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Prince Vinegar's last stand: Would you know when it's time to go? Are you sure?

By Lane DeGregory
Ronald "Ted" Andrews poses for a portrait in his home in Ocala on September 29, 2016. Andrews woke up at 3:30 every morning, but would wake to his wife at 7 by rubbing her feet in the dim morning light of their bedroom. When the hospice bed was installed in the living room, Carolyn was the one who began to rub Ted's feet after it became too difficult for him to walk. EVE EDELHEIT | Times

OCALA — On a bright, breezy morning in early spring, the old sculptor got his first sign that the end was near.

He was working in his studio — the screened carport off his trailer — sipping cold coffee, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, listening to a cassette of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.

Above him, paper cranes flew from thin wires. Around him, wind chimes danced.

He was hunched over his desk, cradling a plum-colored Christmas ball in his lap, scowling at a strand of nylon thread, trying to tie a knot. Just a simple knot. For two hours, his gnarled fingers had been fumbling with that thread.

Ronald "Ted" Andrews, 81, was proud to say he never asked for help. In all his years, through all his adventures, he always had done things his way.

That morning in March, his hands were so sore, his back ached so badly and he was so weak from hunger, he thought about shelving his art.

"When I can't create anymore," he had once declared, "I'm done." He swore that when that time came, he would end his life.

Now he couldn't even finish a mobile.

"Carolyn!" Ted barked to his wife, his voice raspy and weak. "Carolyn! Get out here! Now!

"I need your help."

READ MORE: A proud 81-year-old artist never needed help with living. Lou Gehrig's disease — and dying — changed everything.