Artist paints fallen first responders for their families

Thanks to one man's compassion and talent, the fighters won't be the only ones in the boxing ring for the annual Guns 'n Hoses event.

Sometimes, all the color in this world seems to disappear. That's when Dennis Syberg goes to work, trying to bring some of the color back.

"A painting is something that will last forever," Syberg said.

The 57-year-old studied art in college and then got sidetracked. He opened the Syberg's restaurant on Gravois with his three brothers and two sisters back in 1981.

"We've grown since then, we have 8 locations now," he said proudly.

In fact, for the last few weeks he's turned the banquet room of Helen Fitzgerald's restaurant and pub into his art studio. His canvas is his escape from the kitchen.

"I do lots of landscapes and lots of florals, and I love doing portraits of children," he told NewsChannel 5.

But this time of year, his oils often get diluted with tears.

"It does really take a toll sometimes," Syberg said.

On Wednesday night, Syberg's latest portraits will be on display at the annual Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses boxing event and then given to the families of all the fallen first responders from the past year.

Photos: 29th annual Budweiser Guns N Hoses

Darnita Riggins never misses Guns ‘N Hoses, but 8 years later she still misses her husband every day.

It was November 2008, when Firefighter Leonard Riggins rushed to help after witnessing a car wreck.  His wife says, he'd always stop to help. This time though, the driver was a car-jacker and Riggins was shot and killed.

"Deep down in my heart I do wish he hadn't stopped. I do. But what do you do? It was in his DNA,” she said.

But above the fireplace in the living room where his portrait hangs, Leonard is still watching over his family.

"That smile that you see on his face, that just brings joy into my home,” Darnita said.

The pain was so fresh, she can barely remember meeting Dennis the night she got the painting.

"But I would love to be able to say something to him in the state of mind I am now," she said. "Thank you so much. Thank you so much may God Bless you."

He could charge hundreds, or even thousands, but Syberg paints all these portraits for free.

"It's just a gift I have that I can share with other people and do some good with it,” he said.

His latest labor of love is for a young widow and her two-year-old son. St. Louis county officer Blake Snyder.
"His little guy is going to know dad," Syberg told NewsChannel 5. "Whether he's there or not, he's going to know who his dad was."

Officer Snyder is just one of four new portraits this year.

"None, that's the goal," he says.

When words fail, his brush strokes speak. Fallen first responders that will soon be going home thanks to an artist that is their color guard.

(© 2016 KSDK)


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