Kay Ameche, 101, an artist sometimes likened to Grandma Moses because she began to paint in her 60s, died July 26 of natural causes in a Los Angeles residential facility, said her son, Randy Holland.
Ameche grew up near Chicago, where she was taken out of school at age 8 to help support her large family. After they relocated to Southern California, she earned her high school diploma at night and trained to be a nurse during the day. She worked in Hollywood-area hospitals, often caring for entertainment industry celebrities.
The idea of painting arose when she envisioned a seascape for her wall and could not find exactly what she wanted. The budding painter became a protege of primitive artist Streeter Blair. Her first two paintings sold for $250, and by the early 1990s, they were going for $5,000 to $10,000 each.
Ameche's paintings have been purchased by such buyers as Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, George Burns, Katharine Hepburn, Elton John and Robert Ludlum.