Forgotten painting inspires children’s book

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by Mike Knaak

editor@thenewsleaders.com

Author Tim Drake had been waiting 15 years for his latest book, “The Attic Saint,” to become a reality, but as the delivery deadline arrived and the book still hadn’t, he was growing impatient.

“It’s been 15 years of waiting. I still haven’t held the book,” Drake said last week as he showed a visitor his manuscript, notes and illustrations.

One day later, the book arrived, ending a journey that begin some 20 years ago.

Back then, Drake’s curiosity led him to the attic of Zardetti House on the Cathedral High School campus in St. Cloud. Drake worked for Catholic Charities and his office was in the house, built for St. Cloud’s first bishop, Otto Zardetti.

“I can’t tell you what drove me to go up to the attic, but one day I did,” Drake said. “There were all sorts of treasures up there.”

Among the treasures, he found four large paintings.

The colors and professional style drew him to a portrait of Pope Leo XIII, who created the Diocese of St. Cloud in 1889.

The painting, by local artist Peter Martini, sat in his office for a year before he offered it to the Stearns History Museum. Martini also painted St. Cloud’s patron saint and the work hangs in the chancery.

“This artwork should not be in the attic,” Drake said.

Discovering the “saint in the attic” inspired a tale, and Drake begin telling the it to his son, Elias, who was 6 or 7 seven at the time. (Today is his 24th birthday.)

The book is richly illustrated with the artwork of Theodore Schluenderfritz.

The two men met at St. Anthony’s Church in St. Cloud when they were fathers taking care of toddlers. Drake shared ideas with Schluenderfritz.

Over the years they exchanged ideas via email for the text and illustrations and made the deal with a publisher about four years ago.

“The Attic Saint” tells the story of Leo and his family, who have just moved to a strange home in a new city. The house has stained glass windows, steaming radiators and a cavernous basement. But it also has an attic. “In the attic, where the veil between heaven and earth becomes very thin, Leo will form a friendship that transcends both time and space,” according to a description of the book published by Emmaus Road Publishing.

Leo’s discovery in the attic leads to changes for him and his family.

Drake, 52, is executive director of Pacem in Terris Hermitage Retreat Center near Isanti. He is the author of seven books and he has contributed to half a dozen other titles, such as “Surprised by Truth 2” and “Moments of Grace.

His career as a teacher and journalist includes reporting for the National Catholic Register. Drake and his wife Mary have five children ages 17-24.

Storytelling has always been part of his life. He remembers that as a child, his mother read to him. He later put together his own magazine, called, he remembers, “That’s Life.”

“The Attic Saint” is available on Amazon and St. Cloud Book Shop in downtown St. Cloud.

Drake wants parents to read the book about the wisdom and beauty of the Catholic faith to their children, just as his mother did for him.

contributed photo
Tim Drake holds a copy of his children’s book, “The Attic Saint.”

contributed photo
This painting of Pope Leo XII inspired Tim Drake’s book, “The Attic Saint.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Mike Knaak

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