To begin with, thanks to Joe Jeffries of the Lorain Public Library, we know a bit more about Chris Lewis, the person who painted the portrait. According to some clippings from the Chronicle-Telegram that Mr. Jeffries found, Chris Lewis was chief deputy in the Lorain County Sheriff's department during the late 30's and early 1940's. Lewis was also a sign painter by trade for 40 years and he made painting his hobby.
He was also a member of the Lorain Elks lodge, and one of the clippings mentioned that on October 20, 1943, "Chief Deputy Chris Lewis presented his own hand painted portrait of Admiral King to the lodge."
It had already been established that the large color painting at left was done by Chris Lewis and presented to the Admiral at the September 1945 Victory Luncheon. So what was this second King painting that was mentioned in the 1943 clipping? Were there really two paintings – or did the one bounce around a bit?
Fortunately, the Lorain Elks solved this mystery rather quickly. When I contacted them through their Facebook page about the possibility of a second King portrait by Chris Lewis, I received a nice reply from member J. Anthony Rich, who mentioned, "I think the painting is in our Lodge as we speak."
Mr. Rich kindly invited me to visit the Lodge, and he took me upstairs to their meeting room (which was very cool to see – especially since my grandfather was an Elk.) Lo and behold, hanging in one corner of the room was the painting that Chris Lewis donated to the Lodge back in 1943.
Strangely enough, he didn't sign either painting.
Anyway, Mr. Rich was nice enough to remove it from the wall at my request, since I was having trouble photographing it. But no matter which way it was held, or in which lighting, it was practically impossible to shoot without getting a reflection off the paint.
The shot at left is the best I could do.
Anyway, now the mystery shifts back to the original painting at the top of the blog. If it was presented to Admiral King himself as a gift, how did it ultimately end up at Admiral King High School?
I put this question to some of Admiral King's relatives at the dedication ceremony of the new elementary school, where the painting is now hanging. I happened to be standing by the stage while the family was being photographed, and when they started to disperse, I ran up and shouted, "HOLD IT!!! Do any of you ever remember seeing that large painting of the Admiral before, maybe in his house?"
Although most of the family probably thought I was a kook, one courageous women did talk to me. She assured me that she did not remember ever seeing the portrait before.
So my new theory is this: the Admiral decided to donate the portrait to some local organization or group, and it never left the area. Later, that same group decided it belonged at the high school.
Thanks again to Joe Jeffries for his assist with the research, and J. Anthony Rich and the Lorain Elks for the invitation to visit their Lodge and photograph the painting. And thanks of course to fellow sleuth Lisa over at Buster's House for inviting me along on this merry hunt.