ASHLAND — Josianne Stone says she can’t write.
She believes she can’t draw either, despite her collection of 200 hand-drawn drawings.
On each of his designs, you will find three letters engraved on the corner of the frame, “GtG” – for “Glory to God”. A motto that Stone, 95, has adopted through his works and writings.
It’s what she believes gives her the power to create art for the world to see.
Born in Belgium in 1927, Stone’s faith is captured in her new autobiography, From War to Peace by HIS Grace: Reflections of my Life through World War II and 2020.
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The book is a reflection of her childhood growing up in Belgium during World War II and how it led her to find a relationship with God, captured in inStone’s hand-drawn illustrations and vignettes.
Stone hosted a book launch and birthday party on Saturday at The Meadows, hosted by her daughter and publishing partner Gigi Stone. Family and friends from Florida, Belgium, Ireland and Australia wished Stone a happy birthday via Zoom.
This is Stone’s second published book with a self-published book, “My Miracles…God’s Grace at Work.” Each tells a part of his life, from his tumultuous childhood to his arrival in America and his home in Ashland.
Stone’s work can be purchased online at GtGcreations.com.
What prompted Stone to write a second book?
Stone didn’t originally think she would be a published author, she laughed.
She started writing so that her children and grandchildren could learn about their family history. It wasn’t until Stone shared her second book with her daughter that the idea of publishing her work took shape.
“She gave me this book of her memories in 2020,” Gigi Stone said. “I’ve decided… let’s see if we can get it published.”
Josianne Stone’s autobiography chronicles her early years during the 1940s and the Nazi invasion of Belgium during World War II.
She recounts being interrogated by SS (Schutzstaffel) officers for five to six hours, searching for food in grocery stores with bare shelves, and being harassed as she cycled home.
Stone hopes the book can encourage people to hang on or find hope.
“We live in such a time, so many people are so discouraged, they have good reason to be,” she said. “If a few people can draw encouragement from these few pages, that will make me really happy.”
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Stone’s art grew when she started taking art classes at 78 at a Long Island community college after realizing she wanted to learn a new skill, her daughter said.
“God came into my life,” Stone said. “My life was just filled with miracles. I decided to write some of them down in booklets. I didn’t know the depth of my faith.”
It was not meant to sit on a shelf. It had to be published, she said.
“As soon as I start drawing, I no longer feel pain”
It’s hard to find a spot on a wall in Stone’s home that doesn’t feature one of his designs.
Scattered throughout his living room, bathroom, guest bedroom, and even his closet, there are photos of black-and-white headlights and multicolored hummingbirds sipping nectar from flowers.
“I love living things,” Stone says. “We didn’t have many birds in New York.”
When Stone started drawing, she had serious health issues, she noted. “As soon as I start drawing, I no longer feel pain.”
Stone traveled to New York on the ship America in 1949 with her parents after receiving a sponsorship offer from John and Evelyn Olin of Alton, Illinois to live in the United States.
World War II was over and Stone had saved enough money to go to Paris to become a fashion designer. It was her dream to open her own clothing store, she says.
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“My first sewing was with my grandma when I was 2,” Stone said.
When she returned home to Belgium to greet her parents after finishing her fashion studies in Paris, Stone’s mother received a message that turned her world upside down.
“You won’t believe it,” Stone’s mother said, holding up a bouquet of roses. “Your father and I have the opportunity to move to America but we won’t go without you.”
Stone loved her country, her family and her friends, she wrote in her book. “I had absolutely no desire to go anywhere, certainly not to America!”
However, she went of her own free will and enjoyed her life in New York, even though there was a void – a future she had imagined that could not be filled.
After living on Long Island with her husband, Cliff, and operating a business called Rock Christian Bookstore, Stone was able to fill the void by deepening her relationship with God on July 12, 1972.
In Stone’s eyes, the United States was covered in a veil of darkness with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Her children were growing up and building their own lives.
“Why am I here?” asked Stone.
God was there for her, she believes.
95 years and many more to give
After wanting to spend more time with her grandkids, Stone decided to move to Ashland from Long Island, Gigi Stone says.
Since then, Josianne Stone has continued to write, draw and work alongside her daughter to share her art with friends and family.
On a normal day, Stone will draw for about four to five hours and read the Bible on her iPad.
Stone still has a desire to keep creating and sharing a piece of herself with the world.
“I want to be remembered as someone who loved God more than anything else,” Stone said with a smile. “[Someone who] loved their children and their family until the end.”
Contact Grant at [email protected]
On Twitter @ritchey_grant