|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Following is the online obituary of the artist, March 2, 2009 from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel by Amy Rabideau Silvers.|
After nearly 27 years, Phil Picard's children can say a final goodbye.
Everything in their life came to be measured against what happened in one moment. Something happened before the accident, or it happened after the accident.
The accident happened on a hot summer day in 1982. Picard and his wife and son were coming back from brunch, riding subdivision streets back home to Germantown. His son, Jeff, 20, squirted him with a water bottle. Picard went to reach for his water bottle and the wheel on the bike turned.
Picard flew over the handlebars and landed on his back, hitting his head on the pavement. That was back before most cyclists wore helmets. Picard, then 47, often biked from Germantown to his office in Brookfield. He owned a helmet, but he was not wearing it that day.
"When he had finally regained consciousness, the man that was my father was irretrievably gone," Jeff wrote in a family chapter on his blog. "His brain had been crippled beyond repair."
He never spoke again, at least not in any coherent way.
Philip Picard died Jan. 29 at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he lived for most of the years since the accident. He was 74.
Even after all these years, his children are surprised that there is still new grief. There is a strange poignancy to realize that they are now as old as their father was when everything changed.
"You do this grieving for 27 years," said Andrea Picard Walters, his daughter. "He never met his grandchildren. He never met my husband. He never knew I got married. You relate to your parents differently when you have kids. It's like, 'Oh, I get it now.'
"There are touch points along the way, and you go through this grieving process again."
Picard grew up in Milwaukee. He served with the U.S. Army for a couple of years in the 1950s, then went to the old Layton School of Art on the GI Bill.
He met the former Beverly Erickson, and they married in 1957.
In 1965, he began the Picard Didier studio with partner Les Didier.
"We were strictly a commercial art studio," Didier said. "Nothing was done on computer."
The firm grew to include more than 20 employees, and work for clients including General Electric, Amity, Mercury Marine, and both the Miller and Schlitz breweries.
"He was a darn good illustrator and a designer," said Didier, now a wildlife artist. "And he was an amazing sculptor."
Picard worked for three years on a special commission, producing a series of sculpture scenes called "Christ the Healer." The works are in the lobby of the former Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, now UPMC Mercy.
The year before the accident, the Picard family received other medical news. Beverly Picard went for a routine blood test and was told that she had chronic myelogenous leukemia. The first doctor said she had only weeks or months to live, but later doctors gave her a reprieve of sorts, saying that no one could predict the course of the disease.
Beverly first tried to bring her husband home, with the help of Jeff and caregivers. He regained enough strength to move around and get into endless trouble, but became increasingly combative.
"After about three months, it was just a nightmare," Jeff said. "My dad fractured a few of my mom's ribs and almost knocked my teeth out."
They found help at the veterans hospital in Tomah.
"They were so sweet and so good," his daughter said. "We would visit there without saying when we were going. He was always clean and shaved. He was clearly cared for. . . . We'd bring our kids up and we'd visit him."
They kept visiting long after it became clear that there would be no recovery. They kept visiting because he was still their husband and father, even if he did not know that he was.
Beverly finally developed symptoms of her leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant from her brother. She died of complications in 1996.
"She was totally dedicated to him," Jeff said. "And stayed dedicated to him forever."
What no one expected was just how long Picard's body would survive.
"It's the little things that I miss the most about my dad," Jeff said. "Our nightly pingpong games, night fishing for bass, jogging and biking together, watching 'Star Trek.' . . . He became my best friend. He was a great guy."
Other survivors include brother Gene and grandchildren.
The service will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Crossroads Presbyterian Church, 6031 W. Chapel Hill Road, Mequon. Memorials to the Phil Picard Bike Safety Memorial at Associated Bank were suggested.
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