Skeletal Remains Identified as Renowned Artist - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Skeletal Remains Identified as Renowned Artist



    Skeletal Remains Identified as Renowned Artist
    One of Massachusetts artist William Stilson's paintings.

    The mystery to the whereabouts of renowned Rockport, Mass. artist William H. Stilson has been solved.

    The Montgomery County Coroner's Office last year identified Stilson as the skeletal remains found by a construction worker along the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the morning of Jan. 11, 2013 in a wooded area in Kulpsville, near the Lansdale interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's northeast extension.

    Montgomery County Coroner's Office Chief Medical Investigator Alexander Balacki said Stilson's remains were there for "several years."

    The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. A handgun was found next to the body. Stilson was dressed in Guess jeans and a Ralph Lauren shirt, police said. Stilson had extensive dental work and a condition that required chest surgery.

    Balacki said identification was made through a combination of car keys found on the body, dental records and searching the Internet.

    "We contacted (a family member) through a blog. That's how we got the ball rolling," Balacki said.

    Stilson's family donated his bones to the coroner's office, he said.

    Stilson ran a gallery in Rockport, Mass. Specializing in seascape and figure paintings, his work dates back to the 1960s and 1970s.

    On an online bulletin board from 2007 dedicated to Stilson, friends and family recount memories and experiences with the painter.

    "I met him (in Rockport) in 1984 and found him to be a very fascinating man! If I recall correctly, Rockport was his summer home and at the time he was spending winters in Williamsburg, Va.," wrote J.C. Pelletier.

    "My wife and I bought a signed print in the late `60s or early `70s. When I told my father about the purchase, he laughed because he had delivered Bill as a baby. Bill had broken contact with his family who didn't know he was in Rockport according to my dad. We still love our Stilson after all these years," wrote Barry Wessler.

    In the late 1990s, Stilson was suffering from depression and living in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., according to a post from his ex-wife Brooke Taney. She confirmed Stilson had a heart problem and surgery.

    "I knew Bill while I lived in the Boston area in the mid `70s," wrote Eric Hanner. "He came to the airport for instruction and was a student of mine. We became friends and I purchased an oil and a copy of 'Reflections,' which is still hanging in our bath. I have searched for him in the past to no avail. I do know he crashed the Bellanca tri tail he owned but survived the crash as it wasn't a serious indecent as I recall. I was in my 20s back then and am now 60 so he would be getting on if he is still alive. Bill was a very interesting fellow. I do know that some of the large art foundations, private collectors in the Boston area, had been purchasing quite a bit of his work for several years."

    This story was a follow-up to the original story published by various local media outlets last year.