It's hard to find the right words to tell you this story. It's one full of love, family, dedication, but also much heartbreak and resilience.
This website is full of beautiful pictures; some of beloved pets, some of fairies and dreams of make belief and some of abstract thoughts. But what they all have in common is the spirit of their mutual artist; LA SHEPARD or Lea. She has been dedicated to art as long as she's been alive. From a young age she pursued an education in art where she started her career as artist in Cleveland in the late 60s.
Her journey would lead her to the sunny state of Florida where she met the love of her life and fellow artist, Gary. The two spent years together before marrying and having their first child in Canada, building a business and spending every cherished moment of life together, growing both their business LA SHEPARD DESIGNS and their family all at once.
They lived a blessed life, with a successful business that allowed them to stay home with their children and enjoy their lives focused on the simplest pleasures. This beautiful picture wouldn't last long, as fairytales rarely ever stay without trouble. When their children were still young, Lee Ann's beloved Gary fell ill with a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer. She spent countless hours researching experimental medications and therapies to help save her love's life, finding small successes in borrowing them that ever elusive - more time.
Weeks after receiving this devastating news, their business and empire they spent a decade building together fell to shambles as her husband lost the ability to care for himself, let alone run a company dependent on his physicality. Desperate to support her husband and three school aged children at the time, Lee Ann took to canvas once more, painting her beloved dog, Daisy. She found inspiration in her furry companion's ability to bring joy despite the hard times, and found herself inspired to paint more endearing pets.
She juggled her children, caring for her dying spouse, sourcing the life saving medication she found to prolong his life, and painting quietly in the earliest hours of the day - desperate to keep them all together.
Though she found a solace in her artwork, the truth was that they could only lengthen her dear husband's life and four years after starting her first Ebay pages and starting their war against cancer, she dust his ashes on their family home.
Broken and defeated, much of Lee Ann was lost that day that Gary passed, but as a mother, she was determined to help her children succeed despite the devastating loss of their father. She continued her artistic ventures, painting hundreds of colorful and realistic dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds.
Helping her children educate themselves, travel, start their own lives, she still felt a great amount of grief for the years that followed her husband's death. Each day was a painful reminder of time spent apart, and as the years continued, her grief continued to grow.
The darkness that can come from that type of loss can swallow a person whole.
We, unfortunately, lost my mom to her grief as an early form of dementia started to show its presence. Her severe depression and isolation grew into cognitive impairment and she would later be diagnosed with a rare form of Frontal Temporal Dementia - Semantic Dementia.
Though living with grace through the first years of her diagnosis, the difficulties of her condition would soon become unmanageable and her ability to communicate and understand others is now, almost lost.
I, her daughter, thankful for all the gifts my mother gave to us through our wonderful, though difficult life, wanted to ensure she would be loved and cared for just as tenderly as she did for her husband, my father, in those last years of her own life.
Though I cannot change the outcome of her condition, I am able to keep her artwork alive for all those who admire it and for the ever-motivated and inspired businesswoman my mom once was. It was always a beacon of hope and light for her in her own life and she still gets excited every time she gets to share her artwork with someone. She has always been proud knowing that her art sits on walls all across the world and people from everywhere have something fantastic and inspiring in common, a love for their pets.
Even today, Daisy, the same pooch that inspired her online presence all those years ago, sits on her lap, providing her the same comforts as she ever did.
This business is part of her story as a mother, wife, and artist, and we continue to run this store in her honour and as part of the legacy that is LA SHEPARD ART. We will forever be a small, family operated business, committed to taking care of our parents, our children, our siblings, our pets, and our communities going on 16 years strong.