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Yuma Fine Arts Association head dies
Louis LeRoy, executive director of the Yuma Fine Arts Association since 2002, died early Monday morning at Yuma Regional Medical Center, ending the career of a man whose life and love were entwined in art.
A show at the Crossing Tracks Gallery in San Diego exhibits some of his last work as an artist. Titled "A Dia de los Muertos" it opened Nov. 2.
LeRoy was born Aug. 18, 1941, in Yuma, the eldest of four children of Louis "Louie" and Katherine Romero LeRoy. His father died in 1994.
Next in line, his sister, Jeanette LeRoy Randall, now of Phoenix, said, "The first memory I have of his art was when he was first going to school. He used some charcoal from the barbecue our grandfather had and drew some Disney characters as large as he was. Our grandparents had a little place across from old Chretin's on 15th Avenue called 'Cruzita's Cafe' named for grandmother Cruz Higuera Jones. That was where Louis had his first art show in about 1954. Invitations included his art work featuring chili peppers."
"Louis was known as the 'Chili Man' because his art usually had chilies featured somewhere," his second sister, Lorraine LeRoy Merkel, of Tucson, said. "He also used skulls in paintings — acrylic, watercolor, oils — ceramics. He had an ocotillo fence at one time and collected the dried branches and created colorful crosses."
The youngest sibling, Ken, is a registered nurse at Yuma Regional Medical Center. "Louis lived life to the fullest, and the chilies were part of his art for 15 years. When I had Ken's Bicycles going, he would buy a bike and did a lot of riding."
"Louis was a 1959 graduate of Yuma Union High School, and was proud to be a 'Criminal,' " said Johnny Rodriguez, president of the Yuma Fine Arts Association board of directors. "His death is a great loss to the Fine Arts and the community because of his vision, direction and leadership. When he became executive director for the Yuma art group it had a low budget, and that has changed with improvements from his management.
"His sense of humor was great. We were at a special conference in Wisconsin a couple years ago when he had to have emergency surgery, and he was telling me everything that I should be doing. One of his theories was diversity in art is a good thing. It can be a barn or a $2 million painting, but it's art."
Another of his philosophical ideas for the Yuma Art Museum was "buy art today...and hang it in your home. It can nourish your soul," Rodriguez said.
LeRoy's art has been displayed from 1977 through this year in different galleries, including ones in San Antonio, Chicago, Houston, New York City, Albuquerque and San Diego.
He held a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art education degree from the University of Arizona.
He always credited the late Louise Tester Pollard as his mentor to follow the field of art.
Among his administrative career progressions have been with the Art Coalition in San Antonio; The Association of American Cultures (TAAC) of which he was a founder and developed the Entrepreneurial Institute for the arts in collaboration with the University of Texas; and hosting a reception at an exclusive hotel across from the White House while being a regional representative for the National Endowment for the Arts.
He has numerous other achievements and has been recognized for his talent in producing videos. He authored "How to Make Money for Your Organization" and taught for a time at Arizona Western College. He was also presented the Frances Woodard Award of the Educational Foundation Hall of Fame in 2007.
Tentatively, services will be at Johnson's Mortuary at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The family suggests, in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Yuma Fine Arts Association Inc. in remembrance of LeRoy.