Navy vet helps others heal through stained glass art

DEANNA DUFF,

Herald writer

Ron Lacount is as colorful as his stained glass artwork. The 67-year-old helps teach art therapy at Everett’s Providence Regional Cancer Partnership. A cancer survivor himself, Lacount was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer in 2013 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

On his first hospital day, Lacount wore a flamboyant top hat he decorated with feathers and silverware.

“Art is such a positive outlet for your emotions,” Lacount said. “I’m not happy unless I’m making or doing something. I’m like a gerbil always on the move.”

Lacount completed treatment in 2015 and began attending art therapy to assist in emotional recovery. Providence launched the program in 2007. An average of 15 participants attend the weekly sessions. It is free to patients, survivors and their families. Ages range from 20 to 80 years old.

“It’s about the process, not the product,” said Dr. Kathryn Johnson, art therapist and medical director of Psychosocial Services, Providence Regional Cancer Partnership. “The work doesn’t have to even be pretty. Sometimes we need to make a mess — whether it’s on paper or in our tears — and be surrounded by people who accept and understand that.”

Group activities have included watercolor painting, jewelry making, paper tapestries and more. Lacount began teaching stained glass just months after joining the group. He borrowed tools from fellow artists and solicited donated materials. Due to its complexity, stained glass instruction is generally limited to two students per teacher. Lacount welcomed all comers.

“I love teaching and mentoring. I have a passion for shared expression. Also, it makes me feel really good to see someone else learning,” he said.

He was introduced to the medium in the 1970s and reconnected with it after 21 years of active-duty service in the U.S. Navy and 14 years working in the Everett shipyards.

His home is a personal gallery of his creations. Stained glass work hangs from the trees in his front yard — “my light chimes reflecting the light of the world.” A pane of stained glass hangs in the window and depicts bats flying from a spiderweb. Entitled “Bat Out of Hell,” it was inspired by the grit and liveliness of his fellow art therapy comrades.

“They are so captivated by the process. I see how their eyes light up when they accomplish something new. I look for that WOW moment on their faces,” Lacount said.

Everett resident Pat Morris began attending art therapy in 2009. A survivor of stage III rectal cancer, the class helped the former florist tap new creative reservoirs.

“I didn’t realize what I could do until I started this class and found out firsthand,” she said. “The creativity aspect seems to bond everybody and make them feel better. How can you not feel good if you’re creating something beautiful?”

It was her first foray into stained glass. She was drawn to the mixture of artistic design — choosing colors and patterns — as well as the technical aspects of glass cutting. Her first project was a stained glass jewelry box of marbled pinks for her 14-year-old granddaughter’s birthday.

The 64-year-old was also inspired by Lacount’s personal perseverance. He has dealt with Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade and suffered near-fatal injuries from a car accident shortly before his cancer diagnosis.

“It amazes me that even with Ron’s physical difficulties, if you put a glass cutter in his hands, he’s like a different person. He can cut a straight line faster than I can. He’s absolutely amazing,” Morris said.

A Harley-Davidson enthusiast, Lacount’s work often incorporates motorcycle parts such as turn indicators and taillights. He donated one of his pieces to Providence to ultimately be auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting patients. The base of the lamp is a Harley-Davidson engine pump and the stained-glass lampshade is emblazoned with a red, anatomical heart. The base is inscribed with “How’s your heart?”

“These projects provide an outlet for people to process their feelings around other people who understand what they’re going through. It’s a very therapeutic process,” said Justine Colombo, oncology social worker at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership.

The hope is to eventually display the artwork created by therapy participants for fellow patients and the community to enjoy.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for patients to relate experiences face-to-face, but they can through their artwork. You might see something in the colors, shapes or words they choose that really connects,” Johnson said.

For his part, Lacount aspires to one day open his own stained-glass studio. Until then, he foresees indefinitely continuing his colorful work at Providence.

“I owe them my life. That’s why I’m involved with Providence,” Lacount said. “My biggest goal is to be a cancer survivor who inspires others not to give up.”

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