Retirement brings out the best in art for veteran


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Don Williamson and his wife Kay both enjoy painting.

Senior life photo

As a child growing up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Don Williamson tested his parents’ patience when he would draw on the walls of his room, but he just couldn’t help himself. Art was just part of his being.

Being an artist was always a childhood dream, but so, too, was being a pilot, and in 1949 Williamson joined the Navy to fly around the world. 

“I wanted to pursue one of the loves of my life,” said Williamson, who now calls Satellite Beach home.

Released from active duty in 1949 and after joining the active reserves, Williamson then pursued his other love, art, by attending the Ray-Vogue School of Commercial Art and Design in Chicago while continuing to fly with the Naval Organized Reserve. Stints as a pilot flying ambulance aircraft and as a test pilot for the Army followed art school, until he accepted a voluntary recall into the service, which assigned him to Key West, a place artsy enough that Williamson accepted an off-duty art teaching position with the Navy
Art League.

After retirement from the military as a lieutenant commander, Williamson and his family moved to Brevard so his son could attend Florida Tech. A friend mentioned career possibilities with county government, and Williamson pursued that line of inquiry, obtaining a job as land acquisition specialist, a post he held until his second retirement in 1990. During that time, he also taught adult education classes in oil painting for 10 years through Brevard Community College, now Eastern Florida State College.

Although he never stopped dabbling in painting throughout his military and civilian career, Williamson had to wait until retirement to finally extract enough time to adequately pursue that lifelong passion,

“I finally had time for art,” he said.

Art proved fruitful in many ways for Williamson. While painting near the patio of his condo, another artist came by to inquire what he was doing. The chance encounter led to marriage for Williamson and his second wife, Kay.

“I asked him “what are you painting” and those four words started a wonderful relationship,” said Kay.

The couple who paints together stays together, and the Williamsons have been part of the Space Coast art scene since.

A former educator, Kay Williamson both paints and writes, and her romantic mystery novels are available at Art & Antique Studio in the Eau Gallie Arts District, as well as through Amazon and her website, kaywilliamson.com. She had preferred acrylics and oils, but Don won her over to watercolors. An accomplished playwright and composer, Kay was surprised when she received a fat royalty check from NBC for one of her tunes. 

Both award-winning watercolorists, the Williamsons are members of Art & Antique Studio. For years, they lived the snowbirds’ life, flying from Michigan to Brevard, but they finally decided to settle here permanently a year and a half ago to play and to entertain the residents of the Senior Care of Brevard.

“We entertained at nursing homes for 20 years while we were in Michigan,” explained Kay. 

“I play the keyboard and Don sings and tell jokes.”