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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Promising artist 1 of 3 lost in fire

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kohli Kohli
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FINDLAY A third man has died as a result of a fire Sunday at a building on South Main Street here, authorities said.

Frank Van Dyke, 35, of Findlay, died yesterday in Toledo Hospital.

He was staying at the apartment of his friend, Chris Kohli.

Mr. Kohli, 46, and William Wagner, 76, who lived in separate second-floor

apartments, both died from smoke inhalation.

Investigators remained on the scene yesterday, combing through the building s rubble searching for a cause.

As they did, a firefighter emerged from the building with a half-finished painting he had rescued from Mr. Kohli s easel.

He was painting four children. I don t know who they were, but it was about half-finished. It was very beautiful, said

Phil Sugden, an artist who has a studio in a nearby building.

Fire Chief Roy DeVore said the three-story, brick building appeared to be a

complete loss.

All three of the men were found in bed, and Chief DeVore assumed all were asleep when the fire broke out about 5 a.m.

Firefighters were alerted to the fire by workers at the nearby Marathon Oil building.

That s a nine-story building.

They could see smoke and fl ames, Chief DeVore said.

Coincidentally, firefighters were called to the Marathon building about 9:50 a.m. yesterday because a small grease fire was reported in a third-floor kitchen. Capt. Tom DeFrieze said the fire was out by the time firefighters arrived, although employees of the building were evacuated as a safety precaution

.

The fire was not related to Sunday s blaze, which firefighters were able to contain to the building at South Main and Sandusky streets.

The offices of A.G. Edwards & Sons, which occupied the building s first floor, were destroyed, and staff members were temporarily working at either the Toledo or Lima offices of A.G. Edwards, a financial services company.

There were five apartments on the second floor, although only two were rented at the time, and no one else was in the building at the time of the fire, Chief DeVore said.

Mr. Sugden said Mr. Kohli painted in his apartment and on the third floor of the Jones Building across the street. A native of Pandora in Putnam County, Mr. Kohli had a local reputation for portrait painting.

He was hired to paint portraits for the University of Findlay. People who liked realism in the classical sense commissioned him to do family portraits and other paintings, Mr. Sugden said, adding that Mr. Kohli also was a part-time bartender at the Bistro on Main. He was always struggling, always right on the edge just like an artist, just barely making it, Mr. Sugden said. I don t think he wanted it any other way.

According to information from Mr. Kohli s family provided to Coldren-Crates Funeral Home, he majored in art and music at Anderson College but developed his art career in Amarillo, Texas, where he completed four years of classical realism painting under Kurt Richards. He then worked under master painter Richard Lack in Minneapolis.

He leaves behind a legacy of paintings along with a loving family and many friends, the statement read.

Mr. Sugden, an art professor at Bluffton University, said the school is planning to do a retrospective exhibition of Mr. Kohli s work in September. He expects an art show of sorts to greet visitors to the funeral home tomorrow as well.

Chris was typically Mennonite, even though he didn t like to be categorized as Mennonite, Mr. Sugden said. He never went around promoting himself. He was always humble. We would always say, Chris, you re an incredible painter. You ve got to promote your work more.

Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Coldren-Crates, 205 West Sandusky St., where the funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday. Memorials may be made to the funeral home to create an arts scholarship in Mr. Kohli s memory.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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