted. One student confessed that thanks to Ed’s influence she stopped cutting herself.
After 2 years, the warehouse was sold. Classes ended. LaShelle told Ed, “You taught them so much more than how to place diamond shapes onto a piece of wood. You taught them about life and love.”
Then in his 70s, his health failing, Ed had been looking for people to help secure the future of his work. He appointed trustees but ended up firing them, refusing to relinquish control. He was also suspicious of Paul.
Paul says, “I said to myself: you’re a busy man. You don’t need this. But I went home and prayed about it. I returned to Ed and said, ‘I got it. These panels are your children.’“
Two weeks later, Ed Lantzer signed the documents turning his panels over to My Father’s Word. “He trusted us,” Paul says. “He knew his work would be safe. Whenever a problem came up, he’d say: ‘Don’t worry about it. Just pray.’ He had faith in God, not in us.”
One example of how matters fell into place. Paul was overseeing the installation of an exhibition in Petoskey, MI. He had no idea how to handle 400 lb. artworks. While also investigating opening an arts center in Elk Rapids, Paul met a man who ran hydroelectric dams. Had he always worked in that field? “No,” the man answered. “I moved from Seattle where I specialized in hanging heavy works of art.” That man supervised the Petoskey installation. And by now this won’t surprise you: he did it gratis.
“That kind of thing happened all the time in Ed’s life,” LaShelle says. She gestures to Allyson. “It’s still happening. I never talked to strangers on airplanes either.” Now, thanks to “the unlikely story of an outcast,” LaShelle is headed to Libertyville. And she and Allyson are new BFFs.
As Ed once said to LaShelle, “No matter who you are or what you have done, you are worthy and you are loved. Most importantly, don’t forget the joy, kid!”
(Thanks, LaShelle for sharing this remarkable man. And thanks, Renee & Jim D’Amico for alerting me to Allyson’s fine adventure.)