Teacher helps disabled artist tragic accident

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Sitting in his room at Pioneer Ridge assisted living facility, 63-year-old Ron Light taps on his iPad. Light opens the Kaleidoscope application and taps on an image he’d previously drawn (on the iPad) to make it large enough to fill the screen.

Soon he uses two fingers instinctively to contort the colors on the screen, bending the bold yellow print with a contrasting black background. It would seem as if he were just playing around with an iPad, sliding his fingers back and forth to test the waters, watching the colors swirl, but Ron is actually hard at work.

He zooms in on one small portion of the entire image and taps the screen again, locking this particular spot in place.

“It is good,” Light says deliberately, indicating that he’s ready to save this work, and grabbing a stylus to click on the screen to do so himself.

Onto the next one.

Light will usually have five or six new pieces to show his instructor, Robbin Loomas, digital art teacher at the Lawrence Arts Center, between their biweekly sessions, as his mind is always at work, feeding his compulsion to create. He’s produced more than 200 original works since he began in January.

On his desk are stock card printouts of countless rainbow-hued digital creations. Light sorts through the pile, pointing out his favorites - he gravitates toward a series of four blue-based works - and simply remarking that he enjoys certain patterns by touching the card and saying “good.”

“I love it,” he says of kaleidoscope designs.

The walls of his room display serigraph pieces, or silkscreen prints, in yellow, orange, red and royal blue created from photographs he used to take of Southwestern vistas before an incident that affected much more than his art.

It was 25 years ago this past May that Light and his family suffered an incredible loss.

On May 1, 1989, Light, then 37, went on a casual evening stroll with his wife Jane, 6-year-old daughter Rachel on bike, and 4-year-old son Chris in the Northeast Heights neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they lived. Bolting straight toward them was car being driven by paranoid schizophrenic Judith Ann Neely - off her medication and determined to kill someone that night.

Neely ran over Light and his two children with her 1987 Chevrolet, killing his daughter, putting his son in body cast, but missing his wife entirely, who watched her family bleeding out on the street.

After the incident, Light was in a coma for two months before waking up with permanent brain damage and inability to use his legs and his right arm. His speech was also greatly affected, and he is unable to speak more than a few words at a time.

“It amazes me that this man can have a positive attitude about life, and still search to find new ways to express himself, while he can’t do it with words,” says Light’s older sister, Sue Richardson.

Neely is now serving a life sentence plus 27 years at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility. Jurors found her guilty but mentally ill of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

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