Jane Gwiazdowski couldn’t resist.
As soon as she saw The Daily Gazette’s “Christmas Coloring Contest” page, she started to think about red, green and yellow markers.
“I just had to color,” Gwiazdowski said. “I was itching to color that Santa Claus.”
At 93, Gwiazdowski was the senior artist in the annual contest, which generated more than 450 entries from children. Jane knew the contest was designed for kids, but decided to mail her vision of Santa to The Daily Gazette anyway.
“I had so much fun coloring this picture,” she wrote in a note attached to her entry. “Please have a senior coloring contest.”
The friendly, talkative Gwiazdowski has lived at the Heritage Home for Women, a 33-resident adult home on Union Street, since 2013. She has vision problems, but can see well enough for close-up art projects. Drawing and coloring have become big parts of Gwiazdowski’s life at Heritage, and her original works of flowers in assorted colors generally make the house bulletin board or decorate hallways.
This past summer, Gwiazdowski’s flowers were selected for inclusion in the 2015 “LeadingAge New York Art Exhibition,” which features 70 pieces of art submitted from several hundred adult homes affiliated with LeadingAge and the Adult Day Health Care Council.
“They call me the resident artist,” Gwiazdowski said. “The more you do, the better you get.”
Gwiazdowski, who moved to America from Poland during the early 1920s, has stayed busy her entire life. She attended Schenectady’s former Mont Pleasant High School, then took courses at the Mildred Elley Business School. She became a secretary in the Schenectady City School District for assistant principal Jack Hickey, and later worked for city lawyer Richard C. Bendell. In 1973, she landed a job at the Schenectady Gazette as a typist in the billing department, and later became secretary to David C. Hume, president and general manager. She retired from the newspaper in 1985.
Gwiazdowski then began a sewing business in her home. People got great deals for zipper, button and other needle-and-thread work. “I never knew how much to charge,” Gwiazdowski said.
Jane thinks children especially appreciated this year’s contest.
“I think they loved it,” she said. “They all know who Santa is, he’s red and white. The rest is all imagination.”
Gwiazdowski’s Santa Claus has the traditional red coat, black-tipped gloves, a black gift bag and stands in front of snow-topped evergreens. She has known big people before — athletic grandson Nick Gwiazdowski of Delanson is at North Carolina State and is the two-time NCAA wrestling champ at 285 pounds. “I think they’re lining him up for the Olympics,” she said.
For Santa, Gwiazdowski took artistic license and gave the jolly one a light pink complexion — rosy cheeks from all that time in the frigid north — and colored the presents at the top of the pack with red and yellow stripes, a purple bow and blue dots over bright pink.
“I tried to do something a little different,” Gwiazdowski said.
She believes The Daily Gazette should do something a little different next year and open a category for senior coloring artists in the Christmas contest. “It’s definitely worth considering,” said Gazette Editor Judy Patrick. “Coloring continues to grow in popularity with adults.”
Seniors who often spend their time with bingo games and watching television game shows, Gwiazdowski said, would look forward to the challenge.
“It’s therapeutic. You relax and just enjoy it,” she said. “I feel like I’m in a world of my own when I’m coloring.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.