Cross Country Checkup

Ontario woman seeks home for 66-year-old Mary Pratt painting

The painting, dating back to 1952, is a watercolour of Anne Wheatley Hicks' favourite doll. Pratt, then 17, was a babysitter in Fredericton.

The watercolour of a doll was painted by Pratt when she was a 17-year-old babysitter

Anne Wheatley Hicks hopes to find a home for this Mary Pratt original which dates back to 1952 when the famed Canadian painter was 17 — and a babysitter. (Submitted by James Hicks)

As baby boomers downsize, Canadians are facing a simple question: who wants my stuff?

Sunday on Cross Country Checkup, guest host Michelle Eliot asked Canadians how they're dealing with unwanted family heirlooms and collectibles.

The following three callers shared stories about the curious items they've held onto and their attempts to find new homes for them.

Babysitter's masterpiece

For more than six decades, Anne Wheatley Hicks, 76, has held on to a painting of her favourite doll.

It's a small watercolour painted on a sheet of shirt cardboard, Wheatley Hicks told Checkup.

The portrait was painted in her hometown of Fredericton, N.B., by Mary Pratt — then Mary West — who would become one of Canada's most acclaimed artists.

Pratt died last Tuesday at 83.

Canadian painter Mary Pratt died Tuesday at her home in St. John's. (Submitted)

"She lived around the corner from me and she was my babysitter," Wheatley Hicks said. "Once when she came to babysit, she had brought with her paints."

Wheatley Hicks, who now lives in Sudbury, Ont., believes that painting is significant.

"It's a lovely little thing and probably very valuable because she was only 17 when she did it," she said. Still, Wheatley Hicks says that "it means nothing" to her family, so she's looking for a new home.

"I kind of think that maybe it should go back to somebody in Mary Pratt's family," she said.

Costly antique motorcycles

As an "aging boomer," Alistair Wilson, 68, is thinking a lot about what will happen to his collection of vintage motorcycles when he can no longer care for them.

"They've been a labour of love all my life — building them, restoring them," Wilson said.

More than a two-wheeled method of transportation, he sees the bikes as pieces of "kinetic art."

Wilson, who lives in Dundas, Ont., hopes someone will take over the four motorcycles, which sit in his garage. They were manufactured in the 1950s and early 1960s, he said.

Alistair Wilson restored this 1952 Birmingham Small Arms motorcycle. According to the vintage enthusiast, the cycle's front brake was imported from Italy. 'You can't take it to Canadian Tire,' he said. (Submitted by Alistair Wilson)

The challenge, he says, is finding someone qualified to take care of machines. Not only are parts rare and costly, owners need mechanical skills.

"The younger generation — they can't weld, they can't solder a wire, they can't turn a wrench," he said. "That's what's required to keep these motorcycles in action."

According to Wiison, hundreds of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts across the country are stuck in the same position and he worries about what could happen if they don't find new homes for their bikes.

"I'm sure they're all just going to go to the scrap heap," he said.

"I think it's a real travesty."

A dentist's long-forgotten sash

Jill McLennan is looking for a dentist.

In 2000, Dr. John Keegan sold his practice to travel the world. That's how a number of items from his youth wound up in McLennan's hands and now sit in her storage closet.

Among the collectibles were textbooks, a stamp collection and his boy scout uniform complete with "lovely little badges sewn onto it."

Now the Vancouver woman wants to return the items to their rightful owner. "As a little boy, he probably felt it had an extensive amount of value to him," McLennan said.

Among the collection of items Jill McLennan received from Dr. John Keegan was a stamp collection. Editor's note: the pictured stamps are not owned by McLennan. (Ted Anthony/Associated Press)

Finding the dentist has been tough. McLennan has had no luck reaching a current practice, and the people at the places where he previously worked aren't sure how to contact him.

So, she called into Checkup with a simple plea:

"If anyone knows John Keegan, the dentist, I would sincerely love to return these to him," she said.

Written by Mitchell Thompson and Jason Vermes

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