Local artist dies in moped accident near downtown St. Joseph

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — A well-known St. Joseph artist died Sunday after he was hit by a vehicle near downtown St. Joseph.

Tim MacDonald, 70, was riding his moped westbound on Pearl Street and crossing Main Street when he was hit by oncoming traffic.

According to witness statements and evidence from the investigation, there were two vehicles in both southbound lanes of Main Street when MacDonald reached the intersection. There is a stop sign for traffic on Pearl, and no signs or signals there for traffic on Main Street.

The first vehicle was able to stop without striking the rider. MacDonald made a few evasive maneuvers, which caused him to fall off his moped and into the path of the vehicle in the outside lane of southbound traffic.

The driver of the vehicle in the outside lane, a 28-year-old from Traverse City, was unable to stop the vehicle before striking MacDonald, police said.

St. Joseph Department of Public Safety officers were dispatched to the intersection around noon on Sunday, where MacDonald died from injuries.

A realist remembered

MacDonald was well-known around the arts community for his work in oil, acrylic and egg tempera. His most impressive subjects were the portrait paintings, due to their attention to detail, according to HP file stories.

The St. Joseph resident attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. In 2004, he won the Michigan Duck Stamp Competition, and was a finalist in two categories in The Artist’s Magazine national competition.

MacDonald, who worked out of a studio at the Box Factory for the Arts in downtown St. Joseph, had been a commercial artist since the mid 1970s. Colleagues said his work was nationally known ‒ especially his work in photorealism in which MacDonald re-created large, detailed pictures.

Elaine Harju, a fellow studio artist and friend to MacDonald, said his art was both incredible and time-consuming.

“He had a way of capturing the personality of a person that you felt like they were real,” Harju said. “That’s an ability that not everybody has. He just instinctively knew how to do that.”

MacDonald was often seen working in his studio at the Box Factory and was known for his humor, as he would regularly assign nicknames.

“Just a lovely man. We are all going to miss him,” Harju said. “He loved working in his studio. He was everyone’s friend. We are all in shock that he is not here anymore.”

Krasl Art Center Executive Director Julia Gourley said MacDonald was a local favorite at the center and will be missed.

“Tim was a well-respected artist and a very caring person,” Gourley said. “It’s a huge loss to the arts community and our hearts go out to Tim’s family and everyone at the Box Factory.”

An accident reconstructionist from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department was called to the scene of the crash and the results on the investigation are pending. Police did determine that alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

Michigan State Police, the Sheriff’s Department, St. Joseph Fire Department and Medic 1 Ambulance assisted on scene.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 20, 2015)

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