SALEM—Paul Dohr believes life is a precious gift from God.
He shows his thanks by reflecting the constant beauty of that gift back to the world when he puts paintbrush to canvas.
At nearly 90 years old, Dohr has been an artist for more than 70 years.
He first started studying art in Wisconsin at age 18 while he waited to be inducted into the Navy, where he served during World War II. After he left the service, art helped him hold jobs in packaging design for 32 years, and he spent many years living and working on the West Coast.
When he retired from that career, Dohr decided to spend the rest of his life creating and helping others learn how to paint. Currently he holds weekly watercolor classes at his home in the Upstate town of Salem, where he retired in 1998.
He also has an exhibit of more than 50 original watercolors and prints on display through June 14 at Duke Energy’s World of Energy at Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca.
The exhibit’s title celebrates his age and perseverance: “Nifty 90: Still Young at Art.”
“I paint what I like and that is a lot of the beauty I see living here — the mountains, forests, boating and nature and gardens,” Dohr said. “I did the same when I lived on the West Coast. One of the best things about painting is just being able to appreciate all the beauty we have in our nation.”
Dohr also finds great joy in his family. He had five children with his first wife, who died when he was 53. In 1989, he met his second wife Ellen Haagen, who had four children of her own. Along with their blended family of nine, they also have 20 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
The couple attends St. Francis of Assisi Mission in Walhalla.
The sheer joy Dohr brings to every facet of his life is evident just in speaking with him. A smile almost never leaves his face when he is talking about his art, his family, his church.
He has been active in juried art competitions in the Upstate for 18 years and had a previous exhibit at Duke Energy when he turned 80, but he still shows amazement and gratitude at the success of the current show, which drew 500 people to an opening reception in May.
“For me, my art is about the gift of life,” Dohr said. “I have been given the gift of two lives. I worked for 30 years and I have been retired for almost 30 years. I still teach, I have a sound mind and memory. And at 90 I can still stand up for two hours and help people learn. That is a true joy.”