When Ann Gargotto appeared in Southwest Art as an Artist to Watch in the March issue, she had no idea she would play a part in reuniting a long lost man with his family. But in the article she discusses a homeless man, Phillip, who she painted for a show held last fall in Denver. And that set the ball in motion.
A woman reading the article in Sacramento, CA, wanted more information about the painting, so she went to SWA’s website. The website featured additional works by Ann, including one titled PHILLIP TAGEANT. Much to Pearl Kelly’s surprise, the man depicted in the painting was her uncle, who disappeared from the family 32 years ago. Pearl immediately called her sister, Peggy Converse, who lives in the Denver area. And Peggy contacted Ann Gargotto on Friday, April 8, at Denver’s Abend Gallery, where, by yet another coincidence, the artist was arriving soon because she was in a show opening that night.
The next day, Peggy, Ann, and Ann’s sister and boyfriend all met up in downtown Denver and began to comb the city streets looking for Phillip. Ann and Peggy had a picture of Phillip’s portrait on their cell phones. The amateur detective team rang doorbells and showed the painting at grocery stores, apartment buildings, and to various homeless people. Everyone seemed to know the man, but no one had seen him recently.
Then suddenly, after two hours, Ann spotted Phillip and ran down the block to catch up with him. When Peggy finally asked Phillip if he knew who she was, he replied yes and seemed happy to see her. Peggy called her father and uncles in Louisiana on her cell phone and they reunited while standing on 13th Street in downtown Denver. “We’re not sure what happened to him. That will take some time to find out,” Peggy says. “But he’s really sharp and still has the same sense of humor.” Phillip turns 67 on April 19. Peggy plans to bake a cake and meet up with him to celebrate the occasion. “It’s a miracle. It just shows you that you should never give up,” Peggy says. –Bonnie Gangelhoff, senior editor, Southwest Art