Different strokes: Oxford resident Nora Roundtree turns an ailment on its head

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When Nora Roundtree had a debilitating and life changing stroke nearly 20 years ago, doctors didn’t think she would come out of her coma, let alone walk or regain the fine motor skills needed to create art.

Erin Place Oxford resident Nora Roundtree shows off one of the many dolls she recently created in preparation for the upcoming Moore Park Art Show scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. After suffering from a life-changing stroke nearly 20 years ago, she had to teach herself how to use her left side after losing the use of her right side and speech.
Erin Place
Oxford resident Nora Roundtree shows off one of the many dolls she recently created in preparation for the upcoming Moore Park Art Show scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. After suffering from a life-changing stroke nearly 20 years ago, she had to teach herself how to use her left side after losing the use of her right side and speech.

Come Sunday, the Oxford resident will be one of 50 of artists showcased at the annual Moore Park Art Show scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Paris park at the corner of Route 26 and Park Street. There Roundtree will have her paintings and dolls on display and available for purchase.

On Monday, Roundtree gives a tour of her Jenny Lane home. The reupholstered the love seats in the living room and throw pillows dotted with white skulls on black fabric and hot pink stripes down the side were done by her. A glass display case serves as a resting spot for the dolls she’s created — from elves to fairies to mermaids to “Walking Dead”-inspired zombies. Some of the dolls’ heads, which Roundtree hand paints as well as creates their 3-D noses and eyelashes, rest on the coffee table. To demonstrate her process, she pulls out a strip of black and brightly striped fabric she uses for the eyelashes and makes a cutting motion with her fingers.

Roundtree lives with her longtime partner, Tim Patrick, who got together with her after she had a stroke in 1996 at age 32. The stroke was brought on the use of diet pills, he said, explaining that she was conscious about her weight because she had been a model since was 18. Roundtree was in a coma for three months following the stroke.

“They didn’t think she was going to live,” Patrick said about Roundtree’s doctors.

She was fed intravenously through a feeding tube in her abdomen while she was unconscious, he said. Roundtree pulled up her tank top and showed the round, indented scar still visible on her stomach.

As a result of the stroke, Roundtree lost her speech, the use of her right arm (she was right handed) and she couldn’t walk. It took her a year to learn how to walk again, first using a wheelchair, then a walker, next a cane and now she has a leg brace and walks with a limp. She also had three grand mal seizures after the stroke, from which she bit a good chunk of her tongue off during the first one. Luckily, Patrick was there to help her. She was later put on anti-seizure medications and hasn’t had one since 1999.

“Thank God. I don’t want to go through that again,” Patrick said. “It’s the worse experience of my life.”

A close up of Nora Roundtree's dolls, featuring mermaids, zombies and elves, for Sunday's Moore Park Art Show in South Paris.
A close up of Nora Roundtree’s dolls, featuring mermaids, zombies and elves, for Sunday’s Moore Park Art Show in South Paris.

For the most part, talking is extremely difficult for Roundtree, who points to her head indicating the right side of her brain doesn’t work correctly. She indicated with a talking motion with her left hand that prior to the stroke she was one Chatty Kathy.

When asked about the struggle to relearn how to walk and become a lefty after the stroke, she replies clear as day, “Pfft, what the f**k.”

That statement had Patrick recall a conversation with Roundtree’s neurologist in the late ’90s.

“Her neurologist said to me … ‘When you have a stroke like that, the words that come back to you are the ones you said a lot because you don’t put in a lot of effort,’” Patrick said, laughing.

Roundtree shakes her head and laughs, agreeing that she dropped a lot of “f bombs” before the life-altering event.

But her art blossomed and grew after the stroke. Before, she mostly sketched in charcoal and wrote and read poetry for which she won two awards. She was busy with modeling and creating light design for concerts in Auburn, Wash., for bands such as Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, White Snake, Judas Priest, Jethro Tull and Savoy Brown. Light design brought in good money Roundtree indicates, rubbing her fingers together, signaling she made a lot of cash.

But now it’s all about the art. Roundtree pulls out a photo album with some of the paintings she’s sold and shows off a Jackson Pollock-like work with splatters and strokes everywhere. She points to a mouse hidden within the blue and green paint on the canvas.

“This all transpired two years after the stroke,” Patrick said, motioning to the paintings that line the walls of their home.

Nora Roundtree of Oxford has a studio set up in the back of her house where she's working a painting of koi fish. Her paintings and dolls will be displayed in Sunday's annual Moore Park Art Show in South Paris.
Nora Roundtree of Oxford has a studio set up in the back of her house where she’s working a painting of koi fish. Her paintings and dolls will be displayed in Sunday’s annual Moore Park Art Show in South Paris.

He points to the piece hanging above the TV in the living room of a sexy lady donning a little clothing and an Army helmet in the middle of green-and-brown camouflage background. Roundtree created it for him because he’s a big World World II buff. On the wall behind the love seat is a nude study, a headless woman made up of colorful strokes breaking up each part of her body instead of her mind.

Moore Park Art Show 2015

The annual Moore Park Art Show will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at the park on the corner of Route 26 and Park Street in South Paris. The free, day-long event will showcase roughly 50 artists’ work, which will be available for purchase, along with a plethora of live entertainment and food.

Awards will be given to the artists who entered the competition. A $300 Best of Show Purchase Award will go to one artist and $100 Judged Award and Honorable Mention ribbons will be given away.

The live entertainment schedule is as follows:

9 a.m. Mary Uke Lady
9:30 a.m. Free Children’s Theater Workshop
10 a.m. Brad Hooper
11 a.m. Debi Irons & The Alberto Maranhao Theater Dance Company
11:45 a.m. Children’s Theater Workshop performance with Rijah Newell
12 p.m. Just Us Two
1 p.m. Neveah Dance Company
2 p.m. Terry Swett
3 p.m. Paul Dube & Ellen Lindsey

For more information, visit www.mooreparkartshow.biz/home.html.

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