HOMOSASSA — The stroke cost Dr. William Slinger more than mobility. The retired dermatologist was also an accomplished artist whose paintings had twice gained him admittance to the prestigious Florida Watercolor Society.
After the stroke three years ago, Dr. Slinger cut back on weekly meetings of the Nature Coast Painters, an intimate group of two dozen or so artists.
But he couldn't quit altogether.
Dr. Slinger, who wielded a scalpel and a paintbrush with equal dexterity, died Oct. 29. He was 90.
Before the stroke, Dr. Slinger and his wife, Charlotte, traveled extensively, their truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer. Along the way, he painted plein air, or outdoors, producing many watercolors of nature scenes from North Carolina and Maine.
He brought his work back to the Nature Coast Painters, who critiqued it.
"Bill was a purist, his work was really above and beyond," said group member Ray Jowers, who also belongs to the Florida Watercolor Society. "His paintings always had a quality to them. It was pure, the colors were great, and his presentation was very pleasing."
William Norris Slinger was born in Massillon, Ohio, the son of a railroad worker whose job was affected by the Depression. After putting himself through Ohio State University and its medical school, he served in the Army, treating soldiers returning from World War II.
He opened a dermatology practice in Rockford, Ill.
In the late 1960s, Dr. Slinger took two years off to serve in the Peace Corps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He and his family lived on the side of Corcovado mountain, well below the statue of Christ the Redeemer. He treated other Peace Corps workers and some locals.
Dr. Slinger enjoyed the experience more than did his wife, Rosalee.
"The joke was, she kept her bag packed under the bed," said Charlotte Slinger, Dr. Slinger's second wife.
He moved to Florida in 1975, setting up a practice in Clearwater. Charlotte, a former patient in Illinois, moved to the area a couple of years later and practiced accounting.
Now divorced, he hired her to keep his books, then married her in 1984.
"His joke was, he had to marry me because I was so expensive," said Charlotte, 75.
Dr. Slinger sold his practice in 1989, then moved to Homosassa. The couple drove around the country, staying in RV campgrounds in the United States and Canada as long as they felt like it.
He always alternated between one or two books he was reading, and never missed an issue of Smithsonian magazine. Several years ago, he suffered a personal setback when a son he had tried to help, Kevin, died as a result of drug addiction.
Then came the stroke that left him partly paralyzed, unable to use his dominant right hand.
"He had to step back a little bit," said Jowers, 82.
Then Riley, his wife's 8-year-old grandson, asked Dr. Slinger to paint a tiger.
"He looked at me, and I looked at him," his wife recalled. Dr. Slinger picked up a paintbrush — with his left hand — and "sure enough, he could draw something that looked like a tiger."
He persisted. His began attending the Nature Coast group every week again. "It was therapy for him," said Jowers.
His skill painting with his nondominant hand improved. Shockingly, so did his art.
"His colors brightened up," Jowers said. "He was painting in brighter colors than he had done prior, and it really enhanced his work."
He submitted a painting of trees to the Florida Watercolor Society, which caps its membership at 100, a fraction of the number of slides sent by artists. About a month ago, the society accepted his application. The selection made Dr. Slinger a signature member, a status reserved for three-time members.
The painting, part of a Florida Watercolor Society exhibition that ends today, is hanging in the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.
Said Jowers, "No one had ever gone from right-handed to left- and gotten into the Florida Watercolor Society."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.