Medina native Sarah Griffith, 20, spent three years painting a portrait of former Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder III. PHOTO PROVIDED
Medina native Sarah Griffith campaigned for longtime Medina state Rep. William G. Batchelder III when she was just 11 years old.
“He was someone that taught me a lot about what it means to be an American citizen,” she said of the 101st Ohio House speaker.
Now 20, Griffith spent three years painting a portrait of the former speaker and presented it as a gift to Batchelder and his wife, Alice, a judge on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, during the holiday season.
Griffith, who is finishing a four-year apprenticeship program in Annapolis, Md., said, “I have grown up knowing Mr. Batchelder, and I have always really respected his work and his commitment to our community, to Ohio and to our nation.”
Born in Medina in 1942, Batchelder served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1969 until 1998, and then again from 2007 until 2014.
Griffith said she wanted to do something nice for Batchelder as a thank-you for all he has contributed to his home state and Medina.
Batchelder, she said, showed her how to be involved politics as a civilian and to see it as a responsibility that Americans should not take for granted and be honored to undertake, she said.
Batchelder said Griffith was patient with him as he sat for the portrait, and explained what she wanted to accomplish in the finished portrait. He said the fact Griffith wanted to paint his portrait was a compliment in itself.
“I was extremely complimented, obviously, I’m not that good looking,” he joked.
“I had my canvas and palettes, and he sat there and talked about what he loved about Ohio and what he loved about helping in terms of political work and how beneficial that can be on a state level,” Griffith said.
She said that in painting the longtime politician, she had to find a balance between the power and respect that his presence commands, with the joyful and caring spirit that make up the man.
“Having him look off to the side and be engaged with whatever is in front of him seemed to be the only way to communicate his position and his passion for accomplishing good, but also the joy that he has in that,” Griffith said.
William and Alice Batchelder recalled this week the day Griffith brought the painting to the judge’s office in the Donald J. Pease Federal Building on West Liberty Street in Medina.
After discussing how she created the piece, Griffith “turned it around and showed it to us, and I think Bill and (my) reaction was exactly the same,” Judge Batchelder remembered. “We said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is just remarkable.’ ”
Judge Batchelder said one of the first things she noticed was that Griffith painted her husband without his glasses, which he has worn since he was 15 years old.
“She made it clear that she painted him without his glasses because she didn’t want the glasses to be what people focused on, she wanted to paint him,” Judge Batchelder said.
Upon seeing the portrait, the Batchelders decided it should be displayed in the judge’s office in the Pease Building instead of the couple’s home so more people could have the opportunity to see it.
Griffith said it was rewarding to give the Batchelders a portrait that can be passed down through generations of the family.
“That is the best part for me. I love being able to speak through my portraits about people and how beautiful they are and what they do with their lives,” she said.
Batchelder said he is pleased with the tribute, and that Griffith is a talented artist.
“It is absolutely remarkable for us to have,” he said.
Judge Batchelder echoed her husband’s sentiments: “It means a lot to us to have this portrait painted by someone (from) here, and someone of that character and caliber.”
Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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