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Davenport artist honors fallen soldiers through portraits, doesn’t let cancer diagnosis stop her

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 11:13 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Veterans Day is a day of remembrance and honor for all who serve our country, and a Davenport artist is on a mission to remember fallen heroes through portraits.

“I started drawing these in January,” Donna Lapsey said, “I shed tears when I was painting them.”

Lapsey was inspired to paint after seeing the traveling memorial ‘Remembering Our Fallen’ last year.

“I did know the parents of one of the fallen soldiers. My husband went to school with her mom. And I always wanted to paint her. When I saw this display last year, I decided why not try to do them all,” she said.

But the decision to create portraits of each soldier would later become therapeutic.

“My brother told me, Donna keep making goals because he wants me to keep striving to carry on.”

Last year, Donna’s husband was diagnosed with Tonsil Cancer and only months later, just before Christmas, she received a diagnosis of her own.

“It was tough. I was his caretaker, now we both just take care of each other," Lapsey said, “I have glioblastoma. It’s a brain cancer that McCain died from and Joe Biden’s son Beau died from. It’s not a good kind, but I’m not letting it keep me down."

But despite this life-changing news, her focus never dwindled and she continued to aim towards her goal.

“It was a privilege for me to be able to do this. I’m so glad I got through it,” she said.

Now, her journey continues as she tries to connect the portrait of each hero with their family.

“It’s emotional. Because they want to thank me, but I want to thank them. They sacrificed so much more. They’re our heroes. Even their families are heroes to me," Lapsey said.

So far she has given five of her portraits away, but she hopes she will be able to connect with all 105 families.

With her cancer diagnosis, she said she’s thankful for every day.

“Everyday I feel like I see blessings. I’m feeling good right now. And I got to appreciate that as long as it lasts.”

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