When Joe Strohl of Lehighton turned 90, he gave up his car keys, but held on to his paint brush. Now at 96 years old today, Strohl can't even fathom just how many paintings he has painted in his lifetime.
"I guess I should have kept count from the beginning," he said.
In his long lifetime, Strohl not only was a prolific painter of miniatures, he also painted some large size paintings on canvas and taught many other beginning artists how to paint. He held classes in the Poconos, Palmerton and Lehighton.
Currently, he gives away his artwork to his many friends. "There are hundreds and hundreds of my paintings in the community," he said.
"I love painting miniatures," he said. "It takes me about two hours to do one." He can remember testing his speed painting abilities by painting eight paintings in one day. He said miniature paintings can go up to the 5-by-7-inch size, which is the size he favors.
When he lived briefly in Florida, he became a member of the Miniature Painters Society.
Strohl learned to love painting from his Lehighton High School art teacher, Hazel Stauffer.
"She is the person who inspired me," he said. He also took some art classes at the Baum School of Art in Allentown.
In 1933, he married his bride, Katherine Everett. The couple celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary before she passed away more than 15 years ago. He has a son, Joe, and a daughter, Nancy Heifer.
"I've had a wonderful life with my painting," he said. "I've always enjoyed painting and I still do." He finished up a few miniature paintings yesterday.
Strohl uses acrylic paint. He said that he paints on wet paper towels which gives him the effect that he wants.
"Acrylic paint dries fast," he said. "I used to paint with oils but I found that I had to wait so long for the paint to dry. He also learned that all the colors he needs to create his art work is red, yellow blue and white. "With those basic colors, I can make the snow scenes and the colors for the fall leaves."
He is especially fond of painting scenes from along the Lehigh Canal, which he remembers from his youth as a busy place when the canal boats filled with coal moving through the canal.
Strohl started his working career in the hosiery business, when the seamed stockings were the rage. When seamless stocking came into vogue, he quit because he knew that business, as he knew it was finished.
From there, he went to work for Bethlehem Steel and then took a job as a lab technician in Bethlehem. Over the years, he and his wife also managed a church camp and were also house parents to 16 high school boys for the Hershey School for Boys.
"They started taking in girls the year after we gave that up," he said.
At 96, Strohl will admit that he never thought he would live to an old age. "The Lord has been very good to me. To me He is most important. He gave me my talent to paint. He is the One who controls everything. When it's your time to go, you could lay down $1 million and it wouldn't do you any good."
Strohl said that he has many friends who have good to him over the years.
"I can't thank them enough," he said. He said that he is a loyal customer of the TIMES NEWS and enjoys reading it daily.
"I think that once you reach 90, it's time to stop driving, which is why I stopped," he said. "Driving to age 90 is long enough."
When he gave up driving at 90, he also gave up delivering Meals on Wheels.