A painting by Lois Krautkremer that hangs in the parish office at St. Columbkille Catholic Church will catch someone’s eye.
But hearing the story behind the painting is what will grab their full attention.
It’s a simple painting of what the church looked like before a handful of renovations over the years. But there’s nothing simple about the process it took for Krautkremer, who died in May, to complete that painting, or the many other works of art she compiled over the years.
Born and raised in Papillion, Krautkremer was diagnosed with polio when she was 15.
“It started with a back ache, then she couldn’t move or breathe,” said Butch Krautkremer, her younger brother. “They gave her an hour to live.”
Lois survived thanks to an iron lung. She spent the next year in the hospital and went to a rehabilitation facility in Georgia for several months after her hospital stay. Thanks to a correspondence course, she eventually graduated from Papillion High School.
But polio forced her to spend the remainder of her life in a wheelchair, and although it took away her mobility, it never broke her spirit.
“She was a real tomboy when she was a kid, she could outrun everybody,” Butch said. “I think when this hit her, she felt sorry for herself. After a while, she needed something to do and she was always willing to try different things.”
That would eventually lead her into the world of art. In 1960, at the age of 22, she was given supplies by the owner of a local paint supply store. She then took a college art class to further her skills.
Using her mouth to hold the brush, she began crafting works of art from her parents’ Papillion home. One of the first paintings she completed, a bowl of fruit, hangs in Butch’s living room.
Most of her paintings remained in her home until her death, but over the years her paintings made their way to different family members or friends. Her five siblings made sure the St. Columbkille found its way to a proper home.
“She was very involved with the church,” said her sister, Rose Kuhry. “She was a member there for most of her life.”
Butch said Lois’ faith carried her through the difficult challenges in her life.
“I think painting and her faith in God were her two main things,” he said. “She said her prayers every day and if there was a catastrophe that occurred somewhere, she made sure we all said the rosary.”
Kuhry said she admired her sister’s perseverance.
“She lived her life,” she said. “If it had been me, I know it would have been very difficult.”