The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 18, 2013

The lost scrolls of Dan DeBonis

Work of local artist found stashed in house

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

SHARPSVILLE — One could call them the lost DeBonis Scrolls.

Much as the Dead Sea Scrolls shed new light on biblical history, the DeBonis pictures are the work of Daniel E. DeBonis in the 1950s and 1960s when the locally noted artist was in his 30s.

Sandee Stottlemyer and Jill Cattron Mihocko were sorting through the usual donations in the basement of First United Methodist Church in Sharpsville recently in preparation for next week’s “treasure sale” at the church.

There are tables full of bric-a-brac, knick-knacks and other assorted gew-gaws. Items that are trash for some, but treasures for the people who attend rummage and yard sales and flea markets in search of something special.

Perhaps the most special something are the DeBonis pictures and it’s a find they’re looking to somehow preserve or display somewhere in the Shenango Valley.

The poster-sized pictures are brittle now, but are mostly well-preserved color drawings that showcase DeBonis’ talent as a portrait artist.

DeBonis died in 2009 at 87.

According to obituary information, DeBonis, a 1941 Farrell High grad, was employed as a fulltime artist at The Sharon Store, where he was known for his window displays for the downtown Sharon department store. The scroll artwork appears to be from some of those sales displays.

“He created hundreds of extraordinary portraits of Hollywood celebrities, political figures and sports heroes, but was known to create portraits of ordinary people here locally,” his obituary said.

His portrait artwork was on display for years in Hermitage at the former Cookery restaurant, Morgan’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and the former Cinema World in the old Hickory Plaza. His black-and-white pencil sketches of each of Farrell’s former mayors line the lobby at the Farrell city building.

The trove of more than 30 pictures that Stottlemyer and Mihocko found had been stored in the crawl space of a Sharpsville home.

Its contents were donated by the owner for the “treasure sale,” which is scheduled for next Wednesday.

The ladies don’t plan to sell the DeBonis pictures.

Instead, “we’d like to donate it” to an organization or business with the space to display and preserve the work.

The pictures are rolled up and look like large scrolls and they include portraits of baseball players, New York City scenes, and men’s fashion drawings.

“We have a lot of treasures, but none quite like this one,” Stottlemyer said.