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Dead father's artifacts haunt fledgling artist

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of reports looking at the lives of people whose shoes help tell their story. Watch the video above to see the shoes that launched this one.

CLEARWATER — In the weeks before cancer took him, Stephen Palladino Sr., crazy collector, locked eyes with Stephen Palladino Jr., crazy artist, and made him promise.

"Don't you sell all my stuff," he said in a thick New York Italian voice his son still imitates.

"He worked his whole life collecting all this awesome stuff and he didn't die with anything else," Palladino says. "There was no money. All he had was all the antiques everyone thought he was crazy for collecting."

They fill most every inch of the now abandoned 2,000-square-foot Clearwater home where Palladino grew up. He calls it the haunted house.

A clown-head balloon inflator, a Doctor Doolittle doll, a '50s jukebox, a neon drugstore sign, plastic sheriff's badges, a rusty Star Wars lunch box. Thousands of pieces.

Palladino also promised his dad he would hold true to his dream of being an artist.

"It's hard to say there is good in a parent passing, but the good he left me was this crazy drive to live and do what I love in a way that would make my Pops proud."

Palladino dreams of living in a small, exposed-brick artist studio in New York. "But I have two semi trucks of stuff that I am trying to hold on to. I have a lot of baggage," he says.

He could sell all his dad's antiques and use the money to get started in a small studio. But then only half the dream could come true. His father would never settle for half a dream.

"I want to finish what my Dad started and continue his legacy, or tradition, or whatever it is."

Mostly Palladino tries to forget about the haunted house, but once in a while he visits to grab a few things to take home.

When he uses his father's antiques to make art, it feels like closure. A "G Man" toy pistol goes into the mouth of a plastic skull wearing a McDonald's hat and shades from the '50s. He mounts it with an old dollar bill and puts their name on it.

One piece of Pops down. Just a few thousand more to go.

Dead father's artifacts haunt fledgling artist 05/01/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 12:40pm]
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