Jim Murray was channel surfing back in 1995 when he happened to land on painter Bob Ross’ PBS show, “The Joy of Painting.” Watching Ross paint “happy little trees” made Murray want to take up the activity. So, he got some art equipment and learned side-by-side from Ross on the television screen. “I thought if he could do it then I could do it,” Murray said. ” So, I just followed along.” Now many years later, a Colorow Care Center resident in Olathe, Murray has many paintings to his name. Several of them, which feature wild life among other things, are on display at the health care facility. He has been able to do this all after suffering an injury in 1975 while attending the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley that left him in a wheelchair. Murray’s life changed forever during a trip up to a lake in North Platte, Nebraska. There, the former collegiate wrestler decided to dive head first into the body of water but ended up hitting his head on the bottom. As a result, he broke his neck, becoming a T6 paraplegic. Murray said next he found himself in a hospital in Craig, Colorado. He spent six months there but was eventually discharged. Although he was out of the hospital, he has needed a wheelchair ever since. Becoming a paraplegic may have been a set back for Murray as he had to relocate back to his home town of Pueblo. Despite the complication, Murray was able to graduate college from the University of Southern Colorado (now CSU-Pueblo). “I just kept moving forward,” Murray recalled about that time of his life. “That’s the big thing.” He added part of going onward meant working at places like Colorado Blue sky, an organization that helps people with disabilities.
But, Murray said health issues forced him to retire about a year-and-a-half ago. At that time he and his mother moved to Colorow for care and to be closer to his brother John, who lives in Olathe. “They had the healthcare that we needed and enjoy,” Murray said, adding the staff has been up beat since their arrival. Unfortunately, his mother passed away last month. His well-being may have prevented him from working, but it hasn’t stopped him from painting. Like his TV teacher, Murray has found the activity to be soothing and beneficial. “It’s very relaxing,” Murrey said, “I enjoy getting into a zone. I’ve been able to meet people through art “I enjoy getting a little bit better at it as you go on. It’s a little bit of therapy with the hand-eye coordination. It helps with the dexterity.” Murray is humble when talking about his art work, but those at Colorow who have seen his paintings are blown away by them. Many workers at the care center have his artwork on display in their homes, said Jacque Davis, public relations and admissions director for Colorow. He lets his artwork do its own talking, but his warm personality has been a favorable asset at the care center, Davis noted. “Having Jim here has been such a blessing,” Davis said. “He’s been awesome…He is one of our (shining) stars. He goes to football games here and then he goes and volunteers. For a lot of our folks, we have to create those opportunities, but he creates his own opportunities and he tells us what he’s doing.” As of late, he has been volunteering at Olathe High School. Murray said he helps and encourages students twice a week during art class. An aspect of his life that he loves, he said.
“It’s nice being around the younger kids with the energy that they project,” Murray said. “They’re not afraid to ask questions about (how) their artwork is progressing. I try to motivate them a little bit, too. If I can do it, then they can do it. I just try to be an example to them.” He joked he likes to remind the kids he’s not the one being graded. “I tell the students, ‘It’s nice not having to worry about a grade,”‘ Murray said. Painting isn’t the only activity he likes to do, however. He noted he enjoys selling different fruit off of his brother’s property. “In the summer time, I like to go up and sit and sell peaches and cherries, “Murray said . “That’s something else I can get into, so that’s kind of nice.” But when he’s not selling produce, he probably can be found strolling through the streets of Olathe. “I like to go out in my chair and go downtown and just roll around and meet the people of Olathe, “Murray said. “I like to get involved with the people of the community. It’s a nice atmosphere because it a small town and I’m able to get around… I’ve had good time here. It’s been good.” Wheelchair or not, Murray has always been one to be out going. “I try to get involved in things and I’m not afraid to at least try, “Murray said. With over of 20 years painting under his belt, what does Murray want to do now in the art world? His goal is to have a spot for people to be hold his works of art. “I’m trying to look for some place where they can be seen,” Murray said.