Edward “Gonzo” Stross honors 13 nuns from the Felician Sisters in Livonia who died from COVID-19 or its complications by painting their portraits in the mural that adorns the side of his art studio in Roseville.

Edward “Gonzo” Stross honors 13 nuns from the Felician Sisters in Livonia who died from COVID-19 or its complications by painting their portraits in the mural that adorns the side of his art studio in Roseville.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Roseville artist honors nuns lost to COVID-19

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 21, 2020

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ROSEVILLE — When 13 Felician Sisters of the Livonia convent passed away due to COVID-19 or its complications, many in the region were heartbroken. One local artist has created a tribute to the nuns to help people honor their memory.

Edward “Gonzo” Stross, of Roseville’s Gonzo Art Studio, has added a portrait of each of the 13 sisters to his mural of the Virgin Mary that adorns the side of the art studio located at the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and Utica Road.

“I wanted to do this because the 13 nuns didn’t receive an opportunity to have a funeral for the people of Livonia, and a lot of people have ties to that church,” said Stross. “I found their story really touching and it felt appropriate. Ten of them are named ‘Mary,’ and the name of the mural is ‘Mary.’”

Each portrait painted by Stross also has an 8-by-10-inch photograph of the woman above it so people can see the women as they looked in life. Stross said he was inspired to do it partially by Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is located across the street from his studio.

“Sacred Heart Church is across the street from me and the first mural I painted on there has been influenced by the church,” he said. “I’ve featured angels, Father Solanus (Casey), Mother Teresa, and I’ve even painted a segment of the Sistine Chapel on there before.”

Suzanne English, of the Felician Sisters, said she is happy to see the memory of her fellow sisters honored so that people can remember them.

“It’s important to remember that the Felician Sisters have given their lives not only to God, but also to those around them, their brothers and sisters who are in need of help, whether that is through education, care for those from the young to the aged — they serve where they are called,” she said in an email. “They continue to serve selflessly throughout North America, caring for, and walking with, those who are in need.”

Stross said several of the nuns from the Livonia convent have come down to see the portraits and have responded positively to his work.

“They are very happy I did this, and they said it is helping them with closure,” he said. “Everyone dropping by is taking pictures and honking their horns. Some people who knew them have stopped by and told me stories about them. One woman recognized them from the street and pulled over to talk to me.”

Stross has been a longtime member of the Roseville community and said he tries to engage the community with his art through public projects like this one.

“I’ve been here for 32 years. I like drawing portraits, and I basically am what I like to call a domesticated street artist,” he explained. “This project flows with the other things I’ve done that have had a spiritual edge to it. The church across the street has always inspired me and connected me with the community.”

He hopes the portraits will honor the 13 sisters and inspire people in the area.

“I did this out of respect and for love of people in the community, maybe to bring some peace to the community. I’m still working on it and I’ll be adding on to it over the summer,” he said. “I wanted them standing next to each other so they would be in a group where you could see them all at once and you could get a feeling of how many passed away. It looked very powerful putting them together.”

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