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Gregory Lynch, 61, of Exeter Township had a physician father who was an inspiration in life and also in the realm of religious art in the early 20th century.
A model for the artist Charles Bosseron Chambers, known as the Norman Rockwell of Catholic art, the handsome Thomas F. Lynch (1911-1979) posed for a series of portraits in the the late 1920s and early 1930s encouraging young men to enter the priesthood.
The works of art, mostly charcoal drawings but some paintings, were often hung in Catholic homes and institutions in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s and quickly became popular.
These days, Chambers’ religious paintings have become highly collectible, his most famous being Jesus portrayed as a young boy in “Light of the World.”
While also an illustrator of classic books and a society portrait painter, Chambers’ religious work earned him renown in the Catholic community along with paintings depicting Christ, the Blessed Virgin and various saints.
The paintings, made into prints, sometimes were handed out as holy cards at parochial schools as rewards for good behavior.
Lynch’s wife, Michelle, 50, recalled attending Central Catholic High School in the 1970s and walking past the school’s main office and seeing one of Chambers’ framed prints on the wall titled “Christ Calleth Thee” next to another painting promoting the sisterhood.
“I must have walked past it hundreds of times in the four years I spent at the school there, never knowing that I was destined to marry the model’s son,” she said.
The Lynches said that when they toured the school shortly before it closed last year, they discovered Lynch’s father’s portrait still hanging on the wall.
“I have this memory of my father at about 50 years old, always in a suit, jumping a fence and running to help people who were in a car accident,” said Lynch, a certified prosthetist and orthotist, owner of Prosthetic Orthotic Service, 114 N. Ninth St. “He was a pretty straight, fair-minded, stand-up guy
“His big thing was always to say, ‘Share the wealth,’ ” Lynch said.
Lynch, who grew up in Teaneck, N.J., and came to Reading in 1987, said his father came from a large Irish-Catholic family of 11 siblings, six of whom survived to adulthood.
“My father became a doctor, but two of his four brothers became priests, and a third intended to become one, but ultimately left the seminary because he felt he wasn’t a good enough speaker,” Lynch said. “He decided to become a social worker.”
His fourth and oldest brother wound up as a highly skilled blacksmith who did restoration work on the Statue of Liberty, made bronze lamps for Louis Comfort Tiffany and baptistry gates for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Another religious connection with Lynch’s blacksmith uncle, Kenneth Lynch, was via Hollywood.
According to Michelle, quoting a 1985 New York Times article, Kenneth Lynch also designed movie props, including halberd blades, for director Cecil B. DeMille’s 1935 film, “The Crusades.”
Lynch, himself, was one of seven children, with two older brothers, two older sisters and two younger brothers.
He said his own career dreams tended toward the field of law enforcement rather than religion.
“I thought about being a priest for five minutes,” Lynch said. “I wanted to be a cop.”
But a 1971 accident he had with another vehicle while riding his motorcycle led to injuries that resulted in the amputation of his left leg above the knee.
His own experience ultimately took him down a medical path, not as a doctor like his father, but in the supportive field of prosthetics and orthotics, He is credentialed in all fitting techniques and componentry for artificial limbs.
When Thomas Lynch died in 1979, Lynch and his siblings each inherited one of the series of inspiring paintings that featured his father.
For Lynch, it was “May Thy Way Be My Way” (Lynch’s father kissing the feet of Christ), mounted on wood and in a gilt-colored plaster and wood frame.
Over the years, the Lynches collected other unframed prints in the series and either had them framed or gave them as gifts to nieces and nephews.
Michelle said she has seen some of Chambers’ original charcoal drawings featuring her husband’s father listed at auction with opening bids of $500 and estimated values at between $1,800 and $2,800.
“Greg and I were having a discussion regarding all the various items available for sale on eBay,” Michelle said. “I half jokingly said to him, ‘I could buy anything on eBay; I bet I could even buy your dad’s picture on eBay.’ “
And she did just that after finding some mint unframed copies for reasonable prices that were copyrighted in 1933 by the St. Anthony’s Guild, a religious association now in East Rutherford, N.J., guided by Franciscan friars committed to Sts. Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua.
“The only printed example of the color print ‘Christ Calleth Thee’ that I know of is the one that hung on the wall at Central Catholic,” Michelle said. “I have never found it on eBay. However, I was able to purchase a high-quality digital copy from a dealer of Catholic images online – for $5.”
Contact Bruce R. Posten: 610-371-5059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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