PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Douglas Darling cherishes every moment he had with his mom, Trudy, like their trip on The Love Boat in 1981.
“I remembered what a good time it was, bless her heart,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I miss her so.”
Trudy died suddenly in 1993, and Douglas said he still misses her everyday.
“It’s been almost 26 years and it seems like yesterday,” he said. “It was years and years before I could stop crying about it because she was always there.”
Trudy — her real name was Gertrude — was a professional photographer. “She was just a character,” he said. “She was just a character.”
Photography, family portraits and artwork were always a part of their lives, he said. Though he’s lived in Portland for 40 years, he grew up in southern California and Trudy took “us to all the museums in Los Angeles.”
In March 2016, a thief broke into the Darlings’ Hayden Island home while he was at work. The thief kicked in the front door and stole a number of items — his grandmother’s sterling silver set, iPads, watches, money — but most importantly to Douglas, 2 paintings Trudy had given him
One painting — a scene in a Paris flower mart — was done by his aunt and given to him by his mother. Trudy commissioned another painting for him after he talked one day about having a seascape done.
“Next thing I know, a year later, there was a beautiful painting and, you know, she did a presentation,” Douglas said. “Then I looked at the painting and saw her name on the little dinghy.”
“You know,” he said, “you’re in your early 30s, you don’t expect to get an oil painting for a gift, you know. I was very gobsmacked. I was extremely touched.”
That’s why he’s still hopeful the paintings will somehow be found and returned. They were a special way to still connect with his late mother, he said.
“When people burglarize your home and they steal things, I mean, you know, I’m not the first person that ever happened to and I won’t be the last. But a part of me died that day,” Douglas said. “You can’t put a value on something that was given from the heart, can you?”
Two months after the break in, police arrested Ryan Hentz.
Douglas thinks the thief was encouraged by someone to look for art. “They were in guilded gold frames. I hope the idiot didn’t think he could scrape enough gold off of the frame to get any money, but he took them and they’re gone.”
Hentz saw Douglas on the news the night after the robbery, Douglas said. “He saw the sentiment and he tried to get the paintings back. He told the police this.”
Hentz is behind bars. The paintings have never been recovered. Investigators say they may have been sold or traded to someone who didn’t know they were stolen.
Douglas Darling thinks the paintings are “on the East Coast somewhere or perhaps they’re in a home in Portland. And if they see this, please heal my heart. Take them to the police department, no questions asked.”
Getting the paintings back, he said, would mean the world to him.
“To me, a sentimental fool, it was a part of my life.”