WARREN - An artist known for his scenic depictions of Trumbull County left an indelible imprint on the Valley, and his loss is already being felt in the Valley.
"He was a great guy ... loved by a lot of people and will be missed," said Sue Shafer, community events coordinator for the Tribune Chronicle. "It was a privilege to call him a friend."
James Friend, 74, formerly of Warren, died at his home Friday in Fairmont, W.Va.
He began his career as an art teacher at Warren G. Harding High School three days after graduating from Fairmont State College. From there, he would become involved in the administration, eventually becoming the supervisor for community education.
Friend's wife, Jonnie, said his biggest passion was teaching children.
"He had one daughter, but he had hundreds of others," she said.
Friend also facilitated the opening of a community youth center on Warren's East Market Street called the Miracle Station, which he developed for families and youths, holding puppet shows, skits, special speakers - a place where families to hang out and eat ice cream, recalled his daughter, Carla Sands of Zanesville.
The youth center also was a place for people to explore their faith,
"That was his passion, for people to know the Lord. I think that he made a difference in young people's lives," she said.
Aside from a more than 30-year career in education, Friend coordinated the Park and Recreation program for 13 years, during which time he helped to make numerous improvements, including the addition of lights to softball fields, the resurfacing and relighting of parking lots and tennis courts and the installation of press boxes at Sabino Field, Vidu Field and MacGregor Park, and fields at Packard Park.
"He gave a lot to the community to make people's lives better, kids' lives better," recalled Sands.
Baseball and sports were his passion, she said, and his involvement in Parks and Recreation was a natural fit. He also served for 11 years as the president of Warren AA Baseball League.
"He loved Warren. He liked what it had to offer. He always felt like Warren gave more than he was able to give himself," Sands recalled. "His life was enriched by the friends, family and the community of Warren."
"He loved the city, he loved the people, and felt that they had been very kind to him," Jonnie said.
Upon his retirement, Friend devoted time to one of his other passions: art.
"He did a lot of historic pictures of the Log Cabin and City Hall, Harding High School ... and the Newton Falls covered bridge," Shafer said of Friend's pieces, exhibits of which have been displayed in places such as the Cleveland and Butler art museums, and many are still seen in offices throughout the area and around the country.
Friend inspired local artist Chris Kasmar, 26, of Canfield, who remembers meeting him at a young age.
"It made a big impression on me. I remember being in awe of his ability to do a landscape," he said, likening Friend's line work to freestyle because it is loose, yet full of detail and a strong sense of home. "It made me appreciate the local art scene," he said.
Local artist Don Pedicini Jr. said, "His artwork strengthened the integrity of the community through his realistic interpretations of the community."
Friend's contribution to education didn't stop after retirement - he also made donations for five years to the Tribune's Literacy in Education program after holding an annual art show.
Of Friend's paintings, Jonnie said she favors his commemorative pieces the most.
"I think he loved them all," she said.
Kasmar said whenever he is in certain areas, he can still see Friend's artwork through the cityscape.
"This area will definitely be missing a great artist," he said.