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Home is where the art is

Local shut-in drawn to say ‘thank you’

Posted: January 8, 2009 10:50 p.m.
Updated: January 9, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Local artist Sydney Yarbrough puts his thoughts on paper inside his Newhall home Thursday afternoon.

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Tears welled precariously close to the edge of Sydney Yarbrough's lashes as the Newhall man whispered a stanza of a love song he longed to sing to his 28-year-old daughter, Crystal Diane, who died in 2004 from Lou Gehrig's disease.

Though married and living with an adult son, Yarbrough, 66, says he feels very alone.

The retired security guard became crippled after a job-related injury in 1982, and his life is now a repetitive journey of watching television and drawing pen-and-ink pictures featuring his trademark cartoon man and a collection of happy sayings.

Yarbrough said the sayings and poems he collects help him focus on the positive.

Chris Ward, San Fernando Valley field representative for Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, said she knows Yarbrough well.

When Yarbrough recently contacted Smyth's office to talk to him, was so touched they took his call he thanked them by sending one of his hand-drawn pictures and a poem to the legislator's office, which Smyth framed, making the artist proud.

"He's very artistic and very kind about getting something sent to all of us just for giving him five minutes of time," Ward said.

"When you do get that thank-you note or that sigh of relief that comes from getting someone a refund or some kind of help they need, it makes our day," Ward said.

Seniors who spend most of their time alone at home are not uncommon in the Santa Clarita Valley, Ward said. Loneliness is an emotionally devistating problem.

"We get calls almost every day from (lonely) people," she said. "It's important just to give them some time."

Some people call to express concerns about legislative issues.

Others just call.

"We try to provide services they need, but some seniors just need a live body to talk to. And if we can give them a few minutes, sometimes it just makes their day," she said.

Yarbrough said he met Smyth after the 1994 earthquake, and the Newhall man proudly displays a group of photos that show him with the former aide to Assemblyman Pete Knight, R-Antelope Valley.

Back at home in Newhall, Elvis Presley's classic version of the song "Wooden Heart" lingers on Yarbrough's lips and in his soft, shaking voice.

"Can't you see I love you?" he sings. "Please don't break my heart in two. That's not hard to do, 'cause I don't have a wooden heart."

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