Albert A. Ondush, who died June 2 at the age of 92, was an accomplished artist and enjoyed teaching others to paint. He and his wife Joan Coccodrilli Ondush would have celebrated their 53rd anniversary on Aug. 13.
According to his obituary, his interest in art began when he was four years old.
“To have known Al Ondush was to have known a true artist,” said Msgr. Joseph Quinn, pastor of Our Lady of the Snows and Church of Saint Benedict. “For his entire life, he selflessly shared his remarkable gifts and talents with his countless students, friends and the community at large.
“His was a forever gentle spirit with a clear eye that always saw hope and goodness in everything he ever painted. His extraordinary works have genuinely touched the hearts of all fortunate enough to see them.”
Ondush’s paintings of Our Lady of the Snows and the Church of Saint Benedict are part of the Ondush Gallery in Our Lady of the Snows Gathering room.
“I first met Al Ondush at Our Lady of the Snows Church when I was the assistant pastor there from 1994 to 1997,” said Father Bob Simon, pastor, Saint Catherine’s in Moscow. “We began to speak often about art. I appreciated his great skill as a painter and his tremendous knowledge connecting art and artists.
“I told him about a local icon paint workshop and he went with me for a week. We painted that week in acrylic, and a desire to learn more about sacred iconography was awakened in both of us.
“I found out about a Russian iconographer in Whitney Point, N.Y., who taught how to paint in egg tempera. Al and I began spending a day each week for about 10 years with Vladislav Andrejev. We’d work on average about six hours each day, and each icon would take months to complete. Those days in the icon studio allowed us to explore together pre-renaissance painting materials.”
“I took a class from him at Old Forge High School in watercolor for a year,” said Sharon McArdle, a former student who now teaches painting to various age groups at the Abington Community Library. “He was a role model. He’d find something in your work that was always positive, and he was always a gentleman.
“He liked to play classical music while painting.”
He also taught watercolor painting at the Abington Senior Center on Winola Road for many years.
“I took private lessons from him at his home after I retired for eight years,” said former student, Martha McAndrew. “I was interested in painting because other family members were artists. He was very encouraging and humble.”
“My four children all had him (as a teacher) in high school,” said former student Estelle Kelly. “I found out he was teaching a class here and I called and asked if I could come.
“He suggested ways ... you could change your pictures. He liked to sing and knew all the words to the old songs. He was a kind, gentle, wonderful person.”
“He’d come to the senior center once a week to teach watercolor painting,” said another former student Nancy Connolly. “He was soft and gentle in his remarks and did not criticize.”
“Al was a true artist,” said Simon. “While driving to Whitney Point, he’d point to the mountain on either side of Interstate 81 and explain, ‘So many people only see green when they look at those trees. Notice the many purples, blues and yellows.’
“Each day with Al was a gift. He and I savored those many days together.”
A lifetime of art
The following information was obtained from Albert Ondush’s obituary:
■ He taught art for 40 years at Abington Heights School District and was an adjunct faculty member at The University of Scranton, Marywood University and Penn State Scranton.
■ During his career, he met the famous artist Jamie Wyeth as well as international artists Chen Chi, Eric Sloane, Tony Randall, Tony Bennett, Helen Van Wyk, Edgar Whitney, William J. Schultz, Charles Movalli, John Howard Sanden and Valfred Thelin. He also studied with Ranulph Bye of the Wyoming Valley Art League in Wilkes-Barre.
■ He was a member of the Portrait Society of America, the American Impressionists Society and the Artists Fellowship Inc.
■ He was an advocate of plein air painting and working from life, landscapes, florals and still life.
■ He was a veteran of the United States Army and served during the Korean War.