'He was my love for life': Bathurst artist who used his nose for art dies

When Gille Legacy was growing up, his father kept him locked inside the family house in Bathurst, telling him he was a loser and wouldn't amount to much.

Legacy, one of 10 children, suffered injuries to his skull and collarbone at birth. He couldn't use his legs or arms and had trouble speaking.

So his father kept him inside for more than 30 years, and he was not allowed to go to school, church or the hospital.

"His dad didn't want a handicap in the house," Legacy's wife, Sandi Glendinning-Legacy, said. 

But Legacy defied his father's expectations and became an artist, author and motivational speaker known across North America. ​

Legacy, 64, died April 4, leaving a legacy true to his name. 

"That man taught me about beauty that has no limits," Glendinning-Legacy said from her home in Hawaii.

The couple met at the Ryes Café in Fredericton on Canada Day in 1998.

Glendinning-Legacy was sitting with two friends to celebrate her birthday when Legacy came in. 

One of her friends waved him over to their table, where the couple struggled to communicate.

Afterward, Glendinning-Legacy's received one of Legacy's books as a birthday gift, and she learned how he thought and felt.  

"We just somehow connected on a different level," she said.

The duo tried to meet up that night for Canada Day celebrations but couldn't find each other.

About six weeks later, they did meet and were inseparable ever after.

"When I looked into his eyes, there was a spark that hit me straight through my soul," Glendinning-Legacy said. "This man was so incredible. I was absolutely fascinated by him."

A love for art

Legacy's love for art started when he was eight, and his sister was painting next to him.

"He was fascinated watching her painting so much," Glendinning-Legacy said. 

When his sister left the room, she ordered him not to touch her paints.

Legacy knew he had to act quickly, so he painted a bird with his nose, creating a picture his sister still has today. 

Once his mother realized her son's love of art, she would buy him paints with the little money the family had. 

"She would say, 'Don't believe Daddy, you can have anything you want but never expect it to be given to you,'" Glendinning-Legacy said.

Legacy went on to independent living for six years in Moncton, where he was given an old manual type writer to communicate. Since he didn't have any schooling, he learned to communicate phonetically and to write poetry, He eventually moved to Fredericton. 

Legacy went on to write several books and was even encouraged by the late Louis Dudek, a Canadian poet who presented Legacy's work at McGill University in Montreal.

"He was so amazed and so excited to be able to communicate with others through words," Glendinning-Legacy said. "He started writing his thoughts."

An adventure for two

In 2000, the couple moved back to Moncton, where Legacy continued to write, and together they sold Legacy's paintings at farmers markets.

He loved to paint angels.

Later, the couple opened the Nose Boutique in Moncton to celebrate the life of Legacy's mother, who died in 2003. 

"She was his angel," said Glendinning-Legacy. "She was his reason for living."

Legacy, who was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship, continued selling his art from the Nose Boutique and also went to church and schools, where he delivered motivational speeches.

But the adventure didn't stop there.

Later, with just six suitcases, no plan and just enough money to support themselves, the couple moved to California, where Legacy continued to chase his dream of painting.

This, too, was done to honour his mother, who helped him pursue his passion for painting, Glendinning-Legacy said.

He was a performer at 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and was later featured in a documentary called The Man Who Paints With His Nose, which received many gallery showings.

"What a blessing for him and for us to be so well-recognized," Glendinning-Legacy said.

Family and friends celebrated Legacy's life on Tuesday at a ceremony to scatter Legacy's ashes near their home in Keauhou Bay, Hawaii.

"He was my love for life," his wife said.