Here is another Shania human interest story that will warm the soul...I would feel the same if I was laid up in a hospital...I think I too would be listening to Shania's music and posting pictures of her on the wall...I can really relate to this guy...Anyway this touching story certainly touched my soul and I am certain that if Shania comes accross it...This will bring a tear to her eyes...
Talented artist touches souls
By Susan Reinhardt, Columnist
Dec. 10, 2004 5:50 p.m.
Shane Bartlett was a young man people haven't forgotten.
He died from severe aplastic anemia - a rare disorder of the bone marrow - five days after my youngest child was born.
He died because he ran out of time. A bone marrow transplant might have saved him. And just as two matches were found, each donor, for some reason, dropped out of the picture.
On May 16, 1998, Shane left this world. He also left his mark - tangible evidence of his young and impressive life.
His artwork is of the caliber author Winston Groom, author of the best-selling novel "Forrest Gump," referred to as "museum quality." And Shane's art lives on. It is displayed and for sale at Blue Ridge Bags & More, along with the works of other artists with disabilities.
For years, I'd been good friends with Shane's mother, writer and author Marie Bartlett, and had often visited her and seen firsthand her son, who had a way of charming everyone.
He was purely in love with Shania Twain and filled his hospital room - where he spent two Christmases - with her image, including a life-size cutout that made people do double takes.
Marie said her son was the Forrest Gump of Asheville. He was born developmentally disabled but with more gifts than most will ever have. He could make others laugh, think, cry and strive to become better people.
In the wake of her grief, Bartlett, author of two books, wrote the story of Shane's life and death. She decided with this book to self-publish, knowing the market would be limited but the story too beautiful to keep inside her head.
She got what she calls a "wild hair" one day and decided to track down Winston Groom. Shane had watched "Forrest Gump," many times. It was his favorite movie. "I thought, why not write him a letter and tell him there's a real life Forrest Gump here. Or there was."
Groom's assistant said the author would be happy to check out the manuscript and, if he liked it, write the foreword.
Not long after she mailed the material, Groom called Bartlett, telling her he loved the book.
"He said it was full of so much humanity it probably wouldn't sell," she said. But the words he wrote touched her heart.
"Shane was born 19 years before his death with a mild mental retardation but overcame this affliction with grace, humor and fierce perseverance," Groom wrote.
Shane, like Groom's famous character Forrest, attended regular school. Shane also worked a part-time job and "ultimately became a museum-quality artist," in Groom's words.
"Marie tells the story of Shane's life and death in a touching, droll and utterly straightforward way; a tale of triumph and tragedy that at times elates, at times gives one chills."
All proceeds from the book go to help the foundation for aplastic anemia. And proceeds from Shane's art at Blue Ridge Bags goes to back into the business.
"There are a lot of people who still remember Shane and ask about him," Marie said.
One can catch glimpses of Shane's life at Blue Ridge Bags, located in downtown Asheville and the idea of Laurie Kozar, who started the company so that her son and others like him with autism would have a supportive and stimulating place to go after high school.
In 2003, her son Marcus had graduated from a program for people with autism, and Kozar wanted to provide him a place where he could do meaningful and competitive work. She knew there might be problems for him dealing with the real working world - that of meeting time schedules or behavioral problems that might jeopardize his job. So she took a class from Mountain MicroEnterprise and started the business.
"I knew from other parents that I would have no problem finding other workers like Marcus," she said.
That was the dream two years ago. Now the company successfully sells pre-made canvas bags featuring the artwork of three artists with disabilities, one of whom is Shane. The others are Caryn Schlosser and Jesse Wills.
Because the owner of the company won't "toot her own horn," according to Sara Handlan, autism program specialist at Buncombe County Schools, Sara will toot it for her.
"This business is full of employees who have parents who wanted their adult children in work settings that was pro- autism," she said. Blue Ridge Bags is also gaining national attention because of the kits it provides for home teaching children who have autism.
When Marie and I met for coffee recently, she filled me in on the company, suggesting some people might want to buy artwork from the company for Christmas gifts. Much of Marie's work, still centers on promoting Shane's and the causes they both championed.
I told Marie how much I still thought of her son. How I see his big smile every time I hear Shania Twain on the radio, or when I hear about kids with cancer and terminal illnesses undergoing treatments or awaiting cures.
"Shane just ran out of time," Marie said.
Reinhardt can be reached at 232-5844.