Growing up with no television for entertainment, Eugene Mizen says he has been drawing and painting all his life. He started with pencil drawings in his youth and worked up to acrylic painting.
His favorite subjects are scenes from the American West, lighthouses and his dogs. He said he has lost count of the number of works he has done. Many have been given to family members and friends, but the Mizen home also is dotted with them.
The artist pointed out those hung in the living room.
"There's five in here, a couple in the bedroom, some on the wall back here," he said. "I sent one to a buddy down in New Orleans. He used to be in the Army, and he's in an Army re-enactment, so I sent him a Civil War picture, and I put him twice in the picture. He called me back and said I made his day."
Mizen's wife, Mary, is half Blackfoot Cherokee, which adds to his fascination with early America.
Mixed with Mary's collection of Santa Clauses and angels are Mizen's arrowheads. His specimens have come from "all over" Seneca County, including Honey Creek, the Ella Street Dam area and near his former property on Union Street.
"I used to go out and get them all the time. My dad gave me a bunch of them, my son, and guys I know find them and give them to me," Mizen said. "I went out in the fields all the time and picked them up. You find more broken ones than you do whole ones."
When he developed kidney disease, Mizen had to give up searching for artifacts. In November 2004, he started treatments at Davita Seneca Dialysis. He receives dialysis three times a week.
Sarah Dundore, a nurse at the center, said Mizen started bringing in his paintings to share with patients and staff. Then he started donating his work to the Kidney Foundation.
"The Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio holds a Wine Affair/Auction annually to raise money for nearly 4,000 people affected by chronic kidney disease. They provide temporary financial assistance and educational offerings to patients, health care professionals and the public. Every year, they ask for donations of auction items for the fundraiser. Gene started donating his artwork five years ago and hasn't missed a year," Dundore said. "He continues to express himself through his art and takes comfort in the fact that it goes to a charity that is close to his heart."
With his dog beside him, the kitchen table serves as Mizen's studio. Most of his work is done from memory. A photograph may serve as a starting point, but he said he adds his own details.
Mizen has painted his own version of Col. Crawford being burned at the stake.
"This is a little different. We've got each one of our kids in there," Mary said. "We made them the Indians. ... The one by the door is (a scene) from Arizona."
"I do that a lot, take a picture and change it the way I want it and draw it. If I've got a model, I can do it," Mizen said.
"He usually paints on Sunday while I'm watching the sprint car races. When we owned Three Oaks, we worked up there. ... I got interested in it and now I keep up on it," Mary said.
They sold the bar in 1995. Mizen said he used to complete a painting every week, but it takes longer now. The paintings and arrowheads remind him of earlier times and good memories, he said.
The Mizen home was sold to the school board when Tiffin Middle School was built.
"I was right at the bottom of the hill; first house on Union Street. I dug that basement by hand," Mizen said. "I quit school when I was 16. I went to the pottery (American Standard) and worked there 40 years."
Chemotherapy and radiation have "done a number" on him, Mizen said. He said the cost of dialysis runs $30,000 or more per month.
In spite of his physical challenges, Mizen continues to paint when he feels well enough and tries to make the most of each day.
"He is an outgoing and friendly soul with a positive outlook on life," Dundore said.