For about eight years in the 1990s, Colette Erikson managed the historic Clarissa C. Cook Retirement Home in west Davenport that provided independent living for about 20 older women.
As she went about her work, she occasionally stopped to admire the mansion's furnishings, but none more so than the smallish oil painting that hung outside the common dining room.
Time and again, Erikson would pause to stare at the foggy, gold-gray landscape of trees and boulder-lined stream, held in a brushed gold frame. The name "Kuno H. Struck" was painted in the lower right corner, but it didn't mean anything to her. She just loved the scene.
Today, that very painting hangs over the fireplace of Erikson's Moline home, a circumstance she believes came about through divine intervention. "There have been many times in my life when I felt God knew what I needed better than I did," she said. "God knew I needed to find that painting."
The story of how that happened goes back to 2012 when the Cook home was closed by its board of directors because of increased operating expenses. In late 2013, the building was gifted to the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society-Davenport that undertook a substantial, two-year renovation.
The 12,000-square-foot building was remade into Cook Legacy Village, with nine new, senior-living apartments created in the former sleeping rooms and the first floor restored to its gracious, 1800s appearance.
And when Good Samaritan hosted an open house for the public, Erikson made sure she was there.
As she toured the home, surveying the walls, she noticed the landscape painting was gone.
"I've looked around, but I don't see that picture," she told the Good Samaritan senior living manager.
The manager knew the painting Erikson was referring to, though, and invited her to her office at a later date. When Erikson walked in, the landscape was behind the manager's desk.
The idea that she could actually acquire the painting had never occurred to Erikson before, but on this day, she made an offer. The two agreed on a price, and that is how the painting made its way to the wall above her mantel.
But first Erikson made a short side trip that imbued the painting with even more significance.
The back story
The wire on the back of the painting was frayed, so Erikson took it to a gallery for repair. As the owner handled the painting, he discovered the title "A Wet November Day." He also recognized the name of the artist; Struck had been a prominent Davenport businessman in the first half of the 1900s, he told Erikson. Struck and his wife lived in one of the two mansions on the former Marycrest College campus, he told her.
All this was news to Erikson, whose next trip was to the Davenport Public Library.
There she located a long, multi-column obituary. She learned that Struck was a doctor who married the daughter of Max D. Petersen, the oldest son of the founder of Petersen's Department Store, a forerunner of the present Von Maur chain. The couple had, indeed, lived on the Marycrest campus. (A story about the home, "Still magnificent, after all these years" was published in the Oct. 21 Home & Garden section of the Quad-City Times.)
Struck also was a vice-president of the former Davenport Bank & Trust Co. and was involved in many organizations.
At one time or another, he served as secretary of the Davenport park board, president of the Davenport library board, secretary of the Municipal Art gallery board of trustees, president of the Scott County Medical society, and president of the Chamber of Commerce, according to his obituary. He also served for one year as national president of the Exchange clubs.
He was prolific painter, played the violin and was interested in ornithology and wild flowers. His obituary notes that he painted "several hundred landscape studies, many of which are now part of collections in Tri-City homes."
Erikson was bowled over by Struck's colorful life.
Her next move was to contact the Figge Art Museum which, sure enough, has two Struck paintings in its collection. One is a winter landscape with a creek running through it, while the other is a rainy street scene, Tim Schiffer, executive director of the Figge, said. Both are oil paintings on canvas.
"Winter Landscape" came into the collection in 1929 as a gift of Dr. C.T. Lindley; "Rainy Twilight" was a gift of the artist in 1942, Schiffer said.
Erikson wonders how many more Struck paintings are hanging (or stored) in Quad-City homes, possibly unrecognized. "Where are they all?" she said. "Who has them?"
As for "A Wet November Day," "it's here with me, and I just can't hardly believe it," she said.
"I can't believe it's mine."