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Missing painting ‘rides’ into Vernon store 5 years later

The artist, Patricia Lawton, is relieved to have her work back in her custody
The painting was first made by Patricia Lawton 10 years ago for a local Vernon man (Contributed Patricia Lawton).

Five years ago, Patricia Lawton lost a painting and she assumed it was gone forever. But then about three weeks ago, it turned up at Distinctive Decor Antiques in Vernon.

Lawton’s painting is a cowboy and his horse, titled Billy and Joe.

“Joe is the horse,” Lawton joked.

Lawton has been painting for 80 years, and first painted Billy and Joe 10 years ago for the titular Billy and his wife, fellow residents of Vernon. He asked Lawton to paint a picture of him and his horse, and she did so gladly.

Lawton said that she always loved painting people and animals— “anything that tells a story.”

Billy and Joe disappeared after she left it along with other paintings with friends, while she was moving houses. During this time, Lawton’s friends had some work done on their home — Billy and Joe was lost in the process.

“Who knows where the painting ever went, but it was gone when they brought the paintings back,” said Lawton.

Following the loss of her, Lawton later contacted the paper about the news. An article was published in 2021 but no one came forward.

READ MORE: Vernon artist offers cash reward for missing painting

Then last month, she received a call from someone who saw her painting in an antique store and recognized it from the paper. Lawton said the woman that called her keeps a collection of old papers right by the kitchen. That’s how she made the connection.

“Lo and behold staring up at her was a picture of me holding this painting,” Lawton said. “And she’d been in that antique store because she was kind of an antique collector.”

Lawton phoned the police and the painting of Billy and Joe was retrieved from the antique store. She said the first thing she did when she got the painting was phone Billy’s wife, now a widow, about the news.

“She was just overjoyed,” Lawton said.

She doesn’t know what happened to Billy and Joe, and probably won’t ever find out.

“I cannot accuse anybody. I’m just thankful to get it back.”

READ MORE: Retired Vernon businessman draws back on painting hobby


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