As a young student at Templeton Middle School, a talented boy named Gabe Leonard created a work of art that would sadly soon become his legacy.
Gabe graduated from Hamilton High School in 1995 as one of the most promising art students that teachers had seen, but that talent was cut short. In 1997, at only 20 years old, Gabe died of an inoperable brain tumor following a three-year battle.
But now, the Hamilton School District is honoring its prized artist by hanging his middle school self portrait – done entirely with his own smudged fingerprints – in the Hamilton Fine Arts Center.
“We are celebrating the life of a little boy who’s actually in the picture above,” said Superintendent Kathleen Cooke. “We are honored today to thank Gabe Leonard’s family who has donated this beautiful drawing as a permanent remembrance of the importance of arts here in the Hamilton School District.”
Gabe’s mother, Chris Abresch, donated the nearly 5-foot-by-5-foot original portrait and was joined by her family at the dedication ceremony. After laughing at how small it looks on the massive HFAC wall compared to her own, she asked Hamilton to never forget about talented students like Gabe.
“We want to encourage the board to never lose sight of those creative and artistic students like my children,” Abresch said. “They may never fit the mold in the early years, but they’re truly the creative thinkers and doers in the future.”
Although Gabe never had the opportunity to pursue art, the Leonard family remembers and celebrates his legacy every year with a $500 scholarship to a senior at Hamilton going into the arts field.
“We were blessed to have him, and we are blessed he left so much art for us to enjoy,” said Abresch.
“When we look at this portrait, we’ll know of the importance of the arts to our school district and our community,” Cooke said. “We will know of the talents of a little boy and the generosity of his family.”