Legacy lives on in artwork donated to Mary Free Bed

Pat Seanor met Larry O’Toole in 1969, when they were students at Grand Rapids Junior College. The young, aspiring artists struck up a friendship that continued until Larry’s death in 1986 following a lifelong struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. Larry was just 34 when he died, but his legacy is preserved in his large scope of work, much of which now graces the hallways of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital where he once was a patient.

“His artwork was very intellectual – he studied the concepts he was trying to present,” said Seanor, who often helped O’Toole with tasks such as stretching canvas. “He was highly skilled at applying paint – there was no random application. Everything was intentional.”

His work, almost exclusively acrylic on paper or canvas, was regularly displayed at local art galleries and exhibitions, including Festival of the Arts. Seanor helped O’Toole’s mother, Lois Whitmore, catalog the collection of works and “in doing so, we became even closer.”

After her death in 2010, Seanor discovered she had willed his prolific art collection to him for which she hoped he would find a home. He worked with Guild members Susan Bloss and Sue Steketee to donate the nearly 200 works to Mary Free Bed.

“I wanted to keep the body of work together,” Seanor said. “This is the kind of thing Larry deserves.” Darrow Goodspeed, Major Gifts and Donor Relations director, called the gift very generous: “We are thrilled to have this collection and the ability to display the work of Mr. O’Toole at Mary Free Bed, continuing his legacy in this community.”

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