ESSEX COUNTY, NJ – Donald Richard Kramer, a renowned artist and illustrator born in Newark, lived in Nutley and had deep ties to Essex County, died Friday at the age of 83.
“Mr. Kramer was born on April 1, 1938 in Newark to Donald and Pearl. From an early age, Dick had a vocation for art and drew on anything he could get his hands on. In fact, one of his first jobs were with a local butcher and he was paid in brown paper which would be used to wrap the various meats in the store. His mother often received calls to their home in Nutley from disgruntled teachers finding Dick’s textbooks covered in drawings .
“After attending Nutley High School, Dick enlisted in the United States Navy at age 17 and became the youngest Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Pacific Fleet, serving as an Air Force Mate. After a troubled youth, Dick referred to his decision to join the Navy as the best decision he ever made, right after his decision to propose to his wife, Virginia, they would marry shortly after Dick’s honorable discharge in 1959.
“Dick soon returned to his pursuit of art, attending Newark School of Art and the New York School of Visual Arts in the evenings. With the birth of twins, Richard and Robert, in 1960, money was tight, and Dick would work various jobs during the day, including selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door to support the growing family.
“As a convert to Catholicism and a follower of the teachings of Christ, Dick was ordained a deacon in 1976 at St. Joseph’s Church in Newark. This would be a lasting source of pride for Dick as he worked to serve Christ throughout Still dedicated to the service of his country, a few years later, Dick and his daughter, Suzanne, would go down in New Jersey history as the first father and daughter to graduate from the same police academy – l Essex County Police Academy in Verona will continue to serve together as Special Deputy Sheriffs.
“In the following years Dick would flourish as an artist, working as a freelance illustrator in New York for many notable clients such as Grosset & Dunlap, Bell Telephone and the National Football League to name a few. During this time, he was accepted into the prestigious Society of Illustrators.
“In 1981, Dick accepted a position as a staff artist with the ITT Defense Contractor to support their military programs. He went on to paint over 60 original paintings for the Air Force Art Program, including what would become one of the defining works of In 1987, Dick would paint a massive 16-by-8-foot mural in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, which he would present to President Ronald Reagan hours before. his historic speech “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall’ at Brandenburg Gate This mural hangs in honor of Berlin’s Templehof Airport and will soon be moved to the Allied Museum.
“A shameless America-loving patriot, Dick would open his own studio with his wife, Ginny, and spend the rest of his career honoring the military and law enforcement he loved so dearly, through his art. Dick would go on to create hundreds of artwork featuring every type of first responder and elite unit imaginable. He has received countless awards from law enforcement and military organizations, including the Department of Homeland Security, for his skillful portrayal of these heroes. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce in 1998 and Citizen of the Year by the City of Purcellville, VA in 2014.”
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