Renowned Artist Dies At Age 80

Another distinguished member of the Wheeling Hall of Fame has died.

Less than a week after the Most Rev. Bernard W. Schmitt, a 2011 inductee, succumbed, Wheeling native Budd Hopkins – an internationally renowned abstract painter and sculptor – died at age 80 in his Manhattan home on Sunday, Aug. 21. According to a published account, the cause of death was complications of cancer. Hopkins was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame in 1992, in the category of music and fine arts.

New Martinsville attorney H. John Rogers shared the news of Hopkins’ passing by sending me a lengthy feature obituary published in the New York Times last Sunday, Aug. 28. The Times article noted: “Elliott Budd Hopkins was born in Wheeling, W.Va., on June 15, 1931, and at 2 survived polio. He earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Oberlin College in 1953 and afterward settled in New York, where he soon made his artistic reputation.”

When Hopkins entered the Hall of Fame, it was noted by committee officials that “his works have been displayed in leading art museums of the United States and Europe and he has received many prestigious awards” and that “he has also been recognized for his writings on UFOs.”

The Times obituary described Hopkins as “a distinguished Abstract Expressionist artist” who “became the father of the alien-abduction movement.”

According to the Times, he was part of a circle of New York artists that included Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline in the 1950s and 1960s. The article stated that his work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the British Museum in London.

After Hopkins described his own UFO sighting on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1964, he began to collect others’ stories of their encounters. However, the Times noted, he insisted he was never abducted by aliens.

The Times article stated, “As the first person to collect and publish such stories in quantity, Mr. Hopkins is widely credited with having begun the alien-abduction movement, a subgenre of UFO studies.”

Hopkins went on to write four books on the subject of alien “visitors.” One of his books, “Intruders,” became the basis of a made-for-television movie.

According to the Times, Hopkins, who was thrice divorced, is survived by a daughter; a grandchild; his companion, Leslie Kean, and a sister, Eleanor Whiteley.

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Meanwhile, another Wheeling native, Aaron Galligan-Stierle, a stage actor in New York, was mentioned in a feature article in the New York Times Wednesday, Aug. 31.

The Times reported that Galligan-Stierle, 31, has been chosen as the new Monsieur Andre in the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” taking over the featured role from his father-in-law, veteran actor George Lee Andrews.

According to the Times, the Broadway production did not disclose the departure of Andrews, 68, until Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 30. However, Galligan-Stierle and his friends and fans had known for months that his father-in-law’s contract had not been renewed and that Galligan-Stierle had been chosen to fill the role.

Andrews was the subject of the Times article because he was scheduled to give his final performance – his 9,382nd appearance, to be exact – as Monsieur Andre on Saturday night, Sept. 3. According to the Times, Andrews – who has played this role for 23 years – holds the Guinness World Record for most performances in the same Broadway show.

“If I have to give up my role, giving it up to my son-in-law is not a bad way to go,” Andrews was quoted.

Galligan-Stierle, a graduate of Wheeling Park High School, earned theater-related degrees from Shenandoah University and Penn State University. His professional career has included roles in “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Ragtime.”

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Former Smithfield (Ohio) resident Richard L. McElroy, a presidential scholar and author of 11 books, is set to participate in a book signing during the Wine Tasting Fest at Friendship Park in Smithfield next weekend. The event is slated for 4-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, and 1-11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.

McElroy’s books include “Battlefield Presidents: Zachary Taylor and Benjamin Harrison and Their America.”

The festival is sponsored by the Friends of Smithfield Community Development Corp.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: